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July 16, 2019

Kartarpur agreement


July 16, 2019

There is a great deal to be gained when Pakistan and India agree to cooperate. This was demonstrated on Sunday when successful talks at the Wagah border resulted in the finalizing of a draft agreement on the Kartarpur corridor. While about 20 percent minor issues remained to be worked out the basics of the corridor are in place. This means that 5000 Sikh pilgrims will be able to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara every day. Work is to be completed by the end of October and just before 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak is observed. The agreement means that Sikh pilgrims will be permitted visa-free access to the Gurdwara and be permitted to observe their religious rites. India has also requested that for the anniversary of the founder of the religion Pakistan allow the ‘Nagar Kartan’, a recitation of holy verses during important processions. Additional details such as the building of a bridge in the future which will allow easier access to the holy site are being worked out.

The agreement is an important one, not only for Sikhs but also for the two nations. It indicates that when good sense and good spirits are displayed much can be achieved. Discussion of how to make the pilgrimage smooth and hassle free in all weather conditions was agreed on by both sides. India, whose external affairs ministry’s spokesperson gave a briefing after the talks, has requested that Pakistan not allow the facility to be misused. This is understood to be a reference to Khalistan supporters, who were not directly named. The issue of possible disruption of the pilgrimage from the Pakistan side was also discussed and satisfactory decisions reached.

The progress indicates how much the people of both Indian and Pakistan have to gain if the process of discussion on various issues can continue. The tensions which have intensified since the Pulwama attack of February this year have made travel across the border extremely difficult, keeping people, including families divided. The cordial handling of the parleys at the border indicates that there is still a way forward. We must hope this road will be followed so that many more people can benefit from better relations between the countries and a willingness to do everything possible to facilitate people who suffered through no fault of their own. These people need to be put at the top of the list of priorities when it comes to planning for the leaders of both nations. Since 2014, when the Narendra Modi government was first elected to power, there has been a discernible rise in hostility. This benefits no one and harms the economic and social interests of people living in both countries.

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