09 November, 2019
By SJA Jafri
KARTARPUR/ ISLAMABAD/ NEW DELHI: Expressing hope that the relations between India and Pakistan could go beyond “hatred, conflict” during the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “France and Germany fought wars but look at them today with their cross border relations, their trade. I hope to see this in the subcontinent very soon.”
Meanwhile, in India, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was “a good beginning” to normalize relations.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi lauded the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. “He promised people of India that he would initiate peace and love. Today marks him standing by his promise,” he said.
He also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reciprocate by lifting the curfew in Kashmir and allowing Muslims to visit the Jamia Masjid (Grand Mosque).
After inaugurating the Integrated Check Post of the 4.5 km-long Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, Narendra Modi flagged off the first batch of over 500 Indian Sikh pilgrims to Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.
At the inauguration of the Integrated Check Post of Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, Narendra Modi lauded Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev for inspiring human kind.
“When Guru Nanak Dev had left Kartarpur nobody knew that he will give a new direction to the society. He gave the message of unity and universal brotherhood,” said Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the “historic” opening of the Kartarpur Corridor said, “It is a corridor for the nation. I want to thank Prime Minister Imran Khan in extending support to expedite the initiative of Kartarpur Corridor.”
Pakistan will hold a separate event on the other side of the border, with Prime Minister Imran Khan declaring it open from the other end of the Kartarpur Corridor.
The inauguration of the corridor comes in the midst of frayed ties between India and Pakistan following New Delhi’s decision in 5 August to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.
Ahead of Kartarpur Corridor inauguration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid obeisance at the Ber Sahib Gurudwara in Sultanpur Lodhi on Saturday. He was accompanied by Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on the visit.
Modi will inaugurate the state-of-the-art Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) Complex at Kartarpur Corridor in Dera Baba Nanak of Punjab’s Gurdaspur district on Saturday.
“With opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, when we are marking Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Parkash Purab, PM Narendra Modi has realized the long-cherished dream of millions. On 9th, let’s witness history being created as PM Modi dedicates this corridor to the nation”.
The much-awaited corridor will have all the necessary passenger amenities to facilitate pilgrims intending to visit the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.
The design and quality parameters also have been prepared to keep in view the aspirations and religious sentiments of the followers of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism.
The design of the PTB Complex has been inspired by the symbol ‘Khanda’ which represents the values of oneness and humanity. It is supposed to have adequate immigration and customs clearance facilities to process the smooth movement of approximately 5,000 pilgrims per day.
India and Pakistan had on 24 October signed an agreement on the modalities for operationalizing the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, paving way for its inauguration ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikh Guru.
The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement but Indian pilgrims are required to carry their passports and will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, which was established by Guru Nanak Dev in 1522.
The foundation stone for the Kartarpur Corridor was laid down on the Indian side on 26 November, 2018. Two days later, the foundation stone was laid on the Pakistani side.
However, Pakistan has not agreed to India’s demand to make the Kartarpur Gurdwara’s visit charge-free.
Following a low-key ceremony to sign the agreement, India had expressed disappointment at Pakistan’s refusal to waive $20 service charge on Indians visiting Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara and urged it to reconsider its decision given the “religious and spiritual sentiments” of the pilgrims.
According to the Home ministry, the agreement, which lays a formal framework for operationalising the corridor, stated that Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor. The travel will be visa-free and pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport. Persons of Indian-Origin need to carry OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card along with the passport of their country.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will also inaugurate the other side of the Kartarpur Corridor on the same day, apart from other events that will be hosted to mark Guru Nanak Dev’s birth anniversary.