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Pakistan Wants To ‘Move Forward Toward Friendship,’ Khan Tells India

FILE: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
FILE: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that all Pakistani institutions want to mend ties with India, as officials from both countries attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a new border crossing.

"I, the prime minister, my political party, the rest of our political parties, our army, all our institutions are all on one page. We want to move forward," Khan told the event on November 28.

“If India takes one step forward then we will take two steps forward toward friendship," Khan also said in his speech.

India and Pakistan have a history of bitter relations since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

The two nuclear-armed rivals have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region Kashmir, where the two sides still regularly exchange fire.

In a rare instance of cooperation between Pakistan and India, the two neighbors have agreed to open a new crossing point between their two regions called Punjab.

The crossing, known as the Kartarpur corridor, is to open in November next year.

It aims at making it quicker and easier for Sikh pilgrims from India to visit a shrine to Guru Nanak, the 15th-century founder of Sikhism.

The November 28 groundbreaking ceremony was attended by hundreds of Sikh pilgrims, Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, lawmakers from India, and other officials from the two countries.

Bajwa called the laying of the foundation for the crossing a "step toward peace, which our region needs."

The tourism minister of India's border state of Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu, was among those who crossed the border for the inauguration.

"Both the governments should realize that we have to move forward," said Sidhu, a Sikh.

Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu laid the road's foundation stone on the other side of the border earlier this week.

Pakistan used to be home to a large Sikh community, but most of its members went to India during the 1947 partition, with only a few thousand remaining in Pakistan.

Thousands of Sikhs visit Guru Nanak’s shrine in Pakistan every year.

With reporting by Reuters and Dawn