Bridging 72 years with a 9 km road, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor on Saturday from either side of the border amid frayed ties on the backdrop of India scrapping special status to Kashmir.
In the first-of its-kind occasion in seven decades, Modi sent the first lot of 500 pilgrims to visit Darbar Sahib, also called Kartarpur Sahib, the last resting place of first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev, in Narowal district in Pakistan's Punjab province.
The Kartarpur corridor will deepen the connect between lakhs of pilgrims and Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 9, 2019
It is my honour to have inaugurated the corridor today. pic.twitter.com/hsoXkAuBMu
"Visit to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib will become easy now," Modi said at the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration event before opening the state-of-the-art Integrated Check Post for the corridor that connects Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur district with the historic Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara across the border in Pakistan.
The corridor was inaugurated ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, which falls on November 12.
"I thank all who have been associated with the construction of the corridor," Modi said, adding, ""I thank Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi. He understood India's feelings on the Kartarpur corridor issue, gave respect (to it) and, worked keeping in view those feelings"
#WATCH Punjab: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Former PM Dr.Manmohan Singh at inauguration of the Integrated Check Post of the #KartarpurCorridor at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, earlier today pic.twitter.com/7M5iXpjDuP— ANI (@ANI) November 9, 2019
Donning a saffron turban, Modi, in his half-an-hour address at the function organised by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), said the corridor and the Integrated Check Post would serve thousands of devotees daily.
"It is my honour to have inaugurated the corridor today. Guru Nanak's teachings are being translated into various languages so that the next generation can also be enriched by them. We must vow to imbibe the preachings of Guru Nanak, which are still relevant," Modi, who was bestowed with the 'Kaumi Seva Puraskar' by the SGPC, said.
Former Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu addressing inaugural ceremony of #KartarpurCorridor in Pakistan: It is the first time since partition that the boundaries have been dismantled. No one can deny my friend Imran Khan's contribution. I thank Modi ji also for it. pic.twitter.com/IwuwCA6MFM— ANI (@ANI) November 9, 2019
"Every Sikh Guru, starting from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, has made efforts for the unity, defence and security of India. It is this tradition which has been carried forward by the Sikhs in the Independence struggle and thereafter in protecting the country," the Prime Minister said.
Expressing gratitude to UNESCO for helping in spreading the message of Guru Nanak Dev, Modi said that after the abrogation of Article 370, Sikh families in Jammu and Kashmir could also exercise rights like other Sikhs across the country to visit Kartarpur Sahib.
Modi also released a commemorative coin and stamp in the honour of Guru Nanak Dev.
Before flagging off the first batch of 'jatha' (delegation) led by Akal Takhat Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, Modi and other leaders partook 'langar' (community kitchen) along with Punjab Governor V.P. Singh Badnore and state Congress President Sunil Jakhar.
The first batch of pilgrims included former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
No words are enough to thank @narendramodi Ji for the way he has honoured the feelings & faith of Nanak Naamleva Sangat to celebrate 550th Parkash Purab— Manjinder S Sirsa (@mssirsa) November 9, 2019
His presence at #KartarpurCorridor reflected how deeply he respects the teaching of peace and harmony of Guru Nanak Patshah pic.twitter.com/XnKmuhJ1un
Modi briefly interacted with Manmohan Singh, who was accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur.
Members of the SGPC and all the 117 legislators and MPs from Punjab were also part of the delegation.
Eternally grateful for the chance to lead the first Jatha along with #ManmohanSingh Ji, a moment I will forever treasure. Visiting Gurudwara Darbar Sahib through the #KartarpurCorridor was truly a divine experience. 🙏🏽#550thPrakashPurb #Celebrations #Kartarpur pic.twitter.com/nx9g7cPvRw— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) November 9, 2019
Earlier in the day, Modi paid obeisance at the highly revered Sikh shrine in Sultanpur Lodhi.
Asserting that he was fortunate to be able to dedicate the Kartarpur corridor to the country, PM Modi said the opening of the corridor and the integrated check post would bring double happiness to the people.
While former prime minister Manmohan Singh called the corridor’s opening a “big moment”, Parkash Singh Badal described it as the happiest day in his life.
Wearing a saffron scarf, Modi spent time at the Gurdwara Ber Sahib located along the banks of the holy 'Bein', which is connected with many events in the life of Guru Nanak Dev.
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A special day spent in #Punjab. As a part of the 550th Prakash Parv of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor, prayed at Gurudwara Ber Sahib and took part in Langar at Dera Baba Nanak. May the ideals of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji keep inspiring generations to come. 🙏🏼
A post shared by Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) on Nov 9, 2019 at 7:32am PST
Modi was received by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Union minister Harsimrat Badal.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated the Sikh community on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev and said that the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was a testimony to Pakistan's commitment to regional peace.
He inaugurated the corridor in Punjab province in Pakistan.
"Want to congratulate those worked on the corridor," Geo News quoted Khan as saying while addressing the inauguration ceremony in Kartarpur.
PM Imran Khan; content and happy with the arrangements said that it makes him happy to see the Sikh community so happy on this historic day. Mr.Navjot Singh Sidhu joined him in calling for peace in the region.#KartarpurCorridor #PakistanOpensKartarpur pic.twitter.com/viu0AdfOyd— PTI (@PTIofficial) November 9, 2019
"I did not know my government was so efficient. Want to congratulate them again for completing the complex in record time," he said.
Khan arrived at the corridor inauguration ceremony using the shuttle service being used by the pilgrims.
He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Special Assistant on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan, Senator Javed Khan and Special Assistant to PM for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari, among other officials.
The Kartarpur shrine is the place where Guru Nanak Dev spent the last 18 years of his life.
India had signed an agreement with Pakistan on October 24 on the modalities for the operationalisation of the 4.2 km long four-lane Kartarpur Sahib Corridor at the Zero Point on the International Boundary.
The Union Cabinet passed a resolution on November 22, 2018 to celebrate the historic occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in a grand and befitting manner throughout the country and across the globe.
The Cabinet also approved the building and development of the Kartarpur Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Boundary to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib through out the year in a smooth and easy manner.
The 4.2 km corridor has been constructed at a cost of Rs 120 crore.
The state-of-the-art passenger terminal building is constructed on 15 acres of land. The fully air-conditioned building akin to an airport has over 50 immigration counters for facilitating about 5,000 pilgrims a day.
The agreement signed with Pakistan provides a formal framework for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Corridor.
As per the agreement, Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor; the travel will be visa free; pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport; persons of Indian origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country; the corridor is open from dawn to dusk.
However, the ticklish issue of a $20 service fee imposed by Islamabad remained unresolved. This means that each visitor will have to pay the service fee.
On his part, Imran Khan raked up the Kashmir issue at the inauguration ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor and said ensuring “justice” to Kashmiris would open new channels of communication between India and Pakistan. The Kartarpur Corridor was inaugurated as part of the celebration to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Earlier in the day, Imran Khan welcomed the first batch of the Indian Sikh pilgrims who entered Pakistan through the corridor that links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur. Khan shook hands with Manmohan and exchanged pleasantries.