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Home » THE KARTARPUR CORRIDOR

THE KARTARPUR CORRIDOR

  • The Kartarpur Corridor is a border corridor between the neighbouring nations of India and Pakistan, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur (in Punjab, 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 26 November 2018, the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor was laid down on the Indian side. Two days later, 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.

NECESSITY OF A CORRIDOR: Currently pilgrims from India have to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is a 125 km journey although people on the Indian side of the border can physically see Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the Pakistani side. An elevated platform has also been constructed for the same on the Indian side, where people use binoculars to get a good view.

 

HISTORY:

  • The first guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, founded Kartarpur in 1504 CE on the right bank of the Ravi River and established the first Sikh commune there. 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. A new habitation was formed, representing the present day Dera Baba Nanak on the left bank of the Ravi river.
  • During the 1947 partition of India, the region was divided between India and Pakistan. The Radcliffe Line awarded the Shakargarh tehsil on the right bank of the Ravi River, including Kartarpur, to Pakistan, and the Gurdaspur tehsil on the left bank of Ravi to India.
  • After partition, it is believed that Indian Sikhs would go over to Kartarpur informally, crossing a bridge on the Ravi river which joined Dera Baba Nanak with Kartarpur Sahib. This bridge was eventually destroyed in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.
  • In 1948, the Akali Dal demanded that India should acquire the land of the gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur. The demands persisted till 1959, but the Punjab state government controlled by Indian National Congress advised against any modification of the boundary fixed by the Radcliffe Award.
  • However in September 1974, a protocol was agreed between India and Pakistan for visits to religious shrines. Around 2005, the protocol was updated by increasing the number of visits and the number of sites. However, Kartarpur was never included among the sites included in the 1974 protocol. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, India had requested for its inclusion but it was not agreed to by Pakistan.

TIMELINE AND EFFORTS:

  • During the tenure of prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the opening of Kartarpur border crossing was first discussed in 1998. After further discussions during the 1999 bus diplomacy, Pakistan renovated the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, and made it available for viewing from the Indian border. The tensions arising from the Kargil War put paid to the India–Pakistan relations.
  • In 2008, the Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee raised with his Pakistani counterpart S. M. Qureshi the idea of "visa-free travel" to Kartarpur. There was apparently no official response, but privately, Pakistan began to express its openness to the Sikh community. However, even up to 2012, the Indian government had no response. The stalled relations between the countries were apparently to blame.
  • On 20 June 2008, at a press conference in Dera Baba Nanak arranged by Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala, John W. McDonald, a former American ambassador and founder of Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, called for "a peace corridor, a peace zone" connecting shrines on both sides of the border.  On 28 June 2008, the Indian foreign minister at the time, Pranab Mukherjee, said that the Indian government would carry out a feasibility study for the peace corridor. However, since the 2008 Mumbai attacks took place, the relations between India and Pakistan nosedived and the initiative appears to have died.
  • Members of the Sikh community in Washington DC worked with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy to carry out an independent feasibility study. In August 2010, their report titled "Kartarpur Marg" was released by Surinder Singh and the Institute. In November 2010 the Punjab state legislative assembly unanimously passed a resolution in favour of an international passage between the two sites and forwarded it to the Indian Union government on 1st October 2010.
  • In August 2018, Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu attended the Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan's inaugural ceremony, and he was told by the army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa of Pakistan's willingness to open the Dera Baba Nanak–Kartarpur corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
  • In August 2018, another resolution related to the corridor in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha was moved by chief minister Amarinder Singh, which was passed unanimously. Following this the government of Punjab decided to approach the prime minister of India related to the opening of the corridor.
  • In 30 October 2018, a group of Sikh Americans sought the Prime Minister of India's for help in opening the corridor. In November 2018, the Indian Cabinet approved the plan to set up the corridor and appealed to Pakistan to do the same. The Pakistani foreign minister S. M. Qureshi responded by tweeting that Pakistan had "already conveyed to India" that it would open a corridor.
  • In August 2019, India and Pakistan agreed to allow visa-free travel of Indian citizens to Kartarpur, but differences persisted about Indian consular officers being located at the site.

INDIA’S CONCERNS:

  • There’s a fear that pilgrims could be brainwashed. India had insisted from day one that visitors must return on the same day, scuttling Pakistan’s plan to develop night-stay facilities in Kartarpur. Pakistan had conceded to India’s demand. India also held its ground that there would be no reverse flow of visitors, meaning, only those who enter from the Indian side would be allowed to return via the same route. Attari (India)-Wagah (Pakistan) will continue to be the only official border point through which people with valid documents will be able to enter India.
  • India has expressed concerns about the possibility of pilgrims falling ill on the other side of the border. Here, too, there is a fear of possible indoctrination. New Delhi insists that patients must be brought back to India and not be treated in Pakistan’s hospitals.
  • India has insisted that a special purpose consulate be set up in Kartarpur to address certain issues like a pilgrim being booked for petty offences like pickpocketing. Pakistan has not yet conceded to this demand.

GURU NANAK (1469 – 1539):

  • Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism and the first of the Sikh Gurus. He was born in Nankana Sahib near Lahore in Modern day Pakistan.and gave spiritual teachings based on the universal divinity of creation. He taught his followers to concentrate on spiritual practices which would enable them to transform their egotism into selflessness.
  • He was said to be a precocious child with particular insights into religious teachings and philosophy. He would spend time alone in meditation and was fascinated by religious rituals. His family were Hindu, but he studied both Hinduism and Islam extensively. Although he had a deep interest in religion, he also had a rebellious streak, not always accepting religious dogma.
  • Nanak taught that God was beyond religious dogma and external definition. He said he would follow neither the Muslim or Hindu religion, but just God’s path.
  • During his lifetime, Guru Nanak attracted followers from the Hindu, Muslim, and other religious traditions. Guru Nanak received many distinguished visitors but always refused material gifts, believing that spirituality should be given freely and not dependent on financial payment.

THE ESSENCE OF SIKHISM:

  • Sikhism, religion and philosophy founded in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent in the late 15th century. The Sikhs call their faith Gurmat (Punjabi: “the Way of the Guru”).
  • According to Sikh tradition, Sikhism was established by Guru Nanak (1469–1539) and subsequently led by a succession of nine other Gurus. All 10 human Gurus, Sikhs believe, were inhabited by a single spirit.
  • Upon the death of the 10th, Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708), the spirit of the eternal Guru transferred itself to the sacred scripture of Sikhism, Guru Granth Sahib (“The Granth as the Guru”), also known as the Adi Granth (“First Volume”), which thereafter was regarded as the sole Guru.