Kartarpur Corridor - a road to peace built with labour of love

Shahab Jafry/Lahore
Filed on November 10, 2019 | Last updated on November 10, 2019 at 05.56 am

(AP file)

Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was also, like everyone else, all praise for the organisers.

Themes like 'new era of peace', 'relationship of mutual cooperation' and 'historic day' echoed among guests and pilgrims alike on Saturday at the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, which allows the world's Sikh community unhindered access to one of their holiest sites for the first time in more than 70 years.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose speech marked the formal opening, was also optimistic, saying, "I'm sure this is only the beginning and, God willing, I see a day when Pakistan and India will overcome their difference like France and Germany and improve the lives of their people by enhancing mutual trade and cooperation."

He also heaped praise on his team for completely revamping and expanding the site, including the corridor, the main complex, and the main road leading to it in less than a year. "You have exceeded my expectations; this means you are capable of much more," he said. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart because you helped bring so much happiness to so many people."

Addressing thousands of pilgrims, Imran said keeping members of the Sikh community away from Kartarpur was like allowing Muslims only to see the holy city of Madinah from a distance, and "that's why I am happy to be with you today".

Speaking before Imran, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also called the corridor a "road to peace", adding that it was only possible in such a short time because it was a labour of love.

Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was also, like everyone else, all praise for the organisers. "Today you have won the hearts of 140 million Sikhs; you have proved that this was not about benefit or loss, just love and friendship."

Earlier in the day, Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi thanked his Pakistani counterpart for "understanding India's wishes and turning Kartarpur into reality", before seeing off 550 pilgrims, led by former Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, to join more than 4,000 pilgrims already in Pakistan.

Dr Singh termed the opening of the corridor a "big moment" for both countries. "I hope India and Pakistan relations improve greatly because of this beginning", he told Pakistan's state broadcaster PTV.

Other than Dr Singh and Sidhu, prominent Indian personalities who made the journey included Indian Punjab's Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former provincial minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, and actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol.

The Kartarpur Corridor was first proposed 20 years ago, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were prime ministers of India and Pakistan respectively, as part of the famous Delhi-Lahore bus diplomacy tour of 1999. Later, Pakistani president General Musharraf tried to push the idea but without success.

It was only in late 2018, when Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the corridor's foundation stone, that the project really took off.

Devotees will now move to Nankana Sahib - the birth place of the founder of the Sikh religion Guru Nanak -- approximately 200km away, for his 550th birthday celebration on November 12.

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