What is the background of Kartarpur?
The Union Cabinet has approved the building and development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district to Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of Ravi river in order to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev.
What is the importance of the shrine?
1) The gurdwara in Kartarpur stands on the bank of the Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore.
2) It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.
3) The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view.
4) Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.
5) The original structure of the Kartarpur Sahib, the resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, was once destroyed by floods. It was reconstructed by Bhupinder Singh, the then Maharaja of Patiala and grandfather of current Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. It was renovated again during General Pervez Musharraf’s regime.
What is the “Kartarpur Corridor” project?
1) The corridor known as “Road to Peace” will connect Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.
2) First visa-free corridor between two neighbouring countries since independence.
3) First proposed in 1999 when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore.
4) Implemented as an integrated development project with Government of India funding.
5) The length of the corridor is about 4 km (2 km on either side of the international border).
6) Pilgrimages between India and Pakistan are governed by the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, which includes a list of shrines in Pakistan and India open for visitors from the other country, and for which visas are required.
What are the concerns raised by India?
1) Attempts by individuals and groups to disrupt the Kartarpur Sahib pilgrimage and the possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak due to earth-filled embankment road or a causeway proposed by Islamabad.
2) Issues of disagreement to levy $ 20 service charge on every pilgrim who goes across which is no less than a jizya tax — something India objected to. India also wants an Indian protocol officer to be allowed to go with the pilgrims to facilitate their movement.
3) An alleged Pakistani spy has been arrested from Gurdaspur cantonment area on charges of passing vital information regarding Kartarpur corridor construction work to Pakistan's intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
What is the current scenario of the project?
1) Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26, 2018 laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district. Two days later, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had laid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal, around 125 km from Lahore.
2) Will be open to pilgrimage on November 9, 2019. The corridor will commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
3) 76 immigration counters have been set up to cater to 5,000 Sikh pilgrims from India every day.
The Kartarpur Corridor may be a small initiative to create some goodwill and ease one pressure on both states, and with success this may create the momentum to identify and sooth another problem in the future.
Pakistan’s cooperative aproach is being interpreted in many divergent ways: One is that it is a part of the “Bajwa Doctrine.” Earlier in 2018, Pakistan’s military leader General Qamar Javed Bajwa, made a series of speeches signalling that Pakistan was willing to take a more cooperative approach to its neighborhood relations. The consensus was that a crumbling Pakistani economy has the potential to become an internal security threat, and Bajwa sees that increasing trade with India may provide a solution to this problem.
Another view is that pilgrims could become hostage to geopolitics. But India and Pakistani do have an agreement that provides a framework to approach this dilemma. The Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines (1974) allows their respective citizens the opportunity to visit religious shrines in each country under certain conditions. Alongside Sikhism’s holy sites in Pakistan, India contains a number of sites of great importance to followers of the Sufi Islam, while Pakistani Hindus and Indian Muslims also rely on the protocol for their cross-border pilgrimages.