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September 20, 2020
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Corridor of Faith opens

Corridor of Faith opens

Marila Latif

Guru Nanak Dev Ji, originated Sikh community in Kartarpur and lived there for 18 years until his death in 1539.

The fact cannot be denied that tension between both countries India and Pakistan will never end. But the opening of Kartarpur Corridor is a ray of hope that relationship of the countries would improve. The Kartarpur Corridor, which is 4.2 km-long located near international border of India and Pakistan, connecting the Sikh shrines – Dera Baba Nanak Sahib located in India’s Punjab and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Punjab.

The host country allowed religious devotees from India to visit the Kartarpur Sahib, Pakistan without a visa. Fees waived off for two days for Sikh pilgrims on the day of inaugration of the Kartarpur Corridor and also on the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak Dev ji.

The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, originally known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, is a highly revered Sikh shrine where Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years of his life and is his final resting place in 1539. The gurdwara is built where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died, therefore, it is considered as the second holiest site of the Sikh religion after Gurdwara Janam Asthan- the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji which is located at Nankana Sahib, Pakistan.

Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh will lead an all-party delegation across the border to Kartarpur Sahib on the opening day of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. Punjab’s CM had also criticised the registration fee before. Pakistan had handed over a final draft agreement to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. India had asked for the service fee of $20 (approximately Rs 1,400) to be waived, but Pakistan says that the amount is needed to meet operational costs for the corridor.

The delegation that will accompany the Chief Minister to the historic gurdwara would comprise all the 117 state legislators, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs from Punjab, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) members that have an alliance with SAD and BJP whereas Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the Indian side of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 8.

The construction work was completed by October 31 before Parkash Purab, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on November 9.

On November 26, 2018, the foundation stone for the Kartarpur Corridor was laid down on the Indian side by President of India Ram Nath Kovind along with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and two days later, the foundation stone was also laid down on the Pakistan side near the Narowal district of Punjab by Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. Two union ministers of India, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri were present at the event in Pakistan.

Currently, pilgrims from India have to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is a 125 km journey although people on the Indian side of the border can physically see Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur on the Pakistani side. An elevated platform has also been constructed for the same on the Indian side, where people use binoculars to get a good view.

CONTRIBUTION

After the partition in 1948, a strong “Ardas” (prayer) started overwhelming Sikhism, Sikh sentiments began enduring stark emotion for the puritanical love that only grew stronger towards all those parted gurdwaras who were separated and allocated in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the partition of India and Pakistan and to consolidate the path of devotion through “Ardas” they began to link and visualise every gurdwara as a part of them, respite located in any corner of the world. The ‘Ardas’ affirmed that all the sects of Sikhism must unite with the historical gurdwaras around the globe.

In 1948, Shiromani Akali Dal demanded that India should acquire the land of the gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur. The demands persisted till 1959, but the government advised against any modification of the boundary fixed by the Radcliffe Award. However, in 1969, Indian government was pressurised by the public to bring back the mortals of martyr Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru from Hussainwala Mausoleum in Pakistan to India, then, both of the countries agreed to exchange the land.

A portion of Fazilka district was given to Pakistan and Hussainwala which had remains of Indian martyrs were given to India which is currently a village in the bordering district of Ferozpur.

During the partition, it was undecided by both the countries that who will have Gurdaspur district because no one was able to choose. We know India got independence on August 15,  1947, Pakistan on August 14, 1947 but the fate of Gurdaspur was decided on August 16, 1947 by the Radcliffe authority and it was this time only when Kartarpur was given to Pakistan.

In 1969, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi promised to approach the Pakistan government for a land-swap so that Kartarpur Sahib could become part of India. None of this has materialised because of the denial to amend the Radcliffe international border.

Kartarpur Corridor was initially 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.

On June 20, 2008, at a press conference in Dera Baba Nanak arranged by Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala who was known for his religious divinity and who has been repeatedly  mentioned in Punjab assembly for his contribution towards the corridor, 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 but the continuous tensed relations between the two countries delayed its implementation.

In August 2018, the then Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu attended his friend Imran Khan’s inaugural ceremony and he was told by the Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa of Pakistan’s willingness to open the Dera Baba Nanak–Kartarpur Corridor on Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birth anniversary.

In the similar time, another resolution for Kartarpur Corridor was passed unanimously in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha which was moved by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Eventually, in August 2019, India and Pakistan agreed to allow visa-free travel of Indian citizens to Kartarpur.

CONTROVERSY

A credit war had been initiated since the beginning of preparations and celebrations of Parkash Purab among the local regional parties of Punjab, in which, the ruling party Congress led by Captain Amarinder Singh despised a political skirmish inside the cohort. Punjab Congress remained divided ever since Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Pakistan for PM Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony and his controversial hug with Pakistan Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa. While one faction led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh slammed him for hugging the Pakistan Army chief, others petted him for raising the issue of “Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Corridor” that holds immense religious significance for Sikhs.

The dice controversy have overwhelmed the situation as “who should sit on the panel?” even during the foundational stone pageantry of Kartarpur Corridor, a verbal quarrel was reported where majority of Shiromani Akali Dal leaders sat on the dice of leaders and Congress protested against that move. Presently, they are unofficially demanding addition of two more chairs on the dice for Akali leaders Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal but the Congress minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa categorically denies the demand and states that there will be no seat on the dice for Shiromani Akali Dal, if in case, it happens, then heads of all the major political parties should be given those chairs on the dice.

However, sources said two functions are adhering to be organised comparable by the Government of Punjab and SGPC while experts believe all are actually ignoring the teachings and messages of Guru Nanak Dev Ji that profound unity and brotherhood, although,  efforts have been made to unite the function.

On the contra, when there were claims of two functions adhering equivalent and parallel basis, a statement comes to light, now clearing all the confusions. Akal Takht (the divine throne highest and holiest position in Sikhism) Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh have said that the main function will be held jointly by SGPC and Punjab Govt on the SGPC stage and asked leaders not to politicise the religious issue.

The first Guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, 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 then 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.

Following this, the government of Punjab decided to approach the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi related to the opening of the Corridor. On October 30, 2018, a group of Sikh Americans sought with Narendra Modi for help in opening the corridor and 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.

It is reported that the Complex have an international standard hotel, hundreds of apartments, two commercial areas and two-car parking, border facility area, a power grid station, tourist information centre and several offices. The construction includes a ‘boarding terminal’ from where shuttle buses will take the pilgrims from India to Kartarpur and there will be temporary accommodations and tents for the pilgrims.

Despite witnessing the legacy of partition and greatest migrations of human history in which more than 15 million people were uprooted and between one and two million were dead. India and Pakistan has never remained peaceful with each other. However, Kartarpur Corridor might fix the apartheid.

And if the segregation between India and Pakistan is consolidated, it will benefit both the countries as both share the same water and deal with similar problems. The combined population of India and Pakistan have increased to 1.5 billion in 2019 from 485 million in 1961 and the rising demand for waters suggest Indus will become a seasonal river till 2040.

After the 1947 partition, Indus basin remained a divisive issue then the Indus water treaty was signed between ex-Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and former Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan which was brokered by World Bank in 1960. Its five major tributaries come under two categories eastern (Beas, Ravi, Sutlej) and western (Jhelum, Chenab and Indus) rivers.

According to the treaty, eastern rivers were given to India and western rivers were given to Pakistan because the flow of waters was not able to be restricted. India was allowed to use (excluding domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses from western rivers) nearly 20% of the total water carried by the Indus System of Rivers while Pakistan can use the remaining 80%.

Despite sharing a long border, India and Pakistan don’t share any significant trade. Pakistan does not feature among India’s top 35 exporters and importers, while India does not feature among Pakistan’s top 10 exporters.

Recently, relations between India and Pakistan had been worsened; Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic ties with India, recalled its high commissioner from New Delhi, expelled the Indian envoy to Islamabad, suspended bilateral trade also announced the partial closure of its airspace after the Centre scrapped the semi-autonomous status of J&K on August 5, 2019.

The two countries must stop confrontation and starts cooperation like Kartarpur Corridor to all of their tribulations because nothing positive or productive ever comes from war, except the loss of life and livelihood on both sides.

Pak issues coin

PM Imran Khan shared a picture of the coin. “Pakistan issues commemorative coin to mark the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji,” Khan said in the FB post.

Postage stamp released

To mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the government of Pakistan released a postage stamp depicting the image of Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. The stamp is worth Rs 8.

‘A friend will always be a friend’

Former Indian cricketer and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu has accepted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s invitation to attend the opening ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. In Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), however, said the “political clearance” would have to be sought for it.

“Those who Pakistan wants to call have to take political clearance,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a briefing, to a question on Sidhu accepting an invite by Imran Khan to attend the November 9 inauguration ceremony.

According to a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) press release, Sidhu thanked the Pakistan Prime Minister for inviting him to the inauguration.

“I’m grateful to the Prime Minister for inviting me to the historic inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor,” he was quoted as saying.

What is Pakistan gaining?

The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was an important event in the historical legacy of India Pakistan that changed the tone of pessimistic analytical OP-EDs on both sides, at least transiently if not permanently.

When the proposal of opening the Kartarpur corridor was put forward, by the then former Tourism Minister of Punjab Navjot Singh Sidhu to his cricketer friend, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan; he visualised more benefits than any damage by the proposal.

The closed files of the corridor proposal started to open and Pakistan, on the other hand, did not take long to approve the proposal of the corridor. Pakistan may see it as a progression to uplift the already economic slowdown.

There were endless letters demanding to open Kartarpur Corridor, only after the partition of India-Pakistan from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi, only assurances were made and the unhappy Sikhs never asked the Congress to open the Kartarpur Corridor after that.

During the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who came to power in the year 1998, talks on Kartarpur Corridor were mentioned again.

During the then 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 through binoculars.

The case took a new turn on August 18, 2018, when the then Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu attended the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inaugural ceremony, and he was told by the 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.

In November 2018, the Indian Cabinet approved the plan to set up the corridor and appealed to Pakistan to do the same. The Pakistan Foreign Minister S M Qureshi responded by tweeting that Pakistan had “already conveyed to India” that it would open a corridor.

Informal but Navjot Singh Sidhu, as a Sikh, had proposed that opening the corridor would help Pakistan to win the Sikhs’ heart, while Pakistan’s trade relations with India would also increase, which would improve Pakistan’s economy. Sidhu got the idea of Pakistan and thinking two steps ahead, he also considered the benefits of the Kartarpur corridor through tariffs. When the atmosphere between India and Pakistan became tense due to Balakot, surgical attack etc., despite this, Pakistan did not show laxity in construction of the corridor. However, Pakistan severely reduced diplomatic relations with India, imposing restrictions on many such Indian commodities, causing damage to its local industries.

India repeatedly raised the point to waive off $20 fee for the Kartarpur corridor in meetings and letters with Pakistan. Although Pakistan did not accepted the $20 fee waiver and said the fees would cover maintenance and services.  Pakistan is estimated to have an annual income of up to thirty-six million dollars from the Kartarpur pilgrimage. Pakistan will get 259 crore rupees (Indian currency) annually from pilgrims as a service fee. This will be another source of foreign exchange for Pakistan. Since five thousand pilgrims are allowed to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. Every pilgrim will be charged $20 per day.

Accordingly, Pakistan will earn $ 100,000 per day. If this pilgrimage lasts 365 days of the year, then Pakistan will earn $ 3,65,00,000 from it.

There is a huge budget deficit of Rs 3.56 lakh crore in the budget of 6 lakh crore (6 trillion) presented in the month of June passed by the Government of Pakistan. Pakistan’s economy is facing a huge crisis.

The economic survey for 2018-19 of Pakistan was released just a day before the government of Pakistan presented its budget. It is said that in the fiscal year 2018-19, Pakistan’s GDP is growing at a rate of only 3.3 per cent.

This is the lowest level for the last 9 years. The budget presented recently in Pakistan mentioned that there is so much debt on Pakistan that a large part of its budget, that is 42 per cent, spent in repaying the loan interest. Pakistan is far behind India in terms of foreign exchange reserves.

Due to the troubles of Pakistan, it had borrowed funds from the International Monetary Fund. Here, Pakistan have time till February next year, to improve the steps taken against the terrorists depositing money. Pakistan’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is set to stop attempts to deposit money for terrorism and monitor money laundering has settled his head on Pakistan.

Here in India, Union Minister for Food Processing, Harsimrat Kaur Badal have recently announced her disassociation from the inaugural of Jatha led by CM Captain Amarinder Singh on November 9, 2019.

Quotes

“The BJP, the NDA government has got lucky one more time. The distance between our Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s holy place, Kartarpur Sahib and all of us is now ending. In 1947, those who were responsible for drawing the dividing line did not think that the devotees should not be separated from the Guru by a distance of only four kilometres.”

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from across the globe. For Sikhs coming for pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived off 2 requirements: i) they wont need a passport – just a valid ID;   ii) they no longer have to register 10 days in advance. Also, no fee will be charged on day of inauguration & on Guruji’s 550th birthday.”

Imran Khan,

Prime Minister of Pakistan

“I appeal to Imran Khan, PM of Pakistan  to withdraw $20 fee , completely , imposed by pid_gov on pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib to faciliate ‘khulle darshan deedar’ of the final resting place of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The world Sikh community will be grateful to you for this gesture.”

Captain Amarinder Singh,
Chief Minister of Punjab

“Navjot Singh Sidhu (former minister and Congress MLA) has biggest contribution in opening the Kartarpur corridor. His contribution cannot be ignored. Pakistan has also invited former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu to come to the inauguration, they should go. Navjot Singh Sidhu is also named in the first batch to visit Pakistan.”

Sunil Jakhar, Punjab Congress Chief

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