India is all set to build and develop a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi river in Pakistan. The Kartarpur corridor project was long-pending demand of the Sikh community to build a religious corridor linking India’s border district of Gurdaspur.
In a significant decision, the Union Cabinet cleared a proposal to develop a corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Indian pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan.
What is Kartarpur corridor project?
The Kartarpur Sahib corridor was first proposed in 1999 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore. Kartarpur Corridor is a border-corridor between India and Pakistan connecting the Sikh Holy shrine of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib to the holy shrine of Kartarpur Sahib (also referred to as Kartarpur Gurdwara) in Punjab and Pakistan. The Union Cabinet approved development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak village in Gurdaspur to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan. The Pakistan government responded that it has decided to open the corridor.
The main goal of this corridor is to facilitate the crossing of religious devotees to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, located in Narowal District, Pakistan, 120 km from Lahore but only three kilometres from the Indian side of the border. The length of the corridor is about 4 km, 2 km on either side of the international border. As Kartarpur Gurdwara lies only 3 kilometres from the border with India, Pakistan, in the year 2000, agreed to allow Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the shrine visa-free (and without passport) by constructing a bridge from the India side of the border to the shrine. The Indian government decided to set up the special corridor with all modern facilities at the border terminal including visa and customs facilities for those who are permitted to cross the border.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan 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.
Within minutes of the Cabinet decision being announced, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a tweet, “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.”
Controversy over the project
Earlier, a political row over the Kartarpur corridor had erupted after Navjot Singh Sidhu, a minister in the Congress-led Punjab government, claimed he was told by Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa that Islamabad would grant access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, in 2019. Speaking to the media, “I was not expecting it, but Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told me they had been considering to open Kartarpur corridor on the occasion of 550th birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. I was surprised by his words and hugged him for that.”
(Inputs from Agencies)