PAKISTAN and India Thursday announced opening of the Kartarpur corridor for visa-free entry to the Indian Sikh Yatrees (pilgrims). Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay foundation stone of Kartarpur corridor on November 28 and that Pakistan had already conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpur corridor for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
Pakistani statement came after India’s cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border. The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur to Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district where the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib — the shrine of revered saint Baba Guru Nanak — is situated. Welcoming the development, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhary has aptly described it as a victory for peace. Terming it as a step in the right direction, he hoped such steps will encourage voice of reason and tranquillity on both sides of the border. Pakistan’s initiative and response in this regard is in line with the commitment made by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. In August, the COAS had told Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu that Pakistan would open the Kartarpur crossing “when [the Sikh community] celebrates the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Nanak”, during latter’s visit to Islamabad for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony. Interestingly, the gesture of the two sides is focused on pleasing the Sikh community but if implemented with sincerity, it can help melt ice between the two countries in the backdrop of almost daily rhetoric. Otherwise too, Pakistan has been extending every possible facility to Sikh Yatrees during their visit and stay in Pakistan to participate in religious festivals and offer rituals. As for opening of the said corridor, various proposals have been discussed and announcements made since the Musharraf era, but lack of interest by the Indian side has kept the proposals confined to cold storage. Anyhow, it is a welcome development and we hope the move would not be confined to just Kartarpur crossing and the two countries would take similar confidence building measures to ease tension and move towards substantial talks for resolution of all outstanding issues for the sake of sustainable peace in the region.