Kartarpur corridor remains afloat amid Pak tension

Indian and Pakistani technical experts hold a meeting to finalise the construction of the Kartarpur corridor connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. (AFP File Photo)

Pakistan’s announcement to continue the historic Kartarpur Sahib corridor initiative amid deteriorating ties between the two nations has come as a sigh of relief for Sikhs in Punjab and elsewhere.

A three-member delegation of cabinet ministers from Punjab will now visit Pakistan in the third week of August to assess the process of work on the corridor connecting the two counties. These three Punjab ministers will seek visas to travel to Pakistan from August 22 to 27, said sources.

There were strong apprehensions that Pakistan could jeopardize the much-flaunted historical corridor initiative post the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A from J&K. While Islamabad downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi for revoking J&K’s special status, Kartarpur Sahib corridor project remains afloat.

The corridor would connect Punjab to Kartarpur in Pakistan to the revered Sikh shrine where Sikh Guru Nanak spent the last many years of his life. Despite less than 4-km away from Punjab, Sikhs could not visit the revered shrine. The only way they could pay obeisance was by looking at the shrine through a binocular.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal on Thursday had said that Pakistan’s Kartarpur initiative will continue notwithstanding the latest developments. Faisal said Pakistan respected all religions and would continue the Kartarpur project to help Sikh pilgrims.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and former cricketer Navjot Sidhu, who till recently was a cabinet minister in Punjab, are good friends since long. It was during one of Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan that the issue of Kartarpur corridor cropped up and eventually saw the light of the day.

Pakistan’s decision to continue the Kartarpur initiative with India may have also been triggered to circumvent any undue criticism over stalling a historical religious project. This would not only have dented Pakistan’s image but also diverted attention from the anti-India narrative that Pakistan intends to cement.

Punjab minister Randhawa who would be visiting Pakistan shortly believes the corridor project is not a political issue but a religious matter. Raj Guru Singh, a devout Sikh, while talking to DH said he hopes Pakistan walks the talk.

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