The Kartarpur Corridor, connecting Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district, will be thrown open to Indian pilgrims on Saturday, days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak. He settled down in Kartarpur after his travels, and was also laid to rest there.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Ber Sahib Gurdwara in Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district, ANI reported. He will also inaugurate an integrated check post in Gurdaspur. Modi’s Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan will officially open the corridor in Narowal.
Modi will flag off the first group of more than 500 pilgrims, which will include former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He had accepted an invitation from Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh early in October.
On September 30, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the Imran Khan government had decided to invite Singh for the inauguration event.
Punjab Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu will also attend the event in Pakistan. On Thursday, the former state minister got political clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs.
The run up to the event has been dominated by a spat between the two countries over a service fee that Indian pilgrims will be charged. On Friday, reports said Islamabad had told New Delhi that the $20 fee (Rs 1,425) would be levied. It came days after Imran Khan said the fee would be waived on the opening day and on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. Pakistan, meanwhile, pinned the blame on India, saying the Modi government had refused to accept its concessions “in blatant disregard of Sikh sentiments”. It also said that India had not accepted the Pakistani prime minister’s offer to waive the passport requirement for pilgrims.
This was not the only controversy surrounding the project. Days ahead of the inauguration, a welcome video released by Pakistan showed a poster depicting three Khalistani separatist leaders from the early 1980s. The external affairs ministry asked Islamabad to remove the video and criticised “Pakistan’s attempt to undermine the spirit under which the pilgrimage is supposed to be undertaken”.