Pakistan’s Kartarpur corridor project faces logistical hurdles
The opening of the Kartarpur corridor that will connect the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan — the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith — to Dera Baba Nanak in India faces several logistical challenges, apart from the obvious politico-diplomatic issues.
Among these are the need to build two bridges, one across the fast flowing Ravi, and another, across a seasonal tributary of the Ravi, Begh Baein. The Ravi is about 1,200 ft and the Begh Baein about 400 ft in breadth. Both are in Pakistan.
Pakistan will have to find a way to bridge the two water bodies before next year’s celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. No details are available on how it will go about doing this although, on November 28, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pakistan end of the corridor, Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “The next year you come here, you will find every kind of facilities.”
India and Pakistan have to also to work out the modalities of documentation needed by pilgrims and the security protocol to visit the shrine. People familiar with the matter say that in all likelihood, the Kartarpur Corridor will be something like the Wagah-Artari border where a daily ceremony is held to mark the lowering of the flags and is attended by thousands on both sides of the border.
“The Wagah-Attari border is also manned by us. We have been doing this task on a large scale along the Attari-Wagah border crossing in Punjab for ages. This (Kartarpur corridor) is not a difficult thing to handle,” Border Security Force director general Rajnikath Mishra said. On average 100-150 people cross this border every day, entering or exiting India.
The Indian part of the Kartarpur corridor is being built in two parts with one stretch from Gurdaspur to Dera Nanak Baba and the second stretch from Dera Nanak Baba to the international India-Pakistan border, an official aware of the matter said on condition of anonymity.
“The part from Gurdaspur to Dera Nanak Baba is a 48 km two-lane paved shoulder road which has already been tendered and awarded and on which work has begun. The other is a four-lane 4.5 km stretch from Dera Nanak Baba to the international border which was not part of our national highway. We have to develop it more like a tourist corridor. We are planning to build sculptures with details of Guru Nanak’s life along this. We have to make it till the international border beyond which the Pakistani side will take over. We will make it just like the way the Wagah border at Attari is built; the same structure with the gates, etc. The security and immigration will be taken care of by the home ministry,” added this person, a senior official at the ministry of road transport and highways.
At the foundation laying ceremony of the Indian end of the corridor on November 26, union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari announced that the corridor would be completed in four months.
“We have to first acquire the land (for the 4.5 km stretch) from the state government, after which the construction contract will be awarded. If the cost is not much we might club it with the first national highway package,” the road transport ministry official added.
An official at the National Highways Authority of India who asked not to be identified said that details of the land required are being worked out and that the blueprint for the 4.5 km stretch is yet to be finalized.
India and Pakistan announced on November 15 that they would build corridors on their respective sides to let Sikh pilgrims visit the holy shrine without a visa,allowing them to effectively walk across the border and back.