Maybe it was always too good to be true. Maybe our government allowed itself to be swept up by hype it created itself. So far, the groundbreaking Karturpur Corridor has not generated the sort of revenue authorities had hoped.
In the run-up to its grand opening earlier this month, the government billed the corridor as something of a bonanza for the country. It was hoped that allowing India’s 24 million Sikhs unfettered access to some of their religion’s holiest shrines in Pakistan would jumpstart the country’s religious tourism sector.
Original plans foresaw as many as 5,000 Sikhs visiting Kartarpur daily once the initiative was up and running, but alas it has not been so. The number of pilgrims on the day the corridor launched was about half the projected figure. Since then, Sikhs in India have complained of a myriad hurdles that throw a damper on Pakistani hopes. Some hurdles are more general, such as most Indian citizens not having a passport. Others seem more deliberate given India’s paranoia that the peace initiative may reinvigorate a Sikh insurrection it quelled decades ago. Take, for instance, the high rejection rate that Sikhs applying for a travel permit complain of.
There is also the fact that any Sikh under the age of 35 is forbidden by India from using the corridor.Together, these challenges have so far prevented Pakistan from taking full economic advantage of the Kartarpur Corridor. However, there is another way to look at the Kartarpur Corridor before one gets too disillusioned. While it may not have brought much economic boon so far, the initiative has strengthened Pakistan’s hand from a moral and political standpoint. The goodwill it has generated for the country among the Sikhs of the world alone is reason enough for Pakistan to stick by Kartarpur, come what may.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2019.
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