At a solemn and impressive ceremony attended by Sikhs from India and all over the world, high profile personalities from Pakistan and India including Navjot Singh Sidhu, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor on last Saturday allowing unhindered access to the Sikhs to their second holiest place. It was indeed a dream come true for the Sikh community as rightly observed by Navjot Singh Sidhu while addressing the ceremony. Paying glowing tributes to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan for this magnanimous gesture he said “Imran Khan has made history. He is King of hearts. He has put ointment on the wounds of people who witnessed bloodshed during the partition. Alexander had won hearts of people because of fear, while Imran Khan has won hearts of people by promoting peace.” He thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for the bold step taken by him as well as the Indian Prime Minister sending him a hug for making it possible for Sikhs to visit Kartarpur. He also expressed the desire for opening of the borders between the two countries so that the people of the two countries could freely visit cities on both sides.

Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the audience and responding to the demand by Navjot Sidhu in regards to opening of borders between the two countries observed that when he was elected as the prime minister, he had told Narendra Modi that their biggest problem was poverty and if they opened their borders, mutual trade would eliminate poverty. He expressed the hope that a day would come when both countries would have relations like they should have been. He however rightly pointed out that it could happen only when the people of Kashmir who were under siege for more than ninety days were given justice and the dispute is resolved in conformity with the UN resolutions. He reminded Modi that justice brought peace and hatred caused chaos in a society and once justice was done to Kashmiris and their right to self-determination was given to them, situation of the entire region would improve. Prime Minister Imran Khan had also laid the foundation stone of Guru Nanek University at Kartarpur a few days ago.

It is hard to take an issue with what Prime Minister Imran Khan said. The two countries do need amity in their own interest as well as the entire region. The continued hostility between them poses a grave threat to peace and security of the region and is inimical to the cherished goal of shared economic prosperity which is waiting to be unfurled but unfortunately remains a hostage to the rivalry between the two countries.

Pakistan has made persistent overtures towards India to promote bonhomie between the two countries but regrettably all those initiatives have been spurned by her. The Modi government instead of recognizing the ground realities and trying to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries including the core issue of Kashmir has further aggravated the animosity between the two countries by revoking article 370 of the Indian article that gave special status to IOK putting the people of Kashmir under siege for the last more than ninety days now. The humanitarian situation in IOK has spread concern among the international community also and growing number of countries have demanded of India to ease the situation. The international media has also regularly been reporting about the permeating situation in the state and the sufferings of the people under siege.

The decision by Pakistan to open the corridor is in line with the Islamic principles, its policy of promoting inter-faith harmony, and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood. The initiative of building the corridor has strengthened her credential as a firm believer in interfaith harmony. The step has also been hailed by the world community. The US state department spokesman welcoming the opening of the corridor said that it was a step towards promoting greater religious freedom and US saw it as a positive example of neighours working together for mutual benefit. Even the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not help thanking Pakistan notwithstanding the fact that some circles in India have been looking askance at the Pakistani initiative. Addressing a ceremony he said “Prime Minister Imran Khan has understood the emotions of the Indian people. I would like to thank him for understanding the sentiments of the people of India. It has become easier for Sikh pilgrims to go to Guru Nanek’s Gurdawara because of the corridor. I would like to thank the authorities in Pakistan who helped create this corridor in a short span of time”. Would that Modi had also understood the sentiments of the people of Kashmir in the same manner and taken steps to undo the injustice perpetrated on them.

The construction of the corridor was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in November 2018 and it was announced to open the 4.7 kilometer long , visa free corridor on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanek in November 2019; a promise which has been realized. Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking on the occasion had stated, “There have been mistakes on both sides in the past, but we will not be able to move forward until we break the chains of the past. The past is there only to teach us, not for us to live in.”

The proposal was first put forward in 1998 when Pakistan and India agreed to construct a corridor from Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan to Dera Baba Nanak in India — but due to tense relations between the two neighbors the project could not materialize. However the initiative taken by Pakistan under the stewardship of Prime Minister Imran Khan with the support of the COAS the project became a reality last year. India and Pakistan signed an agreement on execution of the project. The corridor has been built in a record time of 11 months. The BBC in a report on the occasion of inauguration of the project in November 2018 had described it as a road to peace between the two countries. It certainly can be the harbinger of peace and amity between the two countries provided the Indian leadership realizes the need to break the chains of the past and abandons living in it as rightly pointed out by Prime Minister Imran Khan while launching the project in November 2018.

The writer is a freelance columnist.ashpak10@gmail.com

The decision by Pakistan to open the corridor is in line with the Islamic principles, its policy of promoting inter-faith harmony, and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood.