Indian Punjab CM, other Indian politicians to visit Kartarpur in Pakistan today

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Important Indian politicians, including the Indian Punjab chief minister, will be in Pakistan today (Thursday) to visit the Kartarpur Corridor, the Foreign Office spokesperson announced, a day before Gurpurab, which marks the birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak. 

The Kartarpur Corridor, which links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district, reopened on Wednesday.

Pilgrimage to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara was suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indian Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi, along with his ministers, will be part of the first delegation to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, as per Indian media reports.

An FO spokesperson had earlier said Indian Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Om Prakash Soni, along with Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu will also visit Pakistan. 

Rajasthan Cabinet Minister Harish Chaudhry and eight members of the Indian Punjab Legislative Assembly will also be part of the delegation, the FO spokesperson’s statement had said.

However, Sidhu’s media adviser, Surinder Dalla, later said the Punjab Congress president will visit Kartarpur Corridor to pay obeisance on November 20, and not today.

Earlier, Channi had welcomed the Indian government’s decision of reopening the Kartarpur Corridor and said the state cabinet will be part of the first “jatha” (group) which will visit the historic shrine in Pakistan on November 18, theHindustan Times had reported.

Thousands of Sikh pilgrims start arriving as Kartarpur Corridor reopens

Thousands of Sikh pilgrims crossed the border into Pakistan from India and the rest of the world Wednesday ahead of the 552nd birth anniversary of the religion’s founder, Baba Guru Nanak.

The Kartarpur Corridor, a visa-free crossing allowing Indian Sikhs to visit the temple in Pakistan where Guru Nanak died in 1539, first opened in 2019 for Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary but was closed last year because of the pandemic.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the Corridor will re-open from Wednesday ahead of Nanak’s birth anniversary celebrations this Friday.

“In a major decision, that will benefit large numbers of Sikh pilgrims, PM @narendramodi govt has decided to re-open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from tomorrow,” he said on Twitter.

“I am sure that (the) govt’s decision to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor will further boost the joy and happiness across the country,” Shah added.

A Pakistani official source said the Corridor had never been closed on the Pakistan side, and that they were waiting for confirmation from Indian authorities that the pilgrims would be allowed to cross.

The white-domed shrine in Kartarpur, a small town just four kilometres (2.5 miles) inside Pakistan, had remained out of reach of Indian Sikhs for decades because of hostile relations between the two countries.

When Pakistan was carved out of India at the end of British rule in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the Pakistan side of the border, while most of the region’s Sikhs remained on the other side.

There are an estimated 20,000 Sikhs left in Pakistan after millions fled to India following the religious violence ignited by Partition.

Guru Nanak, born in 1469 to a Hindu family near the present-day Pakistani city of Lahore, is revered both by Sikhs and Hindus who prepare community feasts known as langars to mark his birth anniversary.

FM welcomes Sikh pilgrims arriving in to mark Guru Nanak’s birth celebrations

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had extended a warm welcome to the Sikh pilgrims arriving in Pakistan on the 552nd birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

“Pakistan looks forward to welcoming Sikh pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib through the Kartarpur Corridor from November 17,” he had said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

FM Qureshi said Pakistan had reopened the Kartarpur Corridor on June 29, 2020 after temporary suspension of about three months due to the pandemic. However, India kept the Corridor closed from its side for nearly 20 months, and has only now allowed it to be re-opened.

“[The] Sikh community from India and around the world had been urging the opening of the Corridor,” he mentioned.

He said Pakistan had also proposed formally to India to reopen the corridor in respect of the wishes and sentiments of the pilgrims.

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