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Kartarpur Corridor: Addressing Low Turnout Crucial for Indo-Pak Harmony and People's Unity

Kartarpur Corridor - The fading prominence of the corridor raises concerns amid a time where unity is overshadowed by divisive politics. The corridor stands as a testament to the potential for peace through shared heritage, urging both nations to champion coexistence.

By Ravinder Singh Robin
New Update

Kartarpur Corridor

Kartarpur Corridor | Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan was built to commemorate the final 18 years of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak | Photo courtesy: Ravinder Singh Robin

The Kartarpur Corridor, a significant symbol of cooperation between India and Pakistan, was established to ease the pilgrimage to the holy Gurudwara Shri Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism. Despite its profound religious and historical significance, the number of pilgrims using this passage has been much less than anticipated. The corridor was intended to serve as a bridge of peace and spirituality between the two countries, promoting goodwill and understanding.

In the approximately four years since its inauguration, the Kartarpur Corridor has witnessed a meagre turnout of around two hundred thousand devotees who visited the revered Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara via this passage. This figure stands in stark contrast to the initial projection of five thousand daily pilgrims. The corridor, inaugurated jointly by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 9, 2019, has, on average, seen fewer than 200 visitors per day.

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Addressing a question raised by Member of Parliament Vikramjit Singh Sahney, the Government of India stated, “Since its inauguration on November 9, 2019, the Sri Kartarpur Sahib Corridor has facilitated approximately 200,000 pilgrims in visiting Gurudwara Shri Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. The corridor remains operational seven days a week”.

The number of pilgrims who have visited thus far pales in comparison to earlier expectations, which initially envisioned a daily influx of at least 5,000 pilgrims to the Gurdwara through the Kartarpur Corridor. Experts suggest that the obligatory use of a passport and the imposition of a 20 USD fee by Pakistan for each pilgrim might be pivotal factors contributing to the subdued pilgrim inflow.

Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib, nestled at the convergence of faith and history, holds a significant place in Sikhism. It is the abode where Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Sikh Guru and the founder of Sikhism, spent the final 18 years of his earthly journey. Situated approximately five kilometres from the Indo-Pak border, in Pakistan, this Gurudwara has attracted devotees for decades. Despite the challenges, the establishment of the Kartarpur Corridor symbolises the enduring power of faith and devotion, cutting across borders and geopolitical tensions. While bureaucratic and financial obstacles may have slowed the expected flow of pilgrims, the importance of the corridor in promoting religious freedom and diplomacy cannot be understated.

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Ever since the Partition of India and Pakistan, those desiring to pay obeisance at this holy site have yearned for a dedicated corridor that would facilitate their visit without the hassles of a visa, allowing them to offer their prayers and return home the same day. This aspiration came to fruition on November 9, 2019, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan simultaneously inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor, coinciding with the 550th Gurpurab of Guru Nanak Dev.

An Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the facilitation of pilgrims to visit Gurudwara Shri Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Pakistan, was signed on 24 October 2019. This was done to fulfil the long-standing demand of the pilgrims for easy and smooth access to the holy Gurudwara and to operationalise the Corridor for the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

The opening of the corridor was marked by an air of reverence and enthusiasm. Pilgrims walking through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor exuded a palpable devotion. The ambiance was charged with spiritual energy, as chants and hymns echoed, reflecting the profound religious significance of the journey. Even the Pakistani side exhibited unwavering warmth in welcoming Indian pilgrims. The Government of India streamlined the process further by creating a user-friendly web portal for pilgrims bound for Kartarpur Sahib to register and secure permits. Furthermore, in a gesture of inclusion, India extended permission to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders to pay obeisance at the Gurudwara through this dedicated corridor.

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While a visa is not mandatory to traverse the corridor, passport details are recorded on both sides. This requirement presents an obstacle for a significant portion of the Indian citizens who lack passports. Even those possessing passports often balk at the notion of recording travel to Pakistan, apprehensive that such entries might hinder their prospects of securing visas to other countries.

The Ministry of External Affairs conveyed, “The Government of India has consistently urged the Government of Pakistan to refrain from levying any fee or charge on pilgrims visiting Gurudwara Shri Darbar Sahib Kartarpur through the Sri Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. However, Pakistan continues to impose a fee of US $20 on every pilgrim for each visit.”

Experts believe that the Kartarpur Corridor, a tangible embodiment of a shared spiritual heritage, holds immense promise. To realise this promise, they propose that Pakistan consider waiving the fee and easing passport requirements. By doing so, a larger number of pilgrims can pay obeisance at Sri Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur Sahib, through the Kartarpur Corridor.

It is evident that the Kartarpur Corridor stands not just as a physical passageway but as a bridge of reverence and faith. Its potential to bridge hearts and fulfil the aspirations of countless devotees can only be fully harnessed when both sides work harmoniously to create an environment that fosters unobstructed spiritual communion. Only then can the cherished vision of a continuous stream of pilgrims paying their respects at Sri Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur Sahib, through the Kartarpur Corridor become a vibrant reality.

The inception of the Kartarpur Corridor was met with unparalleled enthusiasm and fanfare, heralding what many hoped would be a fresh chapter in Indo-Pak relations. However, the initial glow has diminished, and the corridor is falling short of its projected potential. It's crucial for both governments to recognize that the Kartarpur Corridor isn't merely a place of worship; it's emblematic of the possibilities when both nations embrace their intertwined cultural tapestry. Such gestures gain paramount importance in an era marked by divisive politics, where the rhetoric of polarisation and hate seems to overshadow the universal virtues of unity and harmony. Now, more than ever, initiatives like the Kartarpur Corridor should serve as poignant reminders that shared cultural experiences can be powerful conduits for peace and coexistence. Both nations must recommit to this vision, ensuring that projects of shared heritage don't just remain symbolic but play an active role in bridging divides.

Ravinder Singh Robin

Ravinder Singh Robin is an independent journalist who contributes to BBC World Services, SBS News (Australia) and Zee tv networks. With over 20 years of experience in journalism, he has extensively covered issues related to national and international affairs, global Sikh community and terrorism.

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