India-Pak agree to build Kartarpur corridor, Imran Khan to break ground on November 28

File photo of the Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

WION New Delhi/ Islamabad Nov 22, 2018, 08.24 PM (IST) Anas Mallick , Siddhant Sibal

India and Pakistan have both agreed to build the Kartarpur corridor on their respective sides of the border. The corridor will lead to Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara, Guru Nanak's final resting place

India will build the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak gurudwara in Gurdaspur district till the International Border. 

Announcing the cabinet decision, Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted: "The Kartarpur corridor will provide smooth and easy passage to pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib throughout the year."

India had approached the Pakistani high commission in Delhi and referred to the longstanding proposal to create the corridor to facilitate "easy and smooth" access for Indian pilgrims visiting the gurudwara. Kartarpur Sahib lies in Pakistan, just across the International Border. 

Confirming India had approached Pakistan, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement, "We have approached and urged the Pakistan government to recognize the sentiments of Sikh community and build a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory to  facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year".

India approached the Pakistani High Commission on Friday, the commission sent the letter to Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry (MOFA) on Monday. The Pak MOFA wrote to the Indian High Commission on Wednesday and the Indian High Commission sent the letter to the MEA on Thursday.

Later, at the cabinet briefing, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "All I can say is government of India has always been pursuing this matter."

The Kartarpur shrine is visible from Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak, where binoculars are installed. 

The Kartarpur corridor will be implemented as an integrated development project with Government of India funding. The development comes ahead of the 550th Prakash Purab or birth anniversary of Guru Nanak next year. 

Meanwhile, top sources have told WION that India has requested that the corridor be open 365 days and 24 hours and that there must be no restrictions on the number of pilgrims travelling across the border. The Indian intention basically is that the corridor must be a full-fledged one that allows for maximum movement. The corridor should be open not just on special occasions but through the year. 

India also believes that Sikh pilgrims continue to make the difficult journey with no consular access and wants free and readily available consular access for Indian citizens on the Pakistani side. 

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was conducting a briefing when the Indian cabinet announced the decision, reacted by saying that good news will soon come on Kartarpur corridor. 

Within a few hours, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan will "ground break" for the corridor on November 28. "Pakistan has already conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpura Corridor for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. PM Imran Khan will do break ground at Kartarpura facilities on 28th November. We welcome the Sikh community to Pakistan for this auspicious occasion."

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Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also welcomed the decision with a tweet saying, "Indian Cabinet endorsement of Pakistan’s proposition on Kartarpur Border Opening is victory of peace lobby in both countries, its a step towards right direction and we hope such steps encourage voice of reasons and tranquillity on both sides of the border."

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Indian sources dismissed the idea that the corridor was planned in response to a Pakistani proposal, calling it "preposterous, but hurtful to the sentiments of the Sikh community." The proposal is a long-standing demand from the Indian side for more than 20 years, they said.


The Kartarpur corridor issue got highlighted this year when Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu travelled to Pakistan for Imran Khan's swearing-in, and during which time he claimed Pakistani Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had suggested the opening of the corridor to him. (Sidhu had been slammed on his return for hugging the Pakistan Army chief.) 

On Thursday, Sidhu tweeted, "I welcome this auspicious step by the Union Cabinet, it will be a cup of joy for 12 Crore ‘Nanak Naam Laivas.’ It will build bridges, burn animosity and will act like a soothing balm for two neighbouring countries."

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Kartarpur Sahib is of immense significance for the Sikhs since Guru Nanak spent 18 years of his life here. 

Kartarpur is located in the Narowal district of Pakistani Punjab. It is about 120 kms from Lahore and is located only 3 kms from the Indo-Pakistan border by the Ravi river. At the time of partition, there were three gurdwaras in the border region which were of historical and religious importance. 

India got two and Pakistan got one. 

Dera Baba Nanak and Dera Chola Sahab are the two gurdwaras in India. Dera Kartarpur is in Pakistan. 

Welcoming the development, Sukhbir Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal said, "A long-standing demand on Kartarpur Corridor has been finally accepted by Modi Govt."

The forward movement on the Kartarpur corridor can be considered a big development since despite the India-Pakistan deadlock in talks, both New Delhi and Islamabad have been able to form a consensus on the issue.