ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Prime Minister Imran Khan on Nov. 9 – three days before the 550th birth anniversary Baba Guru Nanak to be celebrated on Nov. 12 – will inaugurate the historic Kartarpur Corridor, the first visa-free corridor between Pakistan and India since their independence in 1947.
In a short span of one year, Pakistan has completed the construction, signed an agreement with India after tough negotiations and gifted the Kartarpur Corridor to Sikh community for promoting religious harmony.
Meanwhile, thousands of intending Sikh pilgrims are on their way to visit Baba Guru Nanak’s shrine – one of Sikhism’s holiest sites in Pakistan where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, who died in the 16th Century.
Without a visa, Sikh pilgrims are expected to visit the shrine on the 550th Birth Anniversary of the founder of Sikhism in early November. The corridor leads from the border straight to the Gurdwara.
While Sikh pilgrims do not need a visa for Pakistan; however they are required to obtain a permit before their departure.
The Sikh minority in India has long sought easier access to the temple, which is just over the border in Pakistan.
The shrine is about 4 km (2-1/2 miles) from the border. The crossing and corridor - including a road, bridge over the Ravi River and immigration office – will replace a drawn-out visa process and circuitous journey through Pakistan.
On Aug. 18, 2018, in the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan, General Qamar Javed Bajwa apprised former Indian Cricket Navjot Singh Sidhu about the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor.
On Nov. 28, 2018, PM Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor, and the ceremony was also attended by Navjot Singh Sidhu, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri on the invitation of the Pakistan government.
On Oct. 24, Pakistan struck an agreement with India on the Kartarpur Corridor after tough negotiations with the last sticking point being the $20 service fee – that was repeatedly denied by India previously, but later agreed to it reluctantly. Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a bilateral agreement during a ceremony held at Kartarpur Zero Line.
On Mar. 19, Pakistan and India’s delegations, mainly consisting of technical experts, met at Dera Baba Nanak at Zero Line in Kartarpur, to discuss the project plan and issues pertaining to technical aspects.
On Mar. 14, Pakistan and India agreed to hold a second round of discussion to finalise the modalities for the Kartarpur Corridor on April 2.
On Mar. 7, PM Imran Khan had directed the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) to ensure timely completion of the project on Pakistani side of the border.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a message shared on social media, reiterated 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.”
According to the agreement, “The government of Pakistan will charge USD 20 per pilgrim per visit as service charges.”
“5,000 pilgrims shall be permitted to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on any given day, with an additional provision for more pilgrims on special days including Gurpurab, Baisakhi, etc., subject to capacity.”
This means that the service charges of $20 will generate revenue for Pakistan and promote tourism from visitors and pilgrims from other countries as well.
Considering the agreement, the amount of revenue Pakistan can generate sums up to $100,000 every day and since the corridor will remain open 365 days of the year, it can potentially generate a direct income of USD36.5 million i.e. about Rs5.55 billion per annum.
What is the significance of the shrine?
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a gurdwara in Kartarpur, Shakargarh, Narowal District, Pakistan.
It is built on the historic site where Guru Nanak settled and assembled the Sikh commune after his missionary travels. The gurdwara is built on the site where Guru Nanak died on 22 September 1539.
The shrine was built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life until his death in 1539.
The present building was built in 1925 at a cost of Rs.1,35,600, after the original one was destroyed by floods. It was repaired by the Government of Pakistan in 1995, and fully restored in 2004, at a significant amount.
It is considered to be the second holiest site for Sikhism after Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Pakistan, which was built at the site where Guru Nanak was born.