India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has once again highlighted its concern regarding the $20 fee imposed on pilgrims by Pakistan, a matter that India has raised repeatedly but is yet to receive a response.
The Kartarpur Corridor, a visa-free passage connecting Dera Baba Nanak Gurdwara in Gurdaspur district, Punjab, India with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, holds profound religious significance for millions of Sikhs worldwide. It is the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, and provides a spiritual sanctuary for those seeking to pay their respects.
For Sikhs, the Kartarpur Corridor transcends borders and political boundaries. It is a symbol of unity and reverence for their spiritual heritage. It is a place where devotees can connect with their faith on a deeply personal level. However, it is also a place that can bridge divides and foster goodwill between India and Pakistan, two neighboring nations with a history of tensions and conflicts.
The Kartarpur Corridor can serve as a beacon of hope for interfaith harmony. By reducing or waiving the $20 fee, Pakistan has the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to fostering goodwill and respect for all religious communities, especially considering its history of minority persecution, including attacks on Sikh temples and discrimination against Sikhs in various aspects of life. The Pakistani government has also been accused of discriminating against Sikhs in terms of employment, education, and other opportunities.
It is crucial for Pakistan to take a step forward in addressing the concerns of Sikh pilgrims. Lowering the fee or making the pilgrimage free would not only alleviate the financial burden on devotees but also open the doors of Kartarpur Sahib to a more diverse range of pilgrims. This move would be a significant gesture of goodwill, emphasizing Pakistan’s dedication to religious inclusivity and respect for the Sikh community.
The $20 fee, though seemingly modest, can be a substantial financial burden for many pilgrims, particularly those from low-income backgrounds. By reducing this fee, Pakistan would enable a broader spectrum of Sikhs, from all walks of life, to undertake this spiritual journey. It would allow more people to connect with Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings and experience the profound spiritual significance of Kartarpur Sahib.
As we stand on the precipice of religious harmony and goodwill, the reduction or elimination of the Kartarpur Corridor fee can serve as a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of faith to transcend boundaries. It is a call to action for Pakistan to take a bold step in fostering interfaith harmony, and an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to religious inclusivity and respect for the Sikh community. It is not just about reducing a fee; it is about building bridges between nations and celebrating the shared heritage of all who revere Guru Nanak Dev Ji.