LAHORE (Dunya News) – India and Pakistan are all set to sign on pact of the historic opening of Kartarpur Corridor, but what significant does Kartarpur hold for the Sikh community?
Kartarpur is located in Narowal, Pakistan on the right bank of the River Ravi. It was founded by the first guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, where he established the first Sikh commune.
The name Kartarpur means "place of God". Here all people, irrespective of their religion or caste, lived together, representing the first ‘Sikh commune’ before the partition.
After his travels for about 20 years, Guru Nanak settled in Kartarpur along with his family. Following his death in 1539, Hindus and Muslims both claimed him as their own, and raised mausoleums in his memory with a common wall between them.
The changing course of the Ravi River eventually washed away the mausoleums. But Guru Nanak’s son saved the urn containing his ashes and reburied it on the left bank of the river, where a new habitation was formed, representing the present day Dera Baba Nanak.
At the location Guru Nanak is believed to have died, the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib was built.
The region was divided following the partition of India where Radcliffe Line, boundary demarcation line between the Indian and Pakistani portions of the Punjab and Bengal provinces of British India, gave the Shakargarh tehsil to Pakistan and Gurdaspur tehsil to India.
The Kartarpur Corridor is an under-construction border corridor between the two neighboring but rival nations, India and Pakistan. It is being built to connect the both Sikh shrines, Dera Baba Nanak Sahib which is located in India and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur which is situated in Pakistan.
The Kartarpur Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, respectively, as part of the Delhi–Lahore Bus diplomacy.
On 28 November 2018, the foundation stone was laid down on the Pakistani side. The corridor will reportedly be completed before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November 2019.
Kartarpur Corridor for Sikhs across the world is one of the holiest shrines. It is the same place where Sikh religious leader Guru Nanak spent days leading up to his death. It is the place where Guru Nanak after a long pilgrimage of almost three decades finally decided to settle. It is believed that Guru Nanak spent his last years in Kartarpur farming and spreading the message of peace.
Guru Nanak lived at Kartarpur Ravi for over 17 years and this place became the principal seat of Sikh faith.
Kartarpur Corridor has been welcomed enthusiastically by the Sikh community, and also represents a rare instance of co-operation between the two countries, which have fought three wars against each other since independence.
Relations between India and Pakistan remain strained, but at a ceremony formally starting construction work on the pathway on the Pakistani side of the border, the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said: "We will only progress when we free ourselves from the chains of the past".
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed that the Kartarpur project would help improve the countries’ relationship.
"The more people meet, the more they realise how much in common we have and what we are missing by not resolving our outstanding issues." he said.
As the Kartarpur corridor entered its final phase, the registration process has begun for Sikh pilgrims who intend to visit Pakistan’s Kartarpur on the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Construction process and painting of the shrine has been completed and electricity has been supplied to the site from Shakar Garh’s grid station.
Imported marble has been used on the floor of the shrine that is spread on 10 acres. Fire extinguishers, sound systems and CCTV security cameras have been installed at the site.
Besides, construction of temporary guesthouses and a border terminal building has also been completed.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the project on November 9, three days before the 550th birth anniversary Baba Guru Nanank that will be celebrated on November 12.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a message shared on social media on Sunday, reiterated that the work on the Kartarpur Corridor has entered last stage.
He further mentioned that Sikhs from all countries will travel to the world’s largest Gurdwara. “This Gurdwara will strengthen local economy […] many jobs will also be created in travelling, religious tourism and hospitality sectors,” he stated. “Buddhists have also been coming to visit different religious spots in Pakistan.”
Importantly, Pakistan had accepted India’s demand of facilitating visa-free movement of 5,000 Sikh pilgrims per day, and now they will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur.
As of late, Both, Pakistan and India, are likely to sign an agreement related to the historic opening of Kartarpur corridor on October 24.
At his weekly news briefing in Islamabad on Oct. 23, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said it is our effort to get the agreement signed tomorrow.
The spokesperson said a mechanism has been evolved for the visits of pilgrims to Gurdawara Darbar Sahib. He said the pilgrims will be permitted to visit the Gurdawara Kartarpur Sahib from morning till evening. He said full details of the Kartarpur agreement will be shared after its signing.
Responding to a question about Pak-India agreement, FO spokesperson expressed that they are fully ready to operationalize the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on our side. “We will also share clause by clause details after signing of the Agreement with you”, he added.
Replying to a question about participation from India, Dr. Muhammad Faisal said, “We are working on the invitations for the inauguration of Kartarpur sahib Corridor”.
Both countries will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this regard after India accepted Pakistan’s decision to charge $20 from each visitor for allowing Sikh pilgrims to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara.
The agreement would be signed by Director General (SA & SAARC), Dr. Mohammad Faisal.
Pakistan formally invited former prime minister of India Manmohan Singh to attend the opening ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor on the occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Speaking on the invitation to former PM Manmohan Singh, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he [Manmohan Singh] will visit Pakistan as a ‘yatri’ (ordinary citizen) and not as chief guest for the corridor’s opening.
“He is welcome even as a common participant,” the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said while talking to the media on Saturday.