image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Kartarpur Peace Corridor

 

  • Bridges destroyed by war can always be rebuilt.

  • The more people meet, the more they realise how much in common we have, and what we are missing by not resolving our outstanding issues. (Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi)

 

 

 

         It seems that two sportsmen - ex-cricketers - Imran Khan and Navjot Singh Sidhu, embraced each other and scored a major victory for peace! It is only to be expected that security doubts and suspicions remain on both sides of the Ind-Pakistan border. After all, following the bloodshed of 1947, the two countries have fought three wars since that year.

 

Nevertheless, this peace initiative started decades ago has great international significance. The completion date for the Corridor is by the 550th Parkash anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib on 12 November 2019. The significance of Kartarpur for the Sikhs is great. The town was founded by Guru Nanak Sahib in 1504 CE on the right bank of the Ravi River, where He established the first distinct theo-social Sikh community.

 

The decision to go ahead with the Kartarpur corridor has been compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the two countries can only make progress if they free themselves from the chains of the past. The Corridor will allow devotees from India to go to Kartarpur Sahib on the Pakistan side of the border without a visa. However, permits will be required and the Corridor will be fenced off. The distance from Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side of the border to Kartarpur Sahib is only 3 miles and the Gurdwara can be seen from the border. Yet, the present bus journey via Lahore is over 125 kilometers. An 800-metre long bridge will be built over the Ravi River. The first bridge was destroyed in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.

 

In November 2018, the Indian Cabinet approved the plan which received a positive response from Pakistani foreign minister S. M. Qureshi. The Indian Vice President laid the foundation stone of the Corridor at Mann village in Gurdaspur district on 26 November 2018 while, on 28 November 2018, Imran Khan laid the foundation stone near the Narowal District in Pakistan in the presence of Indian central ministers, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri. In addition, Punjab Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, and Amritsar MP, Gurjeet Singh Aujla, were also present. There is little doubt that Navjot Singh Sidhu played a pivotal role in the final break-through in the decades old visa-free demand from the global Sikh community. Delegations from Sikhs abroad have lobbied politicians on both sides.

 

Security reservations: Indian Army general Bipin Rawat said on 28 November 2018 that Kartarpur should be viewed in isolation and not linked to anything else. Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj is reported to have said that the initiative did not mean that bilateral dialogue will start. Terror and talks cannot go together. The moment Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, bilateral dialogue can start.

These reservations are understandable. However, the other threat to peace always is the treatment of minorities in both countries.

 

 

 

Gurmukh Singh OBE