By Muhammad Luqman
Indian Sikhs will no longer be restricted to use binoculars at Darshan Sthal to view the sacred shrine—Gurdwara Darbar Sahib located just three kilometers inside Pakistani border as Islamabad has started construction of Kartarpur Corridor before allowing visa free entry next year.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan performed the groundbreaking of the Kartarpur Corridor ,connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Narowal district with Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur District.
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi accompanied the premier as he arrived at Kartarpur.
Former Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, Union Minister for Food Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister for Housing Hardeep S Puri stood alongside the premier as he laid the foundation stone of the corridor , scheduled to be operational on 550th birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion.
Earlier today, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal shared pictures on Twitter of diplomats at the airport and said, “The world comes together for the #PakistanKartarpurSpirit – diplomats attending the groundbreaking ceremony.”
Sidhu on Tuesday led a delegation of his country to attend the groundbreaking ceremony on Pakistan’s invitation. The Indian delegation comprising Badal, Puri and Sidhu reached Lahore through the Wagha Border crossing where they were received by officials of the Pakistan Rangers.
Indian Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj declined to attend the groundbreaking. She thanked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi for the invitation and said the government of India would be represented by Puri and Badal.
India last week gave the go-ahead to Pakistan’s proposal to build Kartarpur corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal District near the Indian border. Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu performed the groundbreaking Monday on his side of the corridor at a ceremony just two kilometers from the Pakistani border.
The proposal to construct the corridor providing visa-free access to Sikh pilgrims was renewed by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in August this year. The proposal was first floated by former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.
As per agreement reached between the two South Asian nations, Pakistan will build the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district up to the border will be constructed by India.
At present, Indian Sikhs have to first reach Lahore, then travel a further 130km to arrive in Narowal. For several years, the Gurdwara remained closed due to the tense relations between India and Pakistan. In 1998, the two countries reached an agreement under which the Sikh pilgrims began to be issued visas to visit Kartarpur.
Settled in 1521 by Baba Guru Nanak, the village Kartarpur is famous for its white-domed Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, which holds religious significance for the Sikh community. Kartarpur is where Baba Guru Nanak settled down after his travels as a missionary. He lived there for 18 years until his death in 1539.
Gurdwara Kartarpur Darbar Sahib was built by Sardar Bhupindar Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala between 1921 and 1929.