In a significant decision, the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border. This will give Indian pilgrims easy access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi river, in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years.
The government has also urged Pakistan to recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community and develop a corridor with suitable facilities in its territory as well.
“The Kartarpur corridor will be implemented as an integrated development project with Government of India funding, to provide smooth and easy passage, with all the modern amenities. The government of India will put in place suitable facilities for smooth passage of pilgrims,” a press release said.
“The government of Pakistan will be urged to recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community and to develop a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory as well,” it added.
The Kartarpur corridor will provide smooth and easy passage to pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib throughout the year. Government of Pakistan will be urged to reciprocate and develop a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory.
— राजनाथ सिंह (@rajnathsingh) November 22, 2018
Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu welcomed the move and appealed to the Centre to write to the Pakistan government. “I hope the draft for the letter is ready as promised by Hon’ble EAM Sushma Ji”, he said. He also urged Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to take reciprocal steps in opening the corridor in his country.
A political row had erupted after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August this year to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as the Prime Minister. He claimed that Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that Islamabad would open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan on the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak in 2019.
Sidhu subsequently met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to initiate talks between India and Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor issue. After the meeting, Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal said Swaraj accused Sidhu of messing up the Kartarpur Sahib corridor dialogue and misusing the political clearance that he was granted to visit Pakistan.
Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, which is three kilometres from the India-Pakistan border, is the final resting place of Guru Nanak.
There have been long-standing demands from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and political leaders to build a “corridor” for pilgrims to cross over into Pakistan to visit the Kartarpur Sahib shrine and return the same day.