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Pakistan’s Kartarpur Corridor: Path Towards Religious Tourism

August 17, 2023

Pakistan has opened the Kartarpur Corridor in the Narowal region of Punjab, a significant step toward peace at a time of considerable conflict and mistrust in the subcontinent.

Travellers from the other side of the wall can use the corridor to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, one of Sikhism’s holiest shrines, without first obtaining a visa. On Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan officially opened the corridor in front of hundreds of people, including former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who were all cheering the decision.

Mr. Khan, speaking at the occasion, urged peace and cross-border trade between Pakistan and India and brought attention to the dire situation in Kashmir, which is currently under the control of India. There would be 5,000 daily visitors from India who will be able to enter Pakistan and visit the shrine without a visa thanks to the corridor.

Travelling for religious purposes has considerable potential to increase social interaction in the subcontinent. A similar formula may be followed to allow foreign tourists to pay their respects at the other prominent Sikh shrines in Pakistan (in Hasan Abdal, Lahore, etc.) through a more flexible visa procedure.

Ancient Hindu temples in Sindh’s Thar region, Balochistan’s Hinglaj mandir, and Punjab’s Katas Raj can all draw visitors from India and beyond.

With the construction of Kartarpur, Pakistan has demonstrated its willingness to welcome non-Muslim tourists, and a more lenient bilateral visa formula can assist promote religious tourism. But since it takes two to tango, India should equally loosen restrictions on Pakistani tourists who wish to visit holy Sufi dargahs in India. Pakistanis have had a harder time travelling to Delhi to visit the dargah of the venerated Khawaja of Ajmer, Nizamuddin Aulia, and the tombs of other Muslim saints on the occasion of their urs or otherwise due to the deterioration of bilateral relations.

Pakistan has offered a hand of friendship by granting the wishes of Indian Sikhs by making it easier for them to travel to Kartarpur; in return, India should make it easier for Pakistanis to travel to Muslim places in India.

To lessen tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi, efforts should be made to increase religious tourism and personal relations. It is important, however, not to lose sight of the major sources of tension in the relationship, especially the Kashmir problem. A just resolution to the Kashmir question, as Mr. Khan stated accurately at the Kartarpur event, might contribute to peace on the subcontinent.

Regrettably, it has taken India’s leaders almost seven decades to realize this simple truth. If India is truly interested in peace, it should end its occupation of Kashmir and allow its people to finally breathe easy. The subcontinental impasse can be broken through constructive conversation on Kashmir and confidence-building measures.

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