The Kartarpur Saheb facility might, ordinarily, have served as a useful confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan.
Even in this hour of very disturbed relations between India and Pakistan, the two countries, after long-winded negotiations filled with not a little suspicion on the Indian side, succeeded in signing the Kartarpur Saheb corridor agreement on Thursday for visa-free entry of pilgrims.
This will be a matter of great spiritual solace particularly for Sikh devotees. They will now be able to walk into Pakistan on November 12 to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, at the famous Darbar Saheb Kartarpur gurdwara, now in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak spent his last days. The shrine is barely 6 km from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur in India’s Punjab.
If bilateral relations were normal, the proposal to construct a walking corridor for Indian pilgrims, and those of Indian origin living in other countries, might have come to fruition long ago. Still, it’s just as well that neither the traditional bitterness nor the current stasis in ties between the two nations proved to be an obstacle in the end.
New Delhi’s chief worry was that Pakistan, that encourages Sikh secessionist elements from Canada and Britain, some of whom live in Pakistan on a long-term basis, will seek to exploit the thousands of Sikhs visiting the shrine for subversive anti-India propaganda. At the same time, New Delhi had no wish to hurt Sikh religious sentiments by throwing a spanner in the works of the Kartarpur corridor.
The Kartarpur Saheb facility might, ordinarily, have served as a useful confidence-building measure between India and Pakistan. It is uncertain if this can be the case now, when ties are especially bad after India’s recent move on Kashmir.