Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Saturday visited the revered Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan and offered prayers and stressed on ”opening of a new friendship chapter” and trade between the two countries, days after India reopened the visa-free Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims.
The Kartarpur corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in India’s Punjab state. The 4 km-long corridor provides visa free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the Darbar Sahib.
Pilgrimage to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara was suspended in March last year because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The Kartarpur corridor was reopened on Tuesday for pilgrims.
“In the name of Baba Guru Nanak, a new chapter of friendship between the two countries should begin,” Sidhu told journalists upon his arrival at the Kartarpur Sahib.
”After the World wars in which millions of people lost their lives, if Europe can open borders on one-visa, has one passport and one currency, why not in this region of ours where we have figures like Bhagat Singh and Maharaja Ranjeet Singh who are revered by everyone?” he asked.
Sidhu said he wants mutual love between India and Pakistan.
”There is a need to open windows in the walls erected in 74 years (between India and Pakistan),” he said, stressing on opening of trade between the two countries.
”There should be trade between two countries,” the cricketer-turned-politician said.
Sidhu thanked Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking a step to open the corridor.
“I am thankful to PM (Imran Khan) for taking the first step and on the other side (India) responded with two steps. I had already said that those favouring the ‘laanga’ (corridor) would have blessings and those opposing it had no value,” he said.
When Kartarpur Corridor Project Management Unit CEO Muhammad Latif welcomed the former Test cricketer at the zero point and extended best wishes to him and his delegation on behalf of the prime minister, Sidhu said: “Imran Khan is my elder brother. I am greatly honoured. He (Khan) gave us a lot of love.” Sidhu visited the complex and also offered religious rituals. He and his delegation members were offered ‘langar’ (food) made from the wheat and vegetables of the fields, which Guru Nanak Dev used to look after.
According to Latif, over 300 Indian Sikhs visited the Kartarpur Sahib on Saturday the fourth day of the reopening of the route which was suspended for some 20 months following the Covid.
Earlier this week, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi along with 37 others, including his Cabinet ministers, and Jagir Kaur, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), had visited the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
Some 2,500 Indian Sikhs who have come to Pakistan via Wagah border on the occasion of the 552 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev will also visit the Darbar Sahib.
In November 2019, Prime Minister Khan formally inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor as part of commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak at a colourful ceremony, paving the way for Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit one of their religion’s holiest sites in Pakistan without needing a visa.