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Kartarpur issue to figure in Sushma-Qureshi meeting

Kartarpur issue to figure in Sushma-Qureshi meeting

New Delhi: The issue of Pakistan opening the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor will figure at the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session later this month, a senior official said on Thursday.

Responding to a question at his weekly media briefing here, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had recently written to Sushma Swaraj seeking action on the Kartarpar corridor opening to which the latter replied that she will take up the issue with the Pakistan government.

"Even now, after so many years, we do not have any official communication from the Pakistani government that they are willing to consider this matter," Kumar said.

"The External Affairs Minister will therefore raise this issue in her meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the UNGA."

Earlier, in his briefing, Kumar announced that Sushma Swaraj and Qureshi will meet at the UN, the first foreign minister-level meeting between the two South Asian nuclear neighbours in nearly three years.

Last month, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh sought the intervention of Sushma Swaraj in seeking access from the Pakistan government for devotees to visit the historic gurdwara in Kartapur on the 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev.

Punjab Minister and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu also sought Sushma Swaraj's intervention in this matter in a letter earlier this month.

Sidhu, who was present at the swearing-in of his "friend" Imran Khan as the Pakistan Prime Minister on August 18 in Islamabad, has been claiming that he has been virtually instrumental in getting the Kartarpur corridor opened to devotees.

"Pakistan has shown a positive intent towards the long-pending corridor demand. Some positivity came out when I visited Pakistan for the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan," Sidhu said in his letter.

"Now their Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary has categorically said that the corridor will be opened and even visas won't be required to visit the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara as part of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. It is time for India to take a positive step on this highly emotional issue."

During Thursday's briefing, Kumar said that India and Pakistan had signed a protocol in 1974 on visits to 15 religious shrines but Kartarpur was not part of this.

It was during then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan in 1999 that India first raised the issue of allowing visa-free visits to Kartarpur but there was no response from the Pakistani side.

Following this, New Delhi raised the issue several times at various levels but till date there has been no response from Islamabad.

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