Cabinet approves construction of Kartarpur Corridor from Punjab's Gurdaspur to Pakistan; Islamabad likely to begin project next month

A day ahead of Guru Nanak Jayanti, the Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the construction and development of the Kartarpur Corridor from the Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district to the India-Pakistan border. The decision was made at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in view of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019.

The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur shrine in Narowal in Pakistan's Punjab province is of religious importance to Sikhs as it is the site where Guru Nanak Dev settled down after his travels as a missionary. He lived there for 18 years until his death in 1539.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh confirmed the news on Twitter:

 He also said:

At a press conference after the decision was announced, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley outlined the Cabinet's plan in detail, saying that the Centre is looking to expand its support for the Sikh community. He also announced the government's plan to develop Punjab's heritage town of Sultanpur Lodhi, which is of religious significance to the Sikh community. The town will also be developed on the principles of a Smart City.

The central government will also set up a centre for interfaith studies at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Jaitley said. An international seminar on the life and teachings of Shri Guru Nanak Devji will also be organised in New Delhi, and chairs on Shri Guru Nanak Devji will be set up at one university each in the United Kingdom and Canada.

The Centre will also release commemorative coin and postage stamps for the occasion, and the Indian Railways will run a train that will pass through all the holy sites associated with Guru Nanak Dev.

As part of efforts to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019, Indian missions overseas will be asked to organise special events. The finance minister said the Centre will also request UNESCO to publish Guru Nanak's writings in world languages.

A committee led by the home minister will regularly review, monitor and oversee the implementation of the activities commemorating Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary.

India, Pakistan move forward to make corridor

The Kartarpur Corridor is a proposed project between India and Pakistan that will connect the Dera Baba Nanak Sahib Gurdwara in India's state of Punjab to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur shrine in Pakistan's Punjab province.

India has urged the Pakistan government to build a corridor "with suitable facilities in their territory to facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year", the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

Even though Pakistan, on 19 September, had claimed that there was no formal communication with India regarding the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor, The Express Tribune reported that Pakistan has decided to begin the project later this month. India Today quoted government sources as saying that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan will likely lay the foundation stone of the project, and that the Sikh pilgrims will also be allowed visa-free entry. Although authorities have not set a date to begin the construction, the Pakistan government was hoping to coincide the announcement with the arrival of the Sikh pilgrims celebrating Guru Nanak Jayanti at the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in the country. Sidhu lauds move Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been a staunch supporter of the construction of the corridor, took to Twitter to welcome the Union Cabinet's decision:

He also asked the government to take into consideration the Sikh community the world over when appealing to Pakistan to continue the corridor on their side of the border.

On 9 September, Sidhu had written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, urging her to "make every possible effort" on the corridor to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. He had also said that Pakistan has shown "positive intent" in providing access to the historic shrine.

Sidhu had claimed that he had taken the first step towards peace and spoken to Swaraj. However, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and Union Minister for Food and Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal had accused Sidhu of "lying" on issues related to the Sikh faith to further his political agenda.

While Sidhu had said that the Pakistan government was waiting for an official request from India to open the route, Badal had claimed that Sidhu had deliberately made it seem like Islamabad was ready to let Punjabi pilgrims in, and that the delay was from New Delhi's side.

"I wrote to the external affairs minister that it's being portrayed that Pakistan government gave a green signal over the Kartarpur Corridor, but that our government is doing nothing from its side. However, I was shocked when I received the minister's reply, stating that there's nothing like that. There is no official communique from Pakistan on this," Badal had said.

Sukhbir Singh Badal of the SAD also lauded the Centre's move. He said: "It's a historic day for the entire Sikh community and we would like to thank PM Modi and his Cabinet," adding that "this has been a wish of each and every Sikh."

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2018 15:15:14 IST