India, Pakistan agree on Kartarpur corridor: Everything you need to know

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GR News Desk | New Delhi

In a likely resumption of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, the two nations have agreed to construct the Kartarpur Corridor, to facilitate visa-free Indian Sikh pilgrimage to Pak’s Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara as the year-long celebrations on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak began Friday. The two neighboring countries shared the letters on Thursday committing to build the 4 km long corridor, 2 km on each side.

Sushma Swaraj-led External Affairs Ministry (MEA) said, “We have approached and urged the Pakistan government to recognize the sentiments of Sikh community and build a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory to facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year. The government of India has already decided to build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Border with all modern amenities on our side.”

Kartarpur corridor, kartarpur gurudwara, Guru nanak Jayanti, gurupurab
The Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara located in Narwal of Pakistan Punjab. (Source: WikiImages)

“Pakistan has already conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpur Corridor for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. PM Imran Khan will do break ground at Kartarpur facilities on 28th November. We welcome the Sikh community to Pakistan for this auspicious occasion,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tweeted.

Significance of Kartarpur

The Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in pakistan’s Narowal. (Source: WikiImages)The Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara is located in Narowal district of Pakistan Punjab about two km from the Indian border town of Gurdaspur. The Gurudwara holds significance for Sikhs across the world as it is the seat of Guru Nanak, where the first Sikh guru settled after his travels spreading the message of peace for over 18 years and breath his last in 1539. The Gurudwara was constructed on the site where Guru Nanak died.  The shrine is visible from the Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side where pilgrims do darshan using binoculars when the Pakistani authorities initiate trimming of elephant grass across the border. One of the outcomes of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan in 1999 was the opening of the Gurudwara for Indian pilgrims with regular visa.  Demands of a corridor by Shiromani Gurudwara Prbandhank Committee (SGPC) had been raised from time to time, where pilgrims will return on the same day after praying in the Gurudwara.

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Inauguration and laying foundations

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh welcoming the Cabinet’s decision to build the corridor said that it will help in developing the historic town of Sultanpur Lodhi, associated with the life of Guru Nanak, as a heritage town, on the lines of a Smart City. Singh said that President Ram Nath Kovind will lay the foundation stone of the corridor on November 26. “Happy to share that I’ll be joining President Ram Nath Kovind ji in laying foundation stone for Kartarpur Corridor to International Border at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur, on November 26. It will be a great moment indeed for all devotees of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji,” Singh tweeted.

Meanwhile, Pakistan PM Imran Khan will lay the foundation of the corridor from the other side of the border on November 28.

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Sidhu controversy

Punjab Tourism Minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, in August this year, became part of a controversy surrounding the Kartarpur corridor when Pakistan’s Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told him that they hoped to build the corridor. Sidhu was visiting Islamabad to attend the swearing in of Imran Khan as the new PM on August 18. Upon arrival, Sidhu faced an intense criticism from both the BJP and its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab for attending the ceremony. Sidhu was also snubbed by the MEA for politicising the issue which had recently cancelled the talks after an initiation from Pak on the sidelines of the United Nations Summit in New York.

Sidhu on Thursday thanked the center for taking up the issue and also welcomed the decision from both sides to go ahead with building the proposed corridor.

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While the deadline for completion of the construction of the corridor is yet to be released, the new agreement will help in improving relations between the two nation which has been strained since the attack on Uri base in Kashmir over two years ago.