The first batch of 562 Indian pilgrims entered Pakistan on Sunday through the Kartarpur corridor, which was inaugurated earlier in the day, PTI reported. The corridor connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib shrine in Pakistan’s Narowal district. The pilgrims returned to India in the evening.
The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib is considered the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, whose 550th birth anniversary will be celebrated on November 12.
The Kartarpur corridor was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Indian side and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan across the border. In an address to a gathering at the Dera Baba Nanak shrine, Modi thanked Khan for understanding Indian sentiments and cooperating with the Indian administration in the project.
Modi flagged off the first group of more than 500 pilgrims, which included former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Following the inauguration, Modi spoke to Singh and others who attended the event. Modi, who landed in the city of Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district earlier in the day, also paid his respects at the Gurdwara Ber Sahib. He inaugurated the newly constructed passenger terminal building, which is known as the Integrated Check Post.
The devotees will get their clearance at this point to travel through the 4.5-km-long corridor, The Indian Express reported. Modi was also seen at a “langar” (shared meals made in community kitchens) at the Dera Baba Nanak shrine along with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and other leaders, ANI reported.
Khan, who inaugurated the opening to the corridor from the Pakistani side, said that its opening was testament to the country’s commitment to regional peace. “Today we are not only opening the border, but also our hearts for the Sikh community,” he said, according to PTI. He congratulated the community on the upcoming 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.
“We believe that the road to prosperity of the region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace,” he said, according to Radio Pakistan. Addressing a gathering of over 12,000 devotees, Khan said he was not aware of the importance of the shrine in Kartarpur until a year ago, PTI reported.
Khan received Manmohan Singh, Akal Takht Jathedar Harpreet Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, who were part of the first “jatha” to the shrine in Pakistan.
Amarinder Singh said he was blessed to have witnessed the “historic ceremony”. “Along with SGPC [Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee] presented Siri Sahib and other memorabilia of 550th Prakash Purab to Narendra Modiji,” he tweeted. “It was a really good experience, I hope the corridor will eventually become a corridor of peace between the two countries,” Singh told ANI later.
Manmohan Singh told ANI that it was a “good beginning”. “India-Pakistan relations are subject to many ifs and buts,” he added. “I hope this is a good beginning to normalise our relations.”
Navjot Singh Sidhu thanked both Narendra Modi and Imran Khan. He said that despite political differences, he was sending a “Munnabhai MBBS-style” hug to the prime minister, referring to the Bollywood film Munnabhai MBBS.
“It is the first time since partition that the boundaries have been dismantled,” Sidhu added. “No one can deny my friend Imran Khan’s contribution.”