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Pakistan And India To Construct a ‘Peace Corridor’

Indian pilgrims currently must seek visas to enter Pakistan and travel more than 200 kilometers to visit the Kartarpur shrine.

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India Pakistan, Sikh
Indian Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, third left, stands for the national anthem during the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the planned road corridor to the Pakistan border, at Dera Baba Nanak,. VOA

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay the foundation stone Wednesday for what is dubbed as a cross-border “corridor of peace” to allow religious devotees from India’s minority Sikh community to make free visits to one of their holiest gurdwaras, or temples, on the Pakistani side after more than seven decades.

The temple, known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, is considered to be the first temple ever built and the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the Sikhism founder.

Indian leaders, on behalf of the Sikh community, have long been demanding Islamabad provide unrestricted access to the holy site in Kartarpur, in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

India’s and Pakistan’s independence from Britain in 1947 divided the Punjab province, where Sikhism was born.

Imran Khan, Sikh
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China. VOA

Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu performed the groundbreaking Monday on his side of the corridor at a ceremony just two kilometers from the Pakistani border.

The mutually agreed-to project is rare between the two nuclear-armed South Asian rivals. Historically strained ties have deteriorated in recent years and bilateral official talks remain suspended.

The fenced corridor of about five kilometers aims to connect the Kartarpur temple to the Sikh holy shrine at Dara Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district. Officials say the corridor will be in place for the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth in November 2019.

Khan’s government has invited, among others, Indian officials and journalists for Wednesday’s groundbreaking in Kartarpur, three kilometers from the border with India. An Indian ministerial-level delegation is expected to attend the ceremony as special envoys of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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A Delhi-based Sikh organization Urges UN to Support Turbans as Religious Symbol. Pixabay

“Pakistan calls this a corridor of peace. I call it the corridor of infinite possibilities of peace,” Indian Punjab provincial minister Navjot Singh Sidhu told reporters shortly after arriving in Pakistan for the ceremony. He crossed the border by foot at the Wagah crossing near the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore to attend the event at the invitation of his friend, Prime Minister Khan.

Members of the Sikh community on both sides have welcomed the construction of the cross-border corridor linking the two holy sites.

Indian pilgrims currently must seek visas to enter Pakistan and travel more than 200 kilometers to visit the Kartarpur shrine. The temple is visible on clear days from a viewing stage on the Indian side, where religious devotees gather every day to have a glimpse of it.

Also Read: Vow To Hold Peace Talks With India: Pakistan’s Prime Minster Imran Khan

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, and mutual tensions often hamper pilgrims’ plans to get timely visas to visit the shrine. Two of those wars have been over the disputed Kashmir region, which remains at the center of tensions. (VOA)

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India Ends all Imports of Iranian Oil, Says Washington Ambassador

Trump last year pulled out of a multinational pact under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief

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india, iranian oil
FILE - A worker walks atop a tanker wagon to check the freight level at an oil terminal on the outskirts of Kolkata, India. VOA

India has ended all imports of oil from Iran, its ambassador in Washington says, becoming the latest country to grudgingly comply with threatened U.S. sanctions.

India had already sharply decreased its imports from Iran and bought one million tonnes of crude in April, the last month before Washington stepped up its pressure campaign against Tehran and ended all exemptions to sanctions, Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla said. “That’s it. After that, we haven’t imported any,” Shringla told reporters Thursday during a briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory.

No Venezuela oil, either

Shringla said that energy-hungry India has also ended all imports from Venezuela because it considered itself a partner of the United States. But he said the shift had caused pain at home, with Iran formerly supplying 10 percent of India’s oil needs.

Calling Iran “an extended neighbor” of India with long-standing cultural links, Shringla declined to say whether New Delhi shared President Donald Trump’s concerns about Tehran. “This is an issue that has to be dealt with, really, between the United States and Iran. We are only, in many senses, looking at it as a third party,” Shringla said.

But he added: “We would not like to see a move towards any escalation in any way in that area, for the simple reason that we depend very heavily on stability in that part of the world.”

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FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after signing a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, May 8, 2018. VOA

Trump last year pulled out of a multinational pact under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear work in return for promises of sanctions relief.

The Trump administration has instead ramped up economic pressure on Iran and recently deployed military assets, including an aircraft carrier strike group, to the area.
The United States as of May 2 ended exemptions it had given to eight governments from its unilateral order to stop buying Iranian oil.

Turkey stops imports

Turkey, which enjoyed a waiver and vocally disagreed with the U.S. policy, has also stopped importing oil from Iran, a Turkish official said this week. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus welcomed the news from Turkey.

ALSO READ: India, China, Turkey Silently Purchasing Iran’s Crude Oil as US Ban Begins

“We want the whole world to comply with these sanctions, and we’re grateful for our partners and allies that are respecting them,” she told reporters. The Indian ambassador, however, voiced confidence that U.S. sanctions would not affect its partnership in developing Iran’s Chabahar port.

India wants to use the port to ship supplies into Afghanistan in a detour from its archrival Pakistan, which historically backed the Taliban. “I think it is in the interest of both our countries and all others concerned to ensure that that lifeline continues for the people of Afghanistan,” Shringla said. (VOA)