The Kartarpur corridor, to be inaugurated today by Prime Minister Imran Khan and a host of other officials at Narowal, will link the tent city of Baba Nanak Singh to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, located about 7 km from the Indo-Pak border. The Sikh shrine where Guru Nanak Dev passed away in 1539 is seen as one of the most important religious sites for Sikhs. The corridor, work on which began a year ago, is intended by Pakistan to link people of varying beliefs and allow Sikhs to visit holy places located in Pakistan. Both countries will hold inauguration ceremonies today.
A 550-member Indian delegation is expected to cross over along the 3-km corridor and will also mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. The delegation from India includes former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and at least two Union ministers.
The inauguration of the corridor has been welcome enthusiastically by the Sikh community and rights activists in India. Initial problems such as the flooding of the tent city in India due to rains on Thursday are being sorted out. But far more important than minor logistical problems are the broader meanings of the step. India and Pakistan have long historical and cultural links. It is unfortunate that the restrictions on people crossing the border which divides the two countries prevents persons of various beliefs from visiting holy places, and divides families and communities.
The Kartarpur corridor is intended as a gesture of friendship and acceptance of these links. It comes at a time when there is harsh hostility in New Delhi towards Pakistan. Perhaps the corridor can help bring about a change in New Delhi’s attitude. We also hope that in time India will consider opening up similar initiatives to allow Pakistanis to visit shrines and other places of religious significance to Muslims in India. After all, the line drawn by British colonial rulers in 1947 should not be allowed to keep people apart indefinitely. There are many holy places and other locations of significance to those living across the border in either country. We need to create policies which allow citizens to visit these and also expand the people to people contacts so essential to any peace process. The Kartarpur corridor is an important step in this.