Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Saudi Arabia on Sept. 19, says Qureshi

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, center, and his wife, left, visiting Al-Masjid an-Nabawī mosque in the Western Saudi city of Madinah, upon his arrival to attend the summits of Islamic nations in the Saudi holy city on Makkah on May 30, 2019. (SPA/File)
Updated 17 September 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Saudi Arabia on Sept. 19, says Qureshi

  • Khan will be traveling to Saudi Arabia on his way to the US ahead of the UNGA session
  • Pakistan and Saudi Arabia ‘have to deliberate on further measures’ – Qureshi

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will be visiting Saudi Arabia on September 19, alongside foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, ahead of their trip to the United States for the UN General Assembly session, Qureshi said on Tuesday.
Addressing the All Parties Kashmir Conference organized by PTI Punjab in Lahore, Qureshi said, "We have important sittings over there. Keeping those sittings at the forefront, we will have to deliberate on further measures."
"I think it is enough to say just this right now," he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Radio Pakistan reported a telephone conversation had taken place between PM Khan and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, with a focus on the attacks on oil plants in Saudi Arabia.
PM Khan expressed Pakistan's support for Saudi Arabia and "its full stand with all its potentials in confronting these sabotage acts which threaten the global economy and the kingdom's security.”
This is the third time that the two leaders have spoken over the phone since August.
Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes at a crucial time, as Pakistan attempts to garner support for its narrative on Kashmir after India abolished the limited constitutional autonomy of the disputed Himalayan territory on August 5.
Khan will fly on to the US after concluding his trip to Saudi Arabia. Earlier this week, foreign office spokesperson, Dr. Muhammad Faisal, told Arab News that Khan is also expected to “visit Saudi Arabia on his way back to Pakistan after [the] UNGA [session].”
The Kingdom and its Gulf ally, the United Arab Emirates, have always maintained strong diplomatic relations with Pakistan, with the kingdom pledging to invest $21 billion in the South Asian country, during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s official visit to Islamabad in February this year.


India delays signing Kartarpur corridor deal with Pakistan

Updated 22 October 2019

India delays signing Kartarpur corridor deal with Pakistan

  • Border crossing will give pilgrims visa-free access to holy Sikh shrine
  • Former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh expected to attend the inaugural ceremony

NEW DELHI, LAHORE: India has postponed signing a deal that will allow Sikhs to visit a holy shrine in neighboring Pakistan without a visa, a Foreign Ministry official in New Delhi was reported as saying.
The Kartarpur Corridor connects the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, in India’s Punjab region, to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan.
The visa-free border crossing will be inaugurated next month, days ahead of one of Sikhism’s most sacred festivals and the 550th birthday of the religion’s founder.
Media reports said that the signing of the deal had been pushed back by a day to Oct. 24 and that C L Das, an official handling internal security at India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, would meet Pakistan officials along the border to sign the agreement.
The corridor is a rare example of cooperation and diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals, who came to the brink of war in February following a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Ties nose-dived further in August when India flooded its portion of the disputed valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and revoked the special legal status of the territory.
But finalizing the corridor project has proved tricky.
Earlier this week, India’s External Affairs Ministry said it was disappointed by Pakistan’s decision to levy a $20 service fee per pilgrim.
“It is a matter of disappointment that while understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Pakistan continue to insist on levying a service fee," said the ministry. "Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee. While agreeing to sign the agreement, the government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the agreement accordingly at any time.”
The connecting bridge at the border was also a significant issue. India favored an elevated bridge but Pakistan was only willing to build an embankment, fearing a possible breach in security.
New Delhi said all the infrastructure was in place in time for the project’s inauguration, which is expected to be attended by former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Islamabad has also invited Singh to be part of the inaugural ceremony but he has yet to accept. Despite the bumps in the road Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was upbeat about the unveiling.
“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on the Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to the public on 9th November 2019,” he posted on Facebook. “World’s largest gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world.”
Although the opening of the corridor is unlikely to lead to any kind of bilateral engagement or rapprochement between the two nations, Sikhs will be relieved that it is easier to access the shrine in Kartarpur.
The community has long sought easier access to Kartarpur, a village just four kilometers over the border in Pakistan, as it used to demand a lengthy visa and travel process.
Pilgrims will get special permits to access the shrine. Up to 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to access the corridor daily.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor, but it is unclear if he will cross into Pakistan afterwards.