The positive developments on the Kartarpur Corridor project yesterday have raised fresh hopes for peace and progress between India and Pakistan. The corridor has already been adorned with epithets – as a historical landmark between India and Pakistan, as the “Corridor of Peace” between the two nuclear-armed neighbours and as a nostalgic throwback for a pre-independence generation which was used to traversing the passage between Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur and the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur with neither any visa nor any trepidation for border controls.
While the project itself is fast nearing completion, both Pakistan and India have walked the distance to demonstrate that unprecedented humanitarian cooperation is still possible even as deep-seated suspicions linger.
Apart from allowing in 5,000 pilgrims on a daily basis, India has also raised the demand for up to 10,000 additional pilgrims to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on special occasions.
It has also highlighted concerns about possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India as a result of an earth-filled embankment or causeway proposed to be built by Pakistan. Instead, Pakistan was urged to build a bridge similar to what the Indians are constructing. While these are major logistical challenges, Pakistan has agreed to the proposals despite infrastructure concerns, and both sides have now moved forward to complete the project in time for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations in November.
For Sikhs from India, used to travelling to the shrine for years, the trip used to be a logistical nightmare. But now the corridor will enable devotees to travel from the Indian border town of Gurdaspur and across the international border into Pakistan without visas. This is a further boost for people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan and will only work to amplify their shared heritage despite mutual divisions.
In the aftermath of Pulwama and Balakot, the progress is also a victory for peace for two countries which have fought three wars and a limited conflict since 1947.
The road to the Kartarpur Corridor project has been long and winding, but if the project is completed by both sides on time without any further political detours, it will indeed mark a great tribute to Guru Nanak on his 550th birth anniversary.