Kartarpur Corridor: Difference between revisions

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| country = [[Pakistan]], [[India]]
 
| founder =
 
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| primeminister = [[Imran Khan]]
 
 
| established = {{Start date|2019|11|9|df=y}}
 
| established = {{Start date|2019|11|9|df=y}}
 
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Revision as of 02:33, 11 November 2019

Kartarpur Corridor
Flag of India.pngFlag of Pakistan.svg
Kartarpur Guru Nanak.jpg
Darbar Sahib, gurdwara commemorating Guru Nanak, in Kartarpur, Pakistan
Locations of the Kartarpur Corridor
LocationNarowal disrict, Punjab, Pakistan
Gurdaspur district, Punjab, India
CountryPakistan, India
Established9 November 2019 (2019-11-09)
StatusOpen for Indian citizens and OCI holders

The Kartarpur Corridor (Punjabi/Urdu: کرتارپور راہداری‎, Punjabi: ਕਰਤਾਰਪੁਰ ਲਾਂਘਾ) is a border corridor between Pakistan and India, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan). The corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) from the Pakistan-India border, without a visa.[1]

The Kartarpur Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, respectively, as part of the Delhi–Lahore Bus diplomacy.[2][3]

On 26 November 2018, the foundation stone was laid down on the Indian side and after two days, on 28 November 2018, the foundation stone on the Pakistani side was laid down by Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. The corridor was completed for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on 12 November 2019.[4]

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, said "Pakistan believes that the road to prosperity of region [sic] and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace", adding that "Pakistan is not only opening the border but also their hearts for the Sikh community".[5][6] The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, compared the decision to go ahead with the corridor by the two countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that the project may help in easing tensions between the two countries.[7][8]

Previously, pilgrims from India had to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is 125 km journey although people on the Indian side of the border could physically see Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the Pakistani side. An elevated platform had also been constructed for the same on the Indian side, where people use binoculars to get a good view.[9][10][11] .

Background

The first guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, founded Kartarpur in 1504 CE on the right bank of the Ravi River and established the first Sikh commune there. Following his death in 1539, Hindus and Muslims both claimed him as their own and raised mausoleums in his memory with a common wall between them. The changing course of the Ravi River eventually washed away the mausoleums. A new habitation was formed, representing the present day Dera Baba Nanak on the left bank of the Ravi river.[12][13][14][15]

During the 1947 partition of India, the region was divided between India and Pakistan. The Radcliffe Line awarded the Shakargarh tehsil on the right bank of the Ravi River, including Kartarpur, to Pakistan, and the Gurdaspur tehsil on the left bank of Ravi to India.[16][17]

After partition, it is believed that Indian Sikhs would go over to Kartarpur informally, crossing a bridge on the Ravi river which joined Dera Baba Nanak with Kartarpur Sahib. This bridge was eventually destroyed in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.[18]

In 1948, the Akali Dal demanded that India should acquire the land of the gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur. The demands persisted till 1959, but the Punjab state government controlled by Indian National Congress advised against any modification of the boundary fixed by the Radcliffe Award. In 1969, on the occasion of the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, prime minister Indira Gandhi promised to approach the Pakistan government for a land-swap so that Kartarpur Sahib could become part of India.[19] None of this materialised. However in September 1974, a protocol was agreed between India and Pakistan for visits to religious shrines.[20] Around 2005, the protocol was updated by increasing the number of visits and the number of sites.[21] However, Kartarpur was never included among the sites included in the 1974 protocol. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, India had requested for its inclusion but it was not agreed to by Pakistan.[22][23]

Gobind Singh, the caretaker of the gurdwara at Kartarpur, said the gurdwara had "remained shut from 1947 to 2000".[24] The gurudwara had no staff despite receiving pilgrims and entrance was restricted. The Pakistan government started repairing the shrine in September 2000 ahead of Guru Nanak's death anniversary and formally reopened it in September 2004.[25] The Kartarpur Corridor mission was initially started by Bhabishan Singh Goraya, he has been pursuing the cause for past 24 years.[26]

According to Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala, the gurdwara had been abandoned till 2003. It served as a cattle shed for the villagers and its lands were taken over by share-croppers.[19] Since 2003, however, the Pakistani government has reportedly taken initiatives for the upkeep of Sikh religious shrines.[27]

Corridor project

During the tenure of prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the opening of Kartarpur border crossing was first discussed in 1998. After further discussions during the 1999 bus diplomacy, Pakistan renovated the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, and made it available for viewing from the Indian border.[28][29] The tensions arising from the Kargil War put paid to the India–Pakistan relations. However, it was reported that General Pervez Musharraf gave a 'green signal' for constructing a corridor, according to the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee chairman Lt.-Gen. Javed Nasir.[30]

Manmohan Singh, during his first term as the prime minister of India, also tabled the issue in a speech in Punjab in 2004.[2][3][31] The 'composite dialogue process' between India and Pakistan initiated in 2004 also discussed access to Kartarpur via an Amritsar–Lahore–Kartarpur road link.[28]

In 2008, the Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee raised with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi the idea of "visa-free travel" to Kartarpur.[2][23][32] There was apparently no official response, but privately, Pakistan began to express its openness to the Sikh community.[27][33][34] However, even up to 2012, the Indian government had no response.[23] The stalled relations between the countries were apparently to blame.[22][32]

On 20 June 2008, at a press conference in Dera Baba Nanak arranged by Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala, John W. McDonald, a former American ambassador and founder of Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, called for "a peace corridor, a peace zone" connecting shrines on both sides of the border.[35][36] On 28 June 2008, the Indian foreign minister at the time, Pranab Mukherjee, said that the Indian government would carry out a feasibility study for the peace corridor.[37][38] However, since the 2008 Mumbai attacks took place, the relations between India and Pakistan nosedived and the initiative appears to have died. Members of the Sikh community in Washington DC worked with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy to carry out an independent feasibility study.[35] In August 2010, their report titled "Kartarpur Marg" was released by Surinder Singh and the Institute.[39][40] According to the report, the cost of the corridor would be 17 million US dollars, which the Sikh diaspora agreed to raise.[41][42] The report had said that it would cost Pakistan $14.8 million and India $2.2 million.[43] In November 2010 the Punjab state legislative assembly unanimously passed a resolution in favour of an international passage between the two sites and forwarded it to the Indian Union government on 1 October 2010.[44]

In August 2018, Indian Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu attended the Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan's inaugural ceremony where he was told by the Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa of Pakistan's willingness to open the Dera Baba Nanak–Kartarpur corridor on Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary. Given the clear time frame, this set the ball rolling.[45][32]

In August 2018, another resolution related to the corridor in the Indian Punjab Vidhan Sabha was moved by chief minister Amarinder Singh, which was passed unanimously.[46] Following this the government of Indian Punjab decided to approach the prime minister of India related to the opening of the corridor. In 30 October 2018, a group of Sikh Americans sought the Prime Minister of India's for help in opening the corridor.[47] In November 2018, the Indian Cabinet approved the plan to set up the corridor and appealed to Pakistan to do the same. The Pakistani foreign minister S. M. Qureshi responded by tweeting that Pakistan had "already conveyed to India" that it would open a corridor.[3][43]

In August 2019, India and Pakistan agreed to allow visa-free travel of Indian citizens to Kartarpur, but differences persisted about Indian consular officers being located at the site.[48]

On 24 October 2019, S.C.L. Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Union Home Ministry from India and Pakistan Foreign Office Director General South Asia and SAARC Mohammad Faisal met at Zero Point near Dera Baba Nanak in the border town of Gurdaspur to ink the memorandum of understanding. The signing of this agreement has paid the way for 5,000 Indian pilgrims to visit the holy site without a visa on daily basis. Under the agreement, the pilgrims would come in the morning and return in the evening after visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.[49] Each visitor would be required to pay USD $20 as a service charge, which as per Pakistan Foreign Office's DG South Asia & SAARC Mohammad Faisal, would only cover one-third of the current operational cost. India however, had urged Pakistan to waive off the fees for pilgrims. In response, on 1 November 2019, Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan announced on Twitter that Sikh pilgrims coming from India for a pilgrimage to Kartarpur will not be charged any fee on the day of inauguration and on Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary on 12 November 2019.[50] The Pakistan government as a “special gesture” had also waived off the passport requirement for Kartarpur pilgrims extending up to one year. However, the Indian government decided against availing “concessions” announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan.[51] The Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced that passport would be required per the agreement between the two countries.[52][53]

Foundation

On 28 November 2018, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, laid the foundation stone for the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib–Kartarpur corridor near the Narowal district of Punjab, Pakistan.[54]

Two central ministers of India, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri were present at the event in Pakistan. In addition, Navjot Singh Sidhu and member of the Parliament from Amritsar, Gurjeet Singh Aujla were also present.[55]

On 26 November 2018, Indian vice president, Venkaiah Naidu, laid the foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Corridor at Mann, a village in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India.[3][56]

Design of Kartarpur Corridor Complex

The Complex will have an international standard hotel, hundreds of apartments, two commercial areas and two car parking lots, Border Facility Area, a power grid station, tourist information centre and several offices.[57]

Logistics

According to a presentation given by a US firm, the survey for the corridor has been completed by the Pakistan government. The design and land acquisition took place in December 2018. The construction of the corridor was completed on 1 November 2019,[58] in time for the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak on 12 November 2019.

Even though the point at which the corridor will cross the border has not yet been decided, construction of an 800-metre (2,600-foot)-long bridge over the Ravi River is going on. The construction includes a 'boarding terminal' from where shuttle buses will take the pilgrims from India to Kartarpur. There will be temporary accommodations and tents for the pilgrims. There is an expectation that the pilgrims will need to obtain special permits, though not visas, for making the trip, and they will need to undergo biometric checks.[58]

Construction

Pakistan via its Frontier Works Organization constructed 4.7 kilometres (2.9 mi) of dedicated expressways, including an 800-metre (2,600 ft) bridge over the River Ravi, opened an immigration office, and expanded the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur to accommodate the incoming pilgrims.[59][60] The first phase of the construction of Kartarpur Corridor project was completed in early November 2019.[61]

In April 2019, Land Ports Authority of India, National Highways Authority of India and Ceigall India Ltd started construction on Indian side of the corridor.[62] An integrated checkpost (ICP), 3.5 km four-lane highway and a 100-metre bridge at Dera Baba Nanak was constructed in October 2019.[63][64]

Inauguration

On 9 November 2019, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor at a ceremony that was held in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib complex, Kartarpur and around 12,000 pilgrims were present on this ceremony.[65] On the occasion, Prime Minister Khan said "Pakistan believes that the road to prosperity of region [sic] and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace, saying that today (9th November 2019) Pakistan is not only opening the border but also their hearts for the Sikh community."[66][67]

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, welcomed the move and compared the decision for the corridor between the two countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that the project may help in easing tensions between the two countries.[7][68][69] During the inauguration speech, he also said, "I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan Niazi for respecting the sentiment of India."[70][71]

The Indian Sikh delegation that included former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and actor-turned politician Sunny Deol arrived through Kartarpur Corridor to celebrate 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak and attended the inauguration ceremony on the special invitation from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.[72]

Navjot Singh Sidhu in his speech said that Prime Minister Imran Khan won the heart of Sikh community by opening the corridor. He mentioned that Alexander III of Macedon won the heart of people by fighting meanwhile Imran Khan won hearts of many Sikhs around the world by giving access to their holy land Kartarpur.[72] Earlier, however the Indian government's denial of political clearance to Sidhu to visit Pakistan for Kartarpur inauguration snowballed into a last moment controversy.[73]

Security concerns and propaganda

In November 2019, Indian intelligence have reported that they have spotted alleged terrorist training camps.[74] Pakistan Foreign Office rebutted the Indian media claims as baseless propaganda.[75][76] In 2019, Pakistan army placed an unexploded bomb on display inside the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara premises with an accompanying banner alleging that the Indian Air Force had dropped this bomb during the 1971 Indo-Pak war on the gurdwara in an attempt to destroy it.[77]

Reception

Lahore-based historian, Fakir S. Aijazuddin, characterised it as a "unique experiment" in cross-border ties between India and Pakistan. He claimed that universality symbolised by Guru Nanak can bring the people of all religions together.[58]

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Bibliography

External links