Opening doors to Kartarpur
To our relief, India has recently decided to accept Pakistan’s proposal of constructing Kartarpur Corridor. A welcoming move, it will surely calm the animosity between the long-fraught neighbours. Pakistan had on several occasions expressed a desire to open the Kartarpur corridor for civilian crossing. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called for it last month, whereas Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had assured visiting Indian sportsman Navjot Singh Sidhu of his full support in this regard. A survey in this regard has already been conducted, and the government plans to complete the corridor’s construction by next year. The Kartarpur corridor will provide smooth and easy passage to pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib throughout the year.
This development has definitely brought relief to peace lovers on both sides of the border, and the sikh pilgrims. Baba Guru Nanak founded a commune of his followers in Kartarpur, a name that he coined.
The current gurdwara was built on the site where Baba passed away, on September 22, 1539. The two sites – Dera Baba Nanak and Kartarpur Sahib – are barely separated by six kilometres but walled by an international border between India and Pakistan. Sikh pilgrims have long endured the ever-widening gap; continuously toughened by a toxic rhetoric, the securitisation of people and places, and a total breakdown in mutual trust. Thankfully, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is visible to Sikh pilgrims from Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side as Pakistani authorities usually prune the shrubbery to clear the field of view for the devotees. The visitors to Dera Baba Nanak are usually able to perform darshan (viewing) from the cupolas of the gurdwaras or the mounds in the locality. This year, Pakistan gave over 3,000 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India as a sign of goodwill so they can perform the ritual. Though a baby step, it is a much-needed pleasant development in the historically strained bilateral ties specifically considering the recent episode of mutual mudslinging on both sides.
Moreover, peace between Pakistan and India is beneficial for South Asia. A huge margin of economic problems can be solved if trade is done without any complications. Whenever tensions arise on borders, it is the citizens on both sides that are most affected. Sikh community has long called for the opening of this border crossing due to its proximity with Guru Nanak’s resting place. Pakistan has always adopted a hospitable policy towards visiting Indians, but unfortunately same treatment has not been extended to Pakistanis on other side. This must change, and both countries should ease the travel restriction on respective citizens. The decades-old animosity needs to burn, for which steps towards should be prioritised by both Islamabad and New Delhi. Only a peaceful South Asia can lead to a prosperous South Asia. Let us hope we realise this mutual need soon.