‘Swaraj to raise Kartarpur Sahib issue with Pak FM’
New Delhi, Sep 20: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will raise the issue of allowing access to Indian pilgrims to the Sikh holy shrine of Kartarpur Sahib during her meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New York, officials said.
Swaraj will have a meeting with Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
At a media briefing, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the issue of Kartarpur Sahib will be raised by Swaraj during the meeting.
He said India has been taking up the issue with Pakistan on inclusion of the Sikh holy shrine in the protocol between India and Pakistan on visit to religious shrines.
“The matter has been taken up with the Pakistani side several times in the past,” he said. However, Kumar said, Pakistan is yet to respond to India’s request.
“Even now, we have not received any official communication that the Pakistani Government is willing to consider this matter. The External Affairs Minister will, therefore, raise this issue in her meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister on the sidelines of UNGA,” he said.
After his visit to Pakistan last month, cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu had claimed that Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa told him that Islamabad was working for opening Kartarpur Sahib corridor for Sikh pilgrims from Indian state of Punjab.
Sidhu, a minister in the Punjab government, on Monday met Swaraj and urged her to help initiate dialogue with Pakistan on the opening up of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor.
Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib is situated in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province. The gurdwara is nearly four kilometers from the international border and is visible on a clear day from Dera Baba Nanak in India.
Devotees who are not able to visit Pakistan converge at the international border at Dera Baba Nanak and offer their prayers.
Kumar said that during the visit of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore in 1999, the issue was raised to consider a visa-free visit to the shrine but there was no response from the Pakistani side.