the Kartarpur corridor is a new entry point giving access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Punjab. However, tensions between the two countries have often made it hard to access and this is being seen as rare cooperation. Sikhism was born in Punjab, a region that was divided during the partition of British India in 1947.
A tweet by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan unilaterally announcing exemption of the 20$ fee for pilgrims on inauguration day and no requirement of passport as the document, proved a cool breeze for Sikhs.
In Sikh tradition, the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib is considered the 2nd holiest site after the Gurdwara Janam Asthan (also known as the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib). This is the place where the premier Guru in Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak spent 18 years of his life.
Initially, former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu was slammed on social media for crediting Pakistan with successful peace initiative and maintained, “the Kartarpur Spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of the heart and the mind. A journey that our people can walk together towards, a future of shared peace and prosperity for India and Pakistan.” It spanned an area of 104 acres exclusively and 1500 acres on whole. As per the Agreement, five thousand pilgrims will be able to visit the Shrine from India every day.
Eleven months ago, one could only see a tiny building encompassed by green fields on all sides. However, the area seems to have been transformed now into a white marble grandeur building soaked in the vibes of spiritual attire somewhat like majestic Taj Mahal of Agra, India. Pakistan’s sincere efforts have made Gurdwara Darbar Sahib the largest Gurdwara in the world.
Although many years ago, in 1999, Pakistan had made India a similar offer to create a fenced corridor. However, at the time, India had not responded positively to the offer.
Pakistan army should be given the utmost credit for making this dream to come true. Who could have thought that the country would open up borders for a country that have such an elaborate history of feuds and beefs as someone unfolds all the history books. This corridor is one of a kind and we can truly see how good the diplomatic policies are getting over the years – first with the creation of the economical corridor with China and now a ‘social’ corridor being erected against the face of adversity from our Indian neighbors. One cannot soil the religious love of the Sikhs by not expecting their wishes as an Islamic Republic, Pakistan knows how to respect other religions and recognize the need for the freedom of religion unlike India that yearly has so many dispute over ethnicity and religions. Article 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan assures that “The state shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interest of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services. Development of Kartarpur Corridor is part of the same commitment to promote religious freedom and harmony of the minorities.
The countries should not be quarreling over disputes that could stain the religious freedom of the Sikhs with violence and petty feuds between India and Pakistan. Foundation stone for Baba Guru Nanak University has also been laid and a Rs 50 coin and a postal stamp to commemorate the 550th birthday of Baba Guru Nanak has also been issued by Pakistan.
However, despite the current hostile climate, the Pakistan government is hoping to turn the grand cross-border project into a religious tourism bonanza for the country.
The government is rightly aiming to promote religious tourism along with international standards. The Kartarpur Corridor project has garnered global attention in terms of both tourism and heritage value.
The government intends to highlight the strategic location of Pakistan as a hub of culture and heritage with reference to the importance of other historic relics and monuments in the region and also intends to portray an image of openness, security, and friendliness to foreign investors by showcasing Punjab’s rich cultural experiences and elements of tolerance and diversity.
This contains aim to build on concrete facts and eliminate many myths and misconceptions about security, isolationism, intolerance, and poverty in the region thereby encouraging foreign tourists, students, spiritualists, academics and researchers to learn and enjoy the many benefits of travelling to Punjab and experience its history, art, music, food, festivals, hospitality and recreation.
It will also highlight the recently announced visa-on-arrival policy for residents of the UK, Malaysia, Turkey, and 70 other countries.
Talking about the importance of the Kartarpur project from a religio-cultural angle, the cordial relationship Muslims and Sikhs have enjoyed for centuries. “The Kartarpur Corridor is an effort to further strengthen these ties between Muslims and Sikhs. It is a small part of the government’s strategy to promote peace and interfaith harmony among the Muslims and Sikhs of South Asia and the rest of the world.
Various analysts are expressing the opinion that by opting for the establishment of the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan has scored a diplomatic victory.
From the perspective of Sikh community, visa free access to the holy place would be a befitting tribute to Guru Nanak, who rose to break the stranglehold of the oppressive systems of socio religious orders in nascent Punjab. National poet-Iqbal also wrote a poem for Guru Nanak referring him as a spiritual man and highlighted his narration of Oneness of Creator-the concept also mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikhism.
Lastly, Pakistan sacrificed over 82,000 lives in the war against terrorism due to its effective counter terrorism strategy and defeated the demon and observed last Minority Day in connection with the Quaid-i-Azam’s address to the legislative assembly on August 11, 1947 where he had stated that all citizens were free to go to their worship places without distinction of their religions or faiths. Pakistan must adopt the message of love and peace.
Dr.Zeeshan Khan is an analyst, activist, commentator, life trainer, contributor to the Op-Ed pages of different newspapers and doctor at CMH.