Tomorrow Pakistan's Prime Minister will be joined by two Union Ministers from India to inaugurate the corridor that will let Sikh pilgrims visit Gurudwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan. The cross-border invitations come at a time when India and Pakistan have had little diplomatic contact. This ‘faith corridor' shows that peace is possible. Or is it? Does this amount to de-escalation in India-Pakistan ties?
Earlier Pakistan Foreign Minister said in a tweet that he was extending an invitation to Sushma Swaraj, Punjab Chief Minister, Amrinder Singh and State Minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu too to attend the ceremony on November 28. Sushma Swaraj said no to it and the government said two Ministers would be attending the same instead. Amrinder also refused and gave a strong and caustic rebuttal to it because “Pakistan sends terror groups from across border into India and kills innocent people and Indian soldiers on a regular basis.” In fact, only recently a grenade attack was launched in Punjab by ISI sponsored terrorists.
Guru Nanak Dev made Kartarpur Sahib his abode towards the later part of his life and it was there that he breathed his last. One Karoria Mal met Guru Nanak at Pakhoke and offered his 100 acres of land to the Guru who made it his abode and name it Kartarpur (Land of Kartar, God the Creator). It was there that the Guru started the tradition of Guru ka Langar (Free Kitchen). The latest corridor will be a visa-free corridor and it comes on the auspicious occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak falling this year.
If the sanctity of the move is preserved, then the initiative can also become a template for cross-border exchanges based on faith, which could provide a balm for many communities such as Kashmiri Pandits, who have long been asking for access to visit the Sharda Peeth in the Neelam valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir; Sufis in Pakistan who wish to visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan; and Sikhs in India and Pakistan wanting to visit important shrines on both sides of the border.
However, it all sounds premature to hope for such things. Islamabad has been harassing Indian diplomats and denying access to Indian pilgrims visiting Gurdwaras Nankana Sahib and Sacha Sauda Sahib in Pakistan. Anyway, one Kartarpur cannot herald peace. It needs a firm commitment from Pakistan to peace.