On Wednesday, 28th November, Pakistan moved forth from historical animosity towards India, as Prime Minister Imran Khan performed the ground-breaking of the project to open the Kartarpur corridor, linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Narowal district to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district.
Sikh pilgrims (Pakistani and foreigners) attended the ceremony in large numbers. The Indian Minister for Food Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister for Housing Hardeep S. Puri, and Indian journalists and foreign diplomats are attending the ceremony. Badal termed the journey and the ceremony an “emotional moment”, whereas Puri described it as the “most momentous journey” of his life. The Indian dignitaries were welcomed at the Wagha border by Punjab Rangers.
Former cricketer, and current member of the Indian National Congress, Navjot Singh Sidhu had also come to attend the ceremony. Most people termed as the man due to whom Pakistan had taken this step; mere 3 months ago Sidhu attend the oath taking ceremony of PM Khan, the only Indian to do so, where he expressed a desire for the Kartarpur corridor to opened.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed, and Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi are also in attendance.
The event screened a film about the pilgrimage of members of the Sikh community to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
The Pakistan government will open the four-kilometre-long visa-free corridor on Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary next year. The project will be completed keeping in view the needs of the Sikh community.
Noorul Haq Qadri addressed the ceremony as he talked about Baba Guru Nanak and the vision of the Pakistani government for the facilitation of Sikh pilgrims.
“Today we are at an important point in history,” Qadri said. “This is where he left the world. I am referring to Baba Guru Nanak,” he said. “The Kartarpur gurdwara will be made into a state-of-the-art gurdwara,” he said. “Next year in November, a year from now, on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the Pakistani government and the country are preparing to celebrate in a grand manner,” he announced.
But all was not festive at the ceremony. The Pakistan government had invited three Indian politicians ─ Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Sidhu ─ to the event. Singh declined to attend the event. Whereas Indian ministers Badal and Puri are attending in place of the Indian foreign minister. This did not go unnoticed by the media or the Pakistani authorities. The opening of mere one corridor is not enough to remove the bad blood of the last 7 decades.
Nonetheless, on the other side of the border, after an initial opposition, the Indian government agreed to take up Islamabad’s proposal.
According to the proposal, the BJP led government will construct and develop the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border, while Pakistan will build the other part of the corridor connecting the border to the Gurdwara in the Kartarpur Sahib area of Narowal.
Indian Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district earlier this week.