While most of us might not be aware of the Kartarpur Corridor, but this place in the recent has been at the centre of media attention. It is a region where you can cross the border safely and securely without having to undergo any visa litigations. This Kartarpur Border connects India with the Darbar Sahib Gurudwara situated in Pakistan. The devotees of the Sikh religion can easily cross this border to pay a visit to the shrine nestled in Kartarpur, which is at a distance of 4.7 km from the border of India-Pakistan. The Gurudwara is open to pilgrims of all caste, creed, or religion, visiting from any corner of the world. However, you need to have a valid passport which needs to be cleared by the checkpoints at both sides of the border.
The Kartarpur Corridor creates a border between the two neighbouring countries and allows the pilgrims from both the sides to pay their devotion at the Darbar Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan and the Dera Baba Nanak Gurudwara in India. The idea for the establishment of the Kartarpur Corridor was proposed by the then Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif respectively in the year 1999. This proposal was made to counter the diplomacy of Delhi-Lahore Bus.
In the year 2018, both the countries laid the foundation stones for the Kartarpur Corridor on either side of the border. On the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak, i.e. on November 12th 2019, the enchanting and enigmatic corridor of Kartarpur was inaugurated. The current Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan after the inaugural ceremony made remarks about how the upcoming generation’s bright future lies in maintaining peace. And the initiation of this Kartarpur Corridor is Pakistan’s way of opening their hearts for the Sikh community by opening the entry of the Indians into their country without a visa.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a comparison of the fabrication of the Kartarpur Corridor with the Berlin Wall’s fall and said that this decision might help to ease the tension between the two nations. Previously, the Indian pilgrims would have to make a journey of 125 kilometres by taking a bus to Lahore even while they could easily view the Gurudwara of Kartarpur from the Indian border side.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who according to the Sikh religion is their first Guru, was the one to discover the city of Kartarpur. This dates back to 1504 CE. The city is located on Ravi River’s right side bank, where the very first Sikh community was established by Guru Nanak. After Guru Nanak’s death, the Muslims, as well as the Hindus, claimed for Nanak to be one of them, which led to the raising of the mausoleums in order to commemorate his memories. However, with time as the course of the Ravi River changed it washed away the catacombs. Thus, a new establishment was fabricated that represents the Dera Baba Nanak today, on the left-hand side of the river bank.
However, after the partition, the region got divided between the two countries. And the right side of the River Ravi was assigned to Pakistan of which Kartarpur was a significant part. The Akali Dal in 1948 demanded to reconsider the borders of the partition and wished for India to acquire the land of Kartarpur. The demands remain persisted until 1959 when the Indian National Congress decided against it. While the border controls of the two countries weren’t strictly enforceable until 1965, the followers of Sikh religion would cross the River Ravi through a bridge to pay their visits to Kartarpur Sahib and Dera Baba Nanak. But in 1965 after the Indo-Pak war, the bridge was demolished, and strict border rules were implemented.
After the border restrictions were enforced, the Gurudwara in Kartarpur remained closed from the year 1947 to 2000. But, in 2000 the government of Pakistan finally started to repair the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara ahead of the death anniversary of Guru Nanak, and the shrine was reopened in 2004. Bhabishan Singh Goraya initiated the mission of establishing the Kartarpur Corridor and worked for 24 long years for it.
Initiative for the Kartarpur Corridor
Post the Kargil War; the Indo-Pak relations had utterly destroyed. However, General Pervez Musharraf eventually permitted to build the Kartarpur Corridor. The issue for building up of the Kartarpur Corridor was raised during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s period in 2004. Also, in 2008, Pranab Mukherjee, while he was the foreign minister of India, had made a suggestion about making the Kartarpur Corridor a visa-free travelling experience for the devotees. However, he received no official response. But, Pakistan informally started showing openness towards the Sikh commune.
The Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala had arranged a press conference on 20th of June in 2008 in which a former ambassador of America, a John W. McDonald, had founded the Multi-Track Diplomacy Institute that had called for a “peace zone” or a “peace corridor” that would connect both the shrines that are spread across the borders of India and Pakistan. After this, the Foreign Minister of India Mr Pranab Mukherjee suggested that India would take the initiative in carrying out a peace corridor’s feasibility study.
But, the Mumbai attack of 2008 further faltered as the relations between the two countries nosedived. However, the members prevailing in Washington DC’s Sikh Community decided to further proceed with the feasibility study. Several estimations were drawn, and finally, it was concluded that it would cost India about $2.2 million and Pakistan would have to chip in about $14.8 million for the project to commence.
Navjot Singh Sidhu, the minister of Indian Punjab Tourism, had attended the inaugural ceremony of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, where Navjot was enlightened about Pakistan’s decision of opening up the Kartarpur Corridor in the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak. In 2018, another resolution was passed for the fabrication of the Kartarpur Corridor project.
Last year in November, the brick and mortar for the Kartarpur Corridor were laid on either side of the border by Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Imran Khan, the Pakistani Prime Minister. The dedicated expressways of 4.7 km were constructed by the Frontier Work Organization of Pakistan. An immigration office was later established by the country, and the Gurudwara was then made to expand in order for the incoming pilgrims to accommodate. This year on November 9th, finally the Kartarpur Corridor was inaugurated, and the Indian pilgrims were permitted to cross the border without a visa. Just the passport would do the work.
On 1st of November, 2019, the Prime Minister of Pakistan made announcements about not charging any money to the pilgrims from India on the inaugural day of the Kartarpur Corridor and also waived the fee on the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak, which was on 12th of November, 2019. The Pakistan Government extended its hospitality and made a special gesture by waiving off the requirement of a passport for the Indian citizens to visit the Gurudwara continuing up to a year. However, the External Affairs Minister of India made announcements for the requirement of passport just according to the agreement that prevailed between the two countries previously.
The complex is expected to house a hotel of international standards, apartments, two areas dedicated to commerce, and several parking spaces. There are also going to be the Border facility areas, centres dedicated to aiding the tourist receive information, various offices, and a power grid station as well. Currently, you can find a currency exchange centre there. Several offices are established for you to fill out the immigration form.
The Pakistan government has acquired more than 400 acres of land in order to build the complex of the Gurudwara. The main shrine has been expanded ten times more than what it had initially been i.e. it has proliferated across 42 acres now from 4 acres then. The future requirements of the visitors from India were kept in mind while the Gurudwara’s master plan was being prepared.
9th November 2019 was the day when Imran Khan, the Pakistani Prime Minister inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor. The inauguration ceremony took place at the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib complex in Kartarpur, and about 12,000 pilgrims had attended the event. The pilgrims were formally received by the Prime Minister, and the inauguration was then done by removing the curtain, which the hot air balloons lifted from over a humongous kirpan.
Prime Minister Khan addressed the crowd suggesting that this was a road towards prosperity for the entire region, which is about to bring peace for the future generations as well. This gesture made by Pakistan was not only to open the border for the Sikh pilgrims from India but also to open their heart and accept the Sikh Community.
More than 550 Pilgrims had travelled to the resting place of Guru Nanak, which is the Kartarpur Gurudwara on his 550th birthday. The gesture was aptly accepted by the Prime Minister of India. He also thanked the Prime Minister of Pakistan in his addressing speech for respecting the sentiments of the Sikh of India. The Jathas under the leadership of Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh travelled across the corridor on the inaugural day to pay their obeisance at the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara.
Although the corridor is made to be visa-free for the Indian visitors, anyone visiting the Kartarpur Corridor must have the ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization). You can easily get an ETA by registering on the online website of the Government of India. However, some of the necessary conditions to fetch an ETA are:
- The Pakistani residents are not allowed to travel through the corridor; only the citizens of India or the ones residing overseas can make use of the corridor
- Persons of any age are eligible to apply for an ETA, and that includes the children as well
- After you have completed a 15-day tenure of travelling to the Kartarpur Corridor, you are eligible to apply for a second visit
- You must get the registration done only at the online platform of Indian Government
How is the Kartarpur Corridor perceived?
A historian based in Lahore goes by the name of Fakir S Aijazuddin noted that this Kartarpur Corridor was an exclusive proposition in creating cross-border ties across the two countries. He also pointed out that the universality that has been symbolised through this initiative will help in bringing all the religions across the world, together. The Corridor is being perceived as the legacy of the life of Guru Nanak, which depicts the way he lived. It is being considered as one of the most heartwarming gestures that could be made between the two Punjabs separated by the Pakistan and Indian border.
The Kartarpur Corridor will undoubtedly help to maintain peace between the two countries and can certainly be used to promote brotherhood among the two nations. The credit for the opening of this corridor was mainly dedicated to the Indian Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and the Prime Minister of Pakistan –Imran Khan. To the inaugural ceremony, the invitation was extended to the State Department of the United States.
Facilities Provided near the Corridor
Free RailWire WiFi services were introduced by the RailTel Corporation of India for all the pilgrims gathered up at the railway station of Dera Baba Nanak and the Integrated Check Post as well. For the pilgrims to travel from the ICP (Integrated Check Post) to the zero point, Republic Motors based in Jalandhar provided with six electric carts to be used within the campus for the easy commuting for the visitors.
On 8th of November, Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi made an announcement about Delhi’s government bearing all the travel expenses that were expended for the pilgrimage of Kartarpur Sahib Pilgrimage under the Mukhyamantri Teerth Yatra Yojna.
Kartarpur Corridor from a Tourist’s point of view
You can take your vehicles to the border region of the Kartarpur corridor and make use of the ample parking space available for the tourists. Once you have reached the parking space, you will able to locate the Indian centre for completing all your immigration formalities in order to enter Pakistan. It will take around 1 hour for you to complete all your documentation and formalities that are needed to be performed at the Integral Check Point. From the INC to the zero point you can take several electric carts that are running throughout the area.
You can have the enthralling experience of having to stand at the Indo-Pak border, lest entering the country without much litigation. This gesture of establishing the Kartarpur Border has developed a sense of harmony that prevails between the two countries and is now being promoted amongst the citizens as well. Once you have crossed the border of India and entered Pakistan, you need to reach to the immigration centre that is located at a 3 km distance from the border. Various electric carts are available in the area to help you commute with ease.
There are several counters available to assist you with the currency exchanging process. You need to exchange the currency into the ones used in Pakistan for making any purchases in the country or the entire Kartarpur Gurudwara region. Be sure of having encounters with some enchanting people of Pakistan and enjoy their absolute hospitality. For making any purchase, you need to get the currency exchanged to Pakistani currency as the dollars or INR would be quite difficult to be accepted. Although many commercial complexes haven’t been established in the region yet, you can have a look at the local handicrafts and buy the authentic Sindhi cultural stuff from here.
Once, you have completed all the immigration formalities in Pakistan as well; there are various buses available in the local area, which will take you directly to the Gurudwara in Kartarpur.
Ambiance of the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara
The entire Gurudwara has been remodelled and has been dolled up into a very alluring location. A visit to the shrine will certainly derive you nothing but absolute peace. The floors are lined with white marble, and the entire area is surrounded by a beautiful garden encasing the serene beauty of the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara. You can enjoy the langar that gets served in the Gurudwara as well. You can look around the place to locate some of the historical items that have been put to display for the pilgrims to have a view of their culture, which has been reserved ever since.
Once you pay a visit to the place, you are certainly going to have an experience of how similarity there is in the culture that is followed in the two different locations across the border. There is an entire area inside the premises of the Gurudwara that is dedicated to the display of several items and paintings like that of in a museum. Leaving behind all your apprehensions, you must pay a visit to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara at least once in your lifetime to have the ultimate experience of peace and absolute solidarity.