India gives nod to Kartarpur Sahib Corridor construction: What’s it about?
New Delhi, Nov 22: A year before Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary, the Centre has given the nod for the development of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district till the location of the Sikh pilgrimage site located in Pakistan.
The announcement was made Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here on Thursday, November 22. Jaitley said the government wants to celebrate the anniversary in a special way and that the corridor will be built with facilities similar to an international airport. India would also seek Pakistan's cooperation in making the project a reality.
Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu landed in a controversy in August during his visit to Pakistan to attend the swearing-in of Imran Khan as the country's prime minister. He gesture of hugging Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was criticised back home and Sidhu had defended his act saying that the army general had informed him about Pakistan's plan of opening a a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib in its Narowal district on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak next year. The gurdwara is at the site of the final resting place of the first Sikh Guru.
The shrine is located on the bank of River Ravi and is around 120 kilometres northeast of Lahore. Guru Nanak had lived here for 18 years till his death in 1539. The shrine is visible from the Indian side and a number of Indian Sikhs gather to get a view of the pilgrimage site. Binoculars are also installed at Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak for viewing the sacred place.
The gurudwara was opened for pilgrims' sighting after it was repaired and restored in 1999. One of the positive outcomes of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's bus diplomacy with Pakistan the same year was this.
There are no restrictions on visiting Kartarpur Sahib once a pilgrim has visited Pakistan on a valid visa. Sikh jathas travel from India to Pakistan on three occasions every year besides the birthday of Guru Nanak and they are -- Baisakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev and the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Indian pilgrims are given access to all gurdwaras by the Pakistani authorities.
Demand for the corridor:
The demand for the corridor to facilitate the pilgrims' arrival to the shrine has been a long one. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and political leaders have been demanding the pathway bordered by barbed wire to allow the pilgrims to enter Pakistan and visit the shrine and return the same day. For the purpose, a bridge has to be constructed over the river. Last year, a parliamentary standing committee visited Dera Baba Nanak.
The concern in the issue has been security. The corridor, once made, could also facilitate anti-India elements in Pakistan and enable them to enter the country easily.