Pakistan praised for opening ‘New Sikh Road’

Pakistan on Nov 28 officially launched a visa-free road link for Sikh pilgrims from India to visit a famous shrine in the neighbouring nation, a surprise development that is being hailed by minority groups.

Dec 06, 2018

By Kamran Chaudhry
Pakistan on Nov 28 officially launched a visa-free road link for Sikh pilgrims from India to visit a famous shrine in the neighbouring nation, a surprise development that is being hailed by minority groups.

Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the opening ceremony of the Kartarpur (Village of God) route across the India-Pakistan border, three kilometres from Gurdaspur in Punjab.

The route provides direct access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur by the River Ravi, close to the border. Most Indian pilgrims use Delhi Transport Corp (DTC), which offers a service between Delhi and Lahore. Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the service in March 1999.The shrine is important to Sikhs because it is built on an historic site where Guru Nanak established a Sikh community in the wake of his missionary travels.

The gurdwara, which translates as a “door to the guru” and refers to a place of worship for Sikhs, houses a samadhi, or funerary monument, as well as the grave of the founder of Sikhism and the first guru among Sikhs.

Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life in the first half of the 16th century at the famous shrine.

Both Muslims and Sikhs revere the guru, and both performed rituals associated with their respective faiths to commemorate his passing.

Sikh devotees had long demanded that both countries collaborate to build a corridor linking the shrine with Dera Baba Nanak, a city in Gurdaspur district of India’s Punjab state.

Until Nov 28, they had to travel by a longer route via the Wagah border crossing.

India often accuses Pakistan of supporting an insurgency in the Indian part of Kashmir, an allegation Pakistan has consistently denied.

India also accuses Pakistan of supporting “a freedom struggle” in Indian Kashmir against Indian administration. Some groups have taken up arms in an effort to separate Kashmir from India.

The conflict dates back to 1947 when India and Pakistan became separate states after British rule ended. Citizens from both sides did not need a visa until June 1952.

Both countries claim Kashmir in full and have fought at least three wars and countless skirmishes over it.

Calls to end violence and stressing on the importance of dialogue have come from various leaders, including Church officials.

Human rights activists in Pakistan welcomed the opening of the new corridor as a major development in India-Pakistan peace talks after a hiatus of five years.

“We have 135 historical Sikh venues in our country, but the markets and roads around them are in a dilapidated state,” said Kalyan Singh, a Sikh professor in Lahore.

“Our national economy can greatly benefit from tourism. Sikh pilgrims must be given visas upon arrival in Pakistan,” he added.

This March, Pakistan became the first country in the world to introduce specific legislation for the registration of Sikh marriages — another move heartily welcomed by Sikhs. --ucanews.com

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