Pakistani and Indian diasporas recently came together in Surrey to celebrate the opening of a corridor that will provide Indian Sikhs access to an historic gurdwara.
The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, spent the final years of his life in Kartarpur in Pakistan located close to the now fenced Indo-Pak border.
On the 550th birth anniversary of Nanak next year, the government of Pakistan will permit Sikh pilgrims from India to travel without a visa through the corridor to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara.
Following the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, not only Kartarpur Sahib but many other important gurdwaras—including one at the birthplace of Nanak—have been off-limits to Sikhs in India.
For years, Sikhs have been asking the almighty everyday as part of their daily ardas (prayer) for open access to these shrines separated from the community.
Those who live close to the boundary sometimes visit an Indian border security post to view the distantly visible Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara through binoculars.
Recently, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan announced that his government is willing to open the corridor. Though Pakistan has made such offers earlier, the Indian government always remained reluctant and skeptical, citing security concerns.
India continues to blame Pakistan for sponsoring subversive elements in India.
Nevertheless, the Indian government has now accepted the offer and reciprocated by deciding to construct its part of the corridor.
These developments have revived hopes of permanent peace in a region that experienced two major wars between India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.
On December 18, the Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association (PCCA) organized an event in Surrey where Indian Punjabi Sikhs presented a letter of thanks to the Pakistani government through its consul in Vancouver, Fahad Amjad. The letter was given to Amjad by representatives of the Punjabi Business Association of Canada, led by Jaspinder Brar.
The occasion was the celebration of the birth anniversary of the father of the Pakistani nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Later, the organizers cut a cake to celebrate the birthday of Jinnah and the opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
A video presentation on the corridor plan was also screened at the event attended by elected officials from Surrey.
Among those who spoke was Labour Minister Harry Bains, who was joined by NDP MLAs Jagrup Brar and Rachna Singh. Others who spoke were Liberal MP Randeep Singh Sarai, B.C. Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt, and Conservative candidate Shinder Purewal.
Former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Dr. Gulzar Cheema, who hails from Gurdaspur, which is close to Kartarpur Sahib, provided background information on the campaign by Sikhs for open access to the shrines that have been impossible to reach since partition.
Prominent progressive businessman Baldev Bath also spoke on the occasion. Others who addressed the gathering included PCCA officials Naveed Waraich, Farukh Sayed, Farooq Rai, and a young poet, Irvin Singh, who recited a poem dedicated to the opening of corridor.