Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday flagged off the first batch of over 500 pilgrims to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan through the newly built corridor linking two important Sikh shrines — Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan.
In all, 562 pilgrims visited Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on the first day. The delegation included Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Cabinet Ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri.
Before formally inaugurating the passenger terminal at Dera Baba Nanak and flagging off the delegation to Pakistan, Mr. Modi thanked Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a public gathering in Shikhaar Masiahan nearby.
“I want to thank Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi who understood the importance of the corridor...what it means to Indians. I would also like to thank other Pakistanis who were involved in the construction of the corridor and helped complete it in record time,” Mr. Modi said.
For better arrangements
India and Pakistan completed the 4.7-km corridor to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the founder of the Sikh faith on November 12.
While most members of the delegation who returned from Pakistan praised the arrangements, a few said they could have been better.
Imran welcomes pilgrims to Kartarpur
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday formally inaugurated the historic Kartarpur corridor and welcomed the first batch of pilgrims to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.
Mr. Khan inaugurated the corridor by removing a curtain that was lifted by hot air balloons. A huge ‘kirpan’ (dagger), a holy symbol for Sikhs, was displayed at the inauguration site.
Message of justice
“I am always so happy to see the Sikh community who have come here. God lives in the hearts of all of us. All the messengers who have come and gone only ever brought two messages, that of peace and justice,” he said.
The first ‘jatha’ also included Akal Takht Jathedar Harpreet Singh and Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee members and all the 117 MLAs and MPs from Punjab including ministers are also part of the first group of pilgrims.
Earlier, Mr. Khan visited different units of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. “I was not aware of the importance of the Kartarpur till a year ago,” Mr. Khan told a gathering of over 12,000 devotees, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu.
During his brief address, Mr. Khan spoke of the Kashmir issue and said it has resulted 70 years of hatred between India and Pakistan. “The resolution of the Kashmir issue will lead to greater prosperity and mutual development of India and Pakistan,” he said.
Mr. Khan said the historic opening of the Kartarpur corridor is a testimony to Pakistan’s commitment to regional peace. “We believe that the road to prosperity of region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace,” he said.
Guru Nanak Dev spent the last 18 years of his life at Kartarpur Sahib.
Kuldip Singh Dhingra, promoter and chairman of Berger Paints, a member of the inaugural delegation from India, said he was impressed with the hospitality. “People were so overwhelmed that they did not want to leave,” he said.
However, Mr. Iqbal Gandhi from Madhya Pradesh said none of the Indian leaders except Congress MP Navjot Singh Sidhu were given ‘importance’ at the function organised by the Pakistani government.
“National leaders like Sunny Deol and the Badals were ignored. The event was overshadowed by Sidhu and Imran Khan. We did not like it. Moreover, the $20 fee that Pakistan plans to charge from pilgrims is like a poisonous balm,” Mr. Gandhi added.
Pakistan will not charge any fee from the inaugural delegation that will visit Kartarpur shrine on November 9 and 11.
Portent of peace
Former Member of Parliament Prem Singh Chandumajra said the corridor had brought peace between the two countries.
“Both the Indian and Pakistani PM inaugurated the corridor despite tensions and in future, the all hostile issues will be resolved. The opening should not seen from a political point as it will be injustice to Guru Nanak,” the former MP said.
Gurnam Singh from Batala said he was overwhelmed by the affection and respect shown by the Pakistani Prime Minister.
“The arrangements were fantastic...I have not seen a more beautiful gallery than the one I saw in Kartarpur gurdwara,” he said.
Lt. General (retired) T.S. Shergil said he did not find any Khalistani propaganda material near the gurudwara and roads were well laid in the Pakistani side.
India has raised concerns that the visa-free corridor would be used by Pakistani to stoke anti-India and pro-Khalistani propaganda.
(With inputs from PTI)