Kartarpur Sahib corridor should be on the concept of territories without border
Chandigarh, March 14: Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith, belongs to the entire universe with his ideology of love and universal brotherhood. The Kartarpur corridor must reflect this basic philosophy as this would connect the two shrines associated with the great pragmatic philosopher across the international border between India and Pakistan, the border that divided what used to be described at one time the land of the Sikhs going by the earlier records.
Delegations from India and Pakistan today met at Attari on the Indian side of the border to discuss modalities for this corridor.
This meeting is important from another aspect. This was the first meeting after the two neighbouring countries came close to another war. The situation continues to be tense following Pulwama attack by a Kashmiri militant on a CRPF convoy that was owned by Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad.
India today proposed that the corridor should be visa free. It may be mentioned that Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has been hammering this point from the very beginning. The Sikhs have been demanding free access to the shrine located just across the border opposite Dera Baba Nanak. The basic concept was of visa free travel across the border.
Visa restrictions negate the very concept of free access. It may be mentioned that ‘free access to the shrines across the border’ is part of the daily prayer of the Sikhs. Pakistan has allowed controlled access to the historical shrines of the Sikhs in that country. Kartarpur Sahib was never part that circuit. The location just across the border is at the root of the demand for free access to Kartarpur Sahib.
This corridor would not be another opening across the border but only one way access and it is because of this reason that it can be visa free access. The corridor is to be a facility for the pilgrims only to visit Kartarpur Sahib from Indian side.
That the corridor is part of the broader political game is different aspect. Pakistan has very subtly played the Sikh card by offering this corridor.
India today demanded that Pakistan allow at least 5,000 pilgrims to visit the shrine on a daily basis. This limit should be raised to about 10,000 pilgrims during major events associated with the Sikh religion and history. They should also be allowed to visit the shrine on foot. The corridor should remain open all seven days of the week.
The next meeting at Wagah will be held on April 2, 2019.
Intriguingly, the relations between India and Pakistan get hit by major terrorist incidents every time the people-to-people interaction intensifies and the situation seems to be returning to normal. This pattern must be studied minutely.
The normalisation of relations between the two countries can lead to opening up of the border for trade via Wagha that might affect the Mumbai and Karachi ports. The present tension has impacted trade mainly through Attari-Wagha border and not Mumbai-Karachi sea route.
The Kartarpur Sahib corridor could be a major step towards opening up of the border later through Wagha. This can be game changer for the economy of the two Punjab’s across the Radcliffe line.