Pakistan approves Kartarpur corridor as part of peace initiative with India

Pakistan approves Kartarpur corridor as part of peace initiative with India
Sikh pilgrims shout slogans on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in Nankana Sahib, a district in the Punjab province of Lahore on November 23, 2018. (AFP / ARIF ALI)
Updated 24 November 2018

Pakistan approves Kartarpur corridor as part of peace initiative with India

Pakistan approves Kartarpur corridor as part of peace initiative with India
  • Indian and Pakistani dignitaries to attend groundbreaking ceremony at Kartarpur on November 28
  • Corridor will help Sikh pilgrims attend Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary next year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Friday approved the development of a cross-border corridor allowing Sikh pilgrims to travel from Dera Baba Nanak in India to the final resting place of their religion’s founder, Guru Nanak, in Kartarpur, Pakistan. 
The Kartarpur corridor was first proposed in 1999 when India’s late Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, took his highly symbolic bus ride from Delhi to Lahore on the inaugural journey of Routemaster 10, intended to provide a way for citizens of India and Pakistan to visit each other. The bus service was halted following the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, but the Sikh community in India has long requested access to the shrine where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.
“We will grant visa-free entrance to all the pilgrims coming from India and a separate mechanism for that purpose is being developed,” Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Minister for Information, told journalists after the cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will participate in a groundbreaking ceremony in Kartarpur on November 28, which Chaudhry said would be attended by “dignitaries and journalists from both sides.” 
Islamabad on Thursday conveyed its decision to India that it wanted to open the corridor for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in 2019, after the Indian cabinet approved the development of the corridor.
“Pakistan wants to move toward a normalization process with India and open the Kartarpur corridor as part of that initiative,” Chaudhry said. “This is a big initiative from Pakistan and hopefully India will reciprocate it.”
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa reportedly told Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on August 18 that Islamabad was planning to develop the corridor. Sidhu was visiting Pakistan to attend the prime minister’s swearing-in ceremony.
However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government criticized the move and had rejected Pakistan’s offer to open the border for Sikh pilgrims.
On Friday, Pakistan’s information minister said that if both countries were serious about alleviating poverty in their nations, they would have to move forward and normalize their relationship.
“Pakistan can benefit from its geographical location and reduce poverty, if it manages to normalize relationships with India and Afghanistan,” he said.
Chaudhry noted that Pakistan’s armed forces and the prime minister had already conveyed to India that if it took “one step (toward peace), Pakistan will be ready to take two.”