Guru Nanakji’s birth anniv may bring India-Pak on peace path

JATIN DESAI
Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Now, Guru Nanak Devji’s 550th birth anniversary is bringing about India and Pakistan for talks. The second round of talks was held between India and Pakistan at Wagah border. Pakistan, on Sunday indicated that the meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor ended on a positive note. 

Guru Nanak Devji’s birthplace, called Nankana Sahib, lies across India’s border in Pakistan. The Sikh guru was born 550 years ago when, of course, there wasn’t a border drawn on the sub-continent map. Guru Nanak Devji left this world for the beyond at Kartarpur, a town that is in Pakistan today. Not only to Sikhs but to the rest of the people in the sub-continent too, Guru Nanak Devji’s message of truth, peace and salvation have endured over centuries and foreign rule. He is worshipped and revered today as the founder of Sikhism and the first Guru of Sikhs.

Now, Guru Nanak Devji’s 550th birth anniversary is bringing about India and Pakistan for talks. The second round of talks was held between India and Pakistan at Wagah border. Pakistan, on Sunday indicated that the meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor ended on a positive note. 

The first meeting was held in Attari, India, on March 14. There is a complete pause on the dialogue between the two countries but talks on Kartarpur are an exception. If talks on Kartarpur can yield positive results, then deliberations on other issues also have the potential to change the course of history.

There are major differences between the two countries on the modalities and details on the Kartarpur corridor. In the second round of dialogue, both agreed on 80 per cent of the modalities to finalise the draft agreement. For the Sikh community, Kartarpur Sahib is sacred. Indian Sikhs use binoculars installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak for darshan of Kartarpur Sahib situated on the other side of the border. Soon in November, people from the Sikh community and others will be able to visit and take darshan at Kartarpur’s Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. 

There were differences on certain issues. India demanded that  Pakistan allow 5,000 pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor every day. On special occasions, 10,000 more pilgrims be allowed to visit. Pakistan accepted the Indian contention. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), in a statement, said, “Taking into account the sentiments of the Sikh community, Pakistan has decided to allow 5,000 pilgrims per day (to be increased as capacity allows) throughout the year except for closure on administrative or other basis which will be informed in advance.” 

Indian Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said, ”The government of India has made significant progress to build a state-of-art infrastructure, including passenger terminal on the Indian side that can handle over 15,000 pilgrims a day.”

The MoFA statement adds, “To further facilitate the pilgrims, Pakistan is building walkways to permit travel by foot from the start.”

It is learnt that Islamabad has agreed to India’s request to allow visa-free travel for Indian passport holders and also the Persons of the Indian Origin (PIO) holding Overseas Citizenship of India (OIC) cards.

The other major issue of difference was on the possible flooding of the Dera Baba Nanak and adjoining areas on the Indian side as a result of earth filled embankment road or a causeway that is proposed to be built by Pakistan on their side. Instead, the Indian team requested Pakistan to build a bridge over the old Ravi creek on their side. On this MoFA said, “Pakistan agreed to the Indian request to construct a bridge in the second phase after the 550th anniversary celebrations.” 

Pakistan, on India’s request, has also removed pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from the Pakistan Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, ahead of the meeting.

Pakistan agreed that no anti-India activity would be allowed. India has also requested Pakistan to permit and facilitate ‘Nagar Kirtan’ from Delhi to Nankana Sahib in July 2019 and then again in October/November that is proposed to be organized by SGPC and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, the apex bodies involved in organizing pilgrims visit  to Pakistan under the 1974 Bilateral Protocol. They have also requested Pakistan PM Imran Khan to visit Nankana Sahib on July 25. If Imran Khan decides to visit Nankana Sahib then surely it will send a positive message and give strength to the peace process.

If India and Pakistan agree on the Kartarpur corridor then surely they can also agree on other issues like the resolution of Sir Creek, Siachen, people-to-people contact, trade and other issues. On the issue of Kartarpur corridor, there is political will on both the sides. They need to show the same political will for other doables.

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