Mumbai: A corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims traveling to a holy temple in Pakistan is due to open in time for one of the religion’s most sacred festivals. The border crossing from India to Kartarpur, Pakistan will be inaugurated on Saturday, just ahead of the 550th birthday of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak on November 12. The Kartarpur Corridor connects the Sikh holy shrine of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, located in Punjab, India, and the holy shrine of Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan, through a road link. For decades, Sikh devotees had demanded India and Pakistan collaborate and build a corridor linking Dera Baba Nanak Sahib with Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur.
The project is a rare recent example of cooperation between the nuclear powers.
Q. Where is Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur built?
A. Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is built on the historic site where first Sikh guru (spiritual leader) Guru Nanak settled and assembled a Sikh community after his missionary travels. The present Gurudwara is built on the site where he died, on September 22, 1539.
Q. Who was Guru Nanak?
A. Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. His words are registered in the form of 974 poetic hymns in the holy text of Sikhism - the Guru Granth Sahib. The year 2019 marks the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak and, as per the Hindu calendar, falls on November 12 this year.
Q. Why is Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur important for Sikhs?
A. The 16th century Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is roughly 4km away from international border. Situated on the banks of river Ravi, the Gurudwara is important for Sikhs as Guru Nanak spent 18 years there.
Q. When was the project first conceptualised?
A. Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had first suggested the Corridor when he took a bus trip to Lahore in 1999. However, at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November last year, the Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Pakistan border was approved.
Q. How long did it take to build the Corridor?
A. Last year on November 26, the foundation stone for the Kartarpur Corridor was laid on the Indian side. Two days later, the Pakistani side laid the foundation stone. The Corridor was completed last month. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the project on November 9, three days before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Modi will inaugurate India’s end of the Corridor on November 8.
Q. When was the agreement to open Kartarpur Corridor signed between India and Pakistan?
A. India and Pakistan signed the agreement to open Kartarpur Corridor for Indian pilgrims on October 24, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Q. How had the Corridor affected state politics of Punjab?
A. The Corridor created conflict between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu pushed the project last year after his visit to Pakistan for Khan’s swearing in ceremony. While Amarinder rejected Pakistan Foreign Office’s offer to attend the event on November 28 citing continued terrorist attacks in Punjab, Sidhu accepted the invite and went to Lahore. Sidhu also announced that Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa had personally told him Islamabad would open the Corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in November 2019.
Interestingly, on Tuesday, several hoardings surfaced in Amritsar describing Sidhu and Pakistan PM Khan as “real heroes” for turning the Kartarpur Corridor project into a reality.
Q. What is the current situation for Sikh pilgrims in India?
A. Currently, pilgrims from India have to take a bus to Lahore to go to Kartarpur, which is a 125km journey. People on the Indian side can also physically see Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the Pakistani side. An elevated platform has been constructed for the same on the Indian side, where people use binoculars to get a proper view.