Frenemies Forever

Well, don't we all have frenemies? No matter the level of dislike or rivalry, one often has to accept the fate of tolerating their frenemies. India and Pakistan are two such nations whose destinies tie them in a web of bittersweet moments.
Devotees at the holy shrine of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib; Image Source- BBC

Devotees at the holy shrine of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib; Image Source- BBC

Divided by religion, India and Pakistan continue to walk on eggshells with their fair share of skirmishes on the border. The partition of hearts wedged a permanent difference into the souls of the two nations. Any point of convergence and agreement is nothing short of a miracle.

As the cliche goes, miracles do happen! And the best blessing to the Sikh community of divided Punjab came after a long-drawn struggle of 70 years.

The interesting serendipity of fate divided the countries only to bring them together for religious piety. The Kartarpur corridor, inaugurated on 9th November 2019, has become an epitome of friendship and brotherhood. It allows Indians to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib visa-free into the territory of Pakistan. The shrine is like a sanctuary to all Sikhs who merrily visit the resting place of their spiritual father, Guru Nanak.

You all might be wondering what took the two nations so long to negotiate their way out? The answer lies in their not so friendly terms. The rift between the two nations has caused much harm from time to time. Any scope of opening the gateway of the Kartarpur corridor got crushed by a series of problematic political clashes noted infamously by history.

The very first attempt to extend the hand of friendship took place in 1998 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. After the success of the Delhi-Lahore Bus Diplomacy in 1999, Pakistan eagerly renovated the Gurudwara. Everything was too good to be true. Alas! Tensions slowly simmered at the borders to instigate the bloody war of Kargil. Any ray of hope thus vanished.

Another failed attempt by Dr Manmohan Singh was tabled at the Parliament in 2004, which met an indifferent response from Pakistan.

With 2008 came the third attempt to promote visa-free travel on the Kartarpur corridor by the then foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee. Everything was set in motion and the positive turn of events promised a better future. Alas! The fate had something explosive in store. The heart-wrenching Mumbai attacks of 2008 enraged India against its neighbour for many upcoming years.

Such was the trajectory of political upheavals which distanced the devotees of the Sikh community from the holy shrine.

While the devotees thought their efforts were in vain, God answered their prayer. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in 2018 laid the stepping stone of opening the Kartarpur corridor. After a year of negotiations and debate later, in 2019, the 4km long passage reunited the devotees with their God.

The terms of visa-free travel came with their own set on conditions like carrying a passport as a solid identity proof. The Indian pilgrims are not permitted to stay overnight or wander outside the premises of the shrine.

The happiness of the Sikhs was short-lived. With the coronavirus sweeping the human race clean, the corridor was shut down within a year. A general sense of disappointment looms over the community since all other religious sites have been accessible to the devotees.

The future of the Kartarpur corridor hangs of the thin line of uncertainty, just like the Indo-Pak relations. The Sikhs are back to square one while counting days to grab the golden opportunity to reunite with their messiah, Guru Nanak.

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