Former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Thursday appears headed into a confrontation with the Centre over his plan to attend the opening ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan. The corridor would let Indian pilgrims visit Durbar Sahib gurdwara where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent his final years.
In his third letter to the foreign ministry to seek permission to make the trip, the Congress lawmaker said he was ready to skip the event if permission was declined. But if the government didn’t respond to his letter, the lawmaker said he would “proceed to Pakistan as millions of Sikh devotees go, on an eligible visa”.
Sidhu said the government hadn’t responded with a clear answer to his requests so far. “The delay and no response is a hindrance to my future course of action,” the cricketer-turned-politician said.
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“I categorically state that if the government has any inhibitions and says no then, as a law abiding citizen, I will not go,” he wrote.
Sidhu had been invited to the ceremony being held on the Pakistani side on instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, his friend from their cricketing days. It was during Sidhu’s visit to attend Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony last year that Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa had spoken of plans to build the corridor in time for celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
The corridor, first proposed by India two decades ago, links Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab with Darbar Sahib gurdwara at Kartarpur, 4 km from the border in Pakistan.
Hindustan Times had reported on Thursday that Sidhu is unlikely to receive political clearance to participate in the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor.
Officials and government functionaries require the foreign ministry’s clearance for foreign visits in their official capacity.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar did not elaborate on the specific reasons. “The inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor is a historic event. It is not important to highlight any one individual,” he said.
Kumar did not respond to a question on Sidhu’s plans to travel on a Pakistan visa, adding that it was for Sidhu to decide what he wants to do. “Our stand that it is not right to focus on one individual,” the foreign ministry said.