Corridor of hope

Corridor of hope

News:

  1. The Union Cabinet recently approved the building and development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to the international border in Pakistan.

Important Facts:

  1. The plans to operationalise a visa-free corridor between Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab heeds a longstanding plea of Sikh pilgrims.
  2. Background:
  • The demand had gathered pace in 1995, and leaders from both sides, including Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Benazir Bhutto, had pushed for it.
  1. The visa-free corridor is aimed to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi river in Pakistan, where Shri Guru Nanak Dev spent eighteen years.
  2. The Kartarpur corridor will be implemented as an integrated development project with Government of India funding, to provide smooth and easy passage, with all the modern amenities.
  3. Significance:
  • Given its easy logistics, the 4-km-long Kartarpur corridor would initiate meaningful confidence-building measure(CBM).
  • The initiative can also become a template for cross-border exchanges based on faith, which could provide a balm for many communities.
  • For example, Kashmiri Pandits, who have long asked for access to visit the Sharda Peeth in the Neelum Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Sufis in Pakistan who wish to visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan and Sikhs in India and Pakistan wanting to visit important shrines on both sides of the border.
  • The “corridor” would also bring Pak infrastructure right up to the Indian border.
  • The Kartarpur project will compel India and Pakistan to engage in a positive and purposeful manner, at a time when few other avenues for engagement exist.
  • It is also a reminder that dialogue and search for areas of concord are the only way forward for both countries.
  1. Concerns:
  • Over the past year, gurdwaras in Pakistan have been used for a pro-Khalistan campaign.
  • Earlier this year, a gurdwara displayed posters and distributed pamphlets for the so-called “Sikh Referendum 2020”, and Pakistan denied permission to the Indian envoy and diplomats to visit it.
  • Pakistan’s intent also remains suspect, and Indian officials are wary of the corridor being misused by both state and non-state actors in that country.
  1. Way Forward:
  • Much will depend on how quickly India and Pakistan act on their commitment, after laying down the foundation stone on both the sides by the respective sides.
  • Even more will depend on how the two governments manage their relationship in a way that avoids making pilgrims a pawn in bilateral tensions.
  • It is important that issues related to the corridor are managed in a non-political manner and details left to diplomats and officials to sort out for instance, the issue of Indian consular access to pilgrims.
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