The Kartarpur Corridor, the sweetest thing to happen in the chequered diplomatic history between Pakistan and India, is set to reopen and embrace the pilgrims coming into Pakistan from the other side without any visa requirement. The corridor is a diplomatic-cum-religious miracle of today’s history, giving an easy and hassle-free access to the millions of Sikhs living in India to the temple where Sikh religion’s founder Guru Nanak passed away in 1539. The corridor which was built on a fast track on the suggestion by Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa in 2018 opened and welcomed the first batch of pilgrims in 2019. Not a secret now, the year was bad for the whole world in terms of traveling and socialization after the Covid-19 pandemic divided the world into Covid-infested and Covid-free zones; the pandemic affected the corridor traffic too and India closed it for the pilgrims in March 2020 after four months of it opening. But it kept the corridor closed unnecessarily for months in 2021 when the world resumed its usual travel and social gathering routines under certain standard operating procedures. It is, however, a welcome sign that India has given a go-ahead to its Sikh community to take the corridor route into Pakistan to celebrate the birth anniversary of the religion’s founder.
The decision entails political gimmickry too as Indian Home Minister Amit Shah announced the reopening of the corridor only to appease the Sikhs who have long been demanding the reopening, ahead of elections in Indian Punjab. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Hindu nationalist government has long been using religion in politics as a game changer card to win people’s support. The fact the Sikhs must know is that Pakistan never closed the corridor and it was only the BJP-led Delhi government that stopped the pilgrims’ movement to the temple. Resentment against the Modi government is running high in the Sikh majority areas of India. The months-long farmers’ movement has its epicentres in Haryana, Chandigarh and other parts of Indian Punjab, all Sikh-majority areas of India.
It is not clear if the resumption of the corridor movement is only for the biggest religious rituals of the Sikh religion to be held on November 19, or will India keep it open afterwards too? The sanest course for the Modi-led government is to keep religion above politics and let the Sikhs reach their sacred place through the corridor in the future. It is the people-to-people contacts that may help both sides to return to peace dialogues for the resolution of thorny issues, such as Kashmir.