India and Pakistan despite the errant relationship inked an agreement on Thursday on the Kartarpur corridor to provide a chance to Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy Darbar Sahib in Pakistan easily. Officials of both the countries met at Zero Point near Dera Baba Nanak in the border town of Gurdaspur to sign on the historic agreement.
The brainchild of Vajpayee, Sharif
The seed for the opening of this famous corridor was sowed in 1999 as a part of the Delhi-Lahore Bus diplomacy between prime ministers of both the countries Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif respectively. After the dialogue between the two countries in a peaceful atmosphere that time Pakistani government renovated the Kartarpur Sahib so that pilgrims can view the site from the Indian border.
The distance of 4 km
Gurudwara Darbar Sahib is also known as Kartarpur Sahib situated in Narowal district in Pakistan. The shrine is roughly four kilometres away from the International Border. It is the holiest of holy shrine for the followers of Sikhism as it was the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of this religion in the 15th century.
Significance of Kartarpur
Kartarpur has a historical significance. Guru Nanak settled here after the completion of his mission. It is believed that Gurudwara Darbar Sahib was the place where the first Guru of Sikhs mustered the Sikh community and spent his last 18 years in that place until his last breath.
Original structure no more
Floods destroyed the original structure of the Kartarpur Sahib. But Bhupinder Singh, the then Maharaja of Patiala and grandfather of current Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh restructured the site. It was once again revamped during the period of Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s regime.
Sikh Jathas visit 4-time
Generally, Sikh Jathas visit Pakistan on four occasions every year — during the time of Baisakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev. Indian pilgrims have rights to visit all the gurdwaras located in Pakistan.
Indo-Pak sign agreement
With the inking on the landmark agreement between two countries, removed all the speculations. The Kartarpur corridor would connect Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur. The distance will be narrowed just four-kilometre from the international border located at Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
The corridor opens for all faiths
“Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the Kartarpur corridor. The travel will be visa-free. Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport,” CL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security), said after the signing of the agreement.
Pak to organise langar
“The Pakistan side has agreed to make sufficient provision for langar and distribution of prasad in the Gurdwara premises. On our side, all the required infrastructure, including the highway and the passenger terminal building are nearing completion for the timely inauguration of the corridor,” the top officer added.
Visitors return the same day
Visitors don’t need to stay there at night. The corridor will remain open from dawn to dusk. Pilgrims will reach there in the morning and return in the evening. It is expected 5,000 pilgrims can visit every day without a visa, but keeping a passport is essential. Pilgrims will have to complete all the paper works one month before the visit. Permission will be allowed after the police verification. Another good news for the pilgrims is that the corridor will remain open throughout the year, except on notified days, which would be informed in advance.
Pak charges $20
But Pakistan has imposed $20 as service charge from per pilgrims. The fee was opposed by the Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and other political leaders. The historic opening of the corridor is set to take place on November 9 by Narendra Modi from India’s end and Imran Khan from the Pakistan side. The first jatha is all set to visit the site on November 9 just three days before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Path of peace
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor on Punjab’s Gurdaspur district in the last November. The Kartarpur corridor may prove the symbol of peace and friendship between the two neighbouring countries, just like the olive branch. It would be an ideal diplomatic channel to lessen tension and move ahead for peace and end the suspension of bilateral trade and once again resume the cross-border trains and buses, restore sporting ties and postal services as well.