Kartarpur Corridor Opens: But Will it Bridge the ‘Gap’ between India and Pakistan?

Gurudwara Darbar Sahib, at Kartarpur, in Punjab, Pakistan| Image credit - HT Photo .

As India celebrates Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birth anniversary this year, one of the biggest event unfolded on Saturday last week.

On Novermber 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the integrated check post (ICP) at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district, which will serve as a gateway to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur.

The portion of the corridor on the other side of the border was thrown open by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak, just four kilometres across the border.

Guru Nanak Dev ji had settled in Pakistan’s Gurdwara Sri Darbar Sahib, also also called Kartarpur Sahib after his missionary travels and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.

Kartarpur Sahib therefore holds an extremely special place in the Sikh community. It is considered as the resting place of Guru Nanak, his final abode and a gurdwara.

When Pakistan got independence on August 14 at the end of British colonial rule in 1947 and India a day later, Kartarpur ended up on the western side of the border in Pakistan, while most of the region’s Sikhs remained on the other side.

Since then, the perennial state of enmity between India and Pakistan had been a constant barrier to those wanting to visit the shrine, known in Sikhism as a gurdwara.

Pilgrims on both sides of the border echoed the hope that the corridor might herald a thawing in the relationship between India and Pakistan.

The brand-new corridor is therefore being seen as a bridge connecting Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab with Kartarpur Sahib around 4 km across the border.

However few events following the inauguration made one wonder if this bridge would really be able to ‘bridge’ the differences between India and Pakistan.

It had only been a day since its inaugural that the corridor became a centre of controversies in the media. Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s speech at the inaugurations attracted a lot of flak from the BJP. BJP criticised Sidhu’s remarks praising Imran Khan and describing him as the king of hearts.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra slammed Mr. Sidhu for praising Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Kartarpur corridor inauguration and for allegedly seeking to present Pakistani leadership on a higher pedestal than India’s.

On the other hand, On Sunday, the Higher Education and Languages Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa hit out at the Narendra Modi government for ignoring Punjabi language on the inauguration plaque of the Kartarpur corridor at Dera Baba Nanak.

Mr Bajwa described the omission of Punjabi on the inaugural plaque of the Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak as a “discrimination” with the state’s official language and said it should have found a place at the top.

He said not only the Kartarpur Sahib ICP inaugural plaque but all central projects in the state should have Punjabi at the top of other languages on signboards.

“This discrimination with Punjabi language by the Centre and that too in Punjab will not be tolerated”. “It is highly unfortunate that the inscription on the inauguration board was in Hindi followed by English while Punjabi, which is the state’s official language, has been ignored which amounts to blatant injustice with the state,” he said in an official release.

The minister also said putting Punjabi at the top of other languages in signboards would be made compulsory on the lines of various other states.

Clarifying that the Punjab government was not opposed to Hindi, he further said, “The issue is the national language cannot be imposed on the state at the cost of Punjabi, which is the official state language.”

As the inauguration date also coincided with the controversial Ayodhya Verdict, Pakistani government also hit out at BJP-lead Indian counterpart for being ‘insensitive’ to the seriousness of the moment.

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday objected to the timing of the Ayodhya verdict, which coincides with the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor, saying he was “deeply saddened” at the “insensitivity” shown at such a joyous occasion.

The Indian government responded by dismissing the allegation saying that the two issues are separate. “We reject the unwarranted and gratuitous comments made by Pakistan on the judgement of the Supreme Court of India on a civil matter that is completely internal to India,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

India and Pakistan relations have been a lot in the news lately over the issue of Kashmir. The Kartarpur corridor was seen as a hope for mending some of that gap. However, with the statements and political activity that is happening across the border on both sides, mending of differences seem like a distant dream.

 

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