New Delhi: In a major breakthrough, both India and Pakistan will create a “corridor” in their respective territories for Indian pilgrims from Dera Baba Nanak (in Gurdaspur district of India’s Punjab) to the famous Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara (close to the international border in Pakistan’s Punjab), where the founder of Sikhism and the first guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak, had spent the last years of his life in the first half of the 16th Century.
The move holds special significance for Indian Sikh pilgrims as the corridor will enable “easy and smooth” travel to Kartarpur Sahib for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak that will take place in November next year.
Both countries also seemed eager to take credit for the corridor in their respective territories. New Delhi said the Indian government “has already decided to build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the international border with all modern amenities on our side”, while Pakistan said it had already conveyed its decision to India that it would set up a corridor on the Pakistani side, adding that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan would perform the ground-breaking ceremony for the corridor and facilities for Kartarpur on November 28 this year.
Meanwhile, Punjab government sources said that President Ram Nath Kovind and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to lay foundation stone of the corridor at Dera Baba Nanak on November 26.
While Islamabad tried to claim credit, saying New Delhi had “endorsed” Pakistan’s “proposition”, New Delhi had set the record straight a few months ago, noting that it was Pakistan which had stonewalled India’s suggestion in this regard on two previous occasions — in 1999 and 2004-05.
New Delhi on Thursday said it had “urged” the Pakistan to build a “corridor” across the border in Pakistani Punjab to “facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib (Gurdwara) throughout the year”.
Pakistan, meanwhile, hailed Thursday’s developments as a “victory of the peace lobby in both countries”, adding it hopes “such steps encourage the voice of reason and tranquility on both sides of the border”.
According to media reports over the past few months, Pakistan had been considering giving Indian Sikh pilgrims visa-free access to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara through the creation of a corridor, provided they return the same day. But it is yet to be seen whether Islamabad will eventually allow visa-free access or insist on visas.
On Thursday, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted: “Pakistan has already conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpura Corridor for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. PM Imran Khan will do break ground at Kartarpura facilities on 28th November. We welcome the Sikh community to Pakistan for this auspicious occasion.”...