Kartarpur: Prime Minister Imran Khan will on Wednesday lay the foundation stone for the much-awaited corridor linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur - the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev - to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522.
The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died. The Kartarpur Corridor, which will facilitate the visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, is expected to be completed within six months. Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Muhammad Faisal told the media in Islamabad on Wednesday before leaving for Kartarpur that the opening of the Karatarpur border was the historic step for welfare of minorities. "It shows that Pakistan takes care of minorities," he said.
He credited Khan for the initiative to open the border for Sikhs pilgrims and said it was widely appreciated by the people including in India. He said the corridor will facilitate Sikh pilgrims to visit their holiest sites in Pakistan. Faisal said the construction of the corridor will be completed before the 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November next year. Prime Minister Khan, senior politicians of Pakistan's Punjab province and a host of top officials will be attending the event at Narowal - around 120 kilometres from Lahore.
The foundation stone of the corridor on the Indian side, from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur to the international border, was laid on Monday by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.
Cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday arrived in Pakistan for the event. The Indian government has sent Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri to represent India at the event. India had proposed the corridor to Pakistan around 20 years back. The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Khan as prime minister of that country.
After his return, Sidhu said that Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that Pakistan may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib. Last week, Pakistan and India announced that they would develop the corridor on their respective side of the border to help Indian pilgrims visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
Prime Minister Modi likened the decision by the two countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall, indicating that the project may ease simmering tension between the two countries. India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016. Pakistan had invited External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who thanked her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi for the invite and said she was unable to travel to Kartarpur Sahib due to prior commitments.