This is a very momentous occasion in the history of not only the brave and patriotic Sikh community, but also of the two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan: The collective repositories of the unique vision of Guru Nanak Dev ji. Befittingly, the 550th Parkash Utsav of the Guru is being celebrated as a global event.
Coinciding with the occasion is the historic decision of the government of India, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to open and build a corridor of access between Dera Baba Nanak in India and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. These twin border towns, situated about five km from each other on either side of the Indo-Pak international border, have a unique place in the life of the great Guru, as he spent the last 18 years of his life in this region, working hard as an ordinary farmer.
The government of India’s decision to open up and expeditiously operationalise the Kartarpur Sahib corridor — responded to after initial reservations by the government of Pakistan, holds out great hope for the people of the two countries who have remained in a sort of time warp since the tragic Partition of 1947. The Indian government’s decision is a brave and visionary step that can transcend history and help over 150 crore people here to break free of that time warp — and, in doing so, end the cycle of fratricidal hatred.
We must remember that the two neighbouring countries with a combined population of over 150 crores account for roughly one-fifth of the total humanity. What happens to them impacts the destiny of the world in a significant way. Accordingly, India believes that the two countries must learn to work together bearing in mind mutual interests that are focused on the welfare of people in the subcontinent.
India has taken substantial initiatives to promote economic and cultural cooperation with every country in the region. And, successive governments in New Delhi have gone out of the way to accommodate Islamabad in particular, as is borne out by the unilateral advantage of the “Most Favoured Nation” (MNS) status conferred on Pakistan, without any reciprocal gesture from Islamabad. We believe that the governments in the two countries must begin to think of the dreams and aspirations of over a billion-and-half people from both sides of the border as a single and shared constructive force.
Guru Nanak Dev Patshah, whose followers cut across communities and countries, provides the necessary moral and emotional impetus for translation of these dreams into material welfare of the people. The Parkash Utsav and the corridor access have opened up new windows through which the winds of change and goodwill have started coming in.
Guru Nanak Dev ji is unique in that he is revered by people and communities who may otherwise have remained in reciprocal hostility. As these words aptly sum up: “Nanak Shah Faqir, Hindu da Guru, Mulim da peer.” It is his extraordinary spiritual status, which has now cracked an impossible Indo-Pak code and created an opportunity for 150 crore people in the Subcontinent, and many others elsewhere, to start a fresh era of friendship, goodwill and cooperation. Simply put, this translates into a collective fight against poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in the two countries through shared dreams, common objectives and joint efforts in that direction. But for this, an atmosphere of mutual trust must be created in which there is no place for elements like non-state actors indulging in indiscriminate killing of innocents in the name of religion.
However, this is no time for incriminations. We owe this special occasion to our great Guru whom people in the Subcontinent hold in high regard and shared reverence. We hope that we can transcend the bitter legacy of our past and walk through a new corridor of hope towards a future of prosperity.
The future generations will judge us by how well we seize this opportunity.
This article first appeared in the print edition on November 6, 2019 under the title ‘Corridor of Hope’. The writer is Union Minister, Food Processing Industries
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