Sikhs keen for good relations between India, Pakistan: US body’s chief

Published November 26, 2018
“Happiness is a small word. We are absolutely thrilled and congratulate Pakistan for taking this historic decision.”— File photo courtesy Online
“Happiness is a small word. We are absolutely thrilled and congratulate Pakistan for taking this historic decision.”— File photo courtesy Online

WASHINGTON: Sikhs across the world want good relations between India and Pakistan as tensions between the two neighbours prevent them from visiting some of their holiest shrines, says the American Sikh community.

Among the Sikhs in North America, there’s an almost universal welcome for Pakistan’s decision to open the Kartarpur crossing and build a corridor between the two Punjabs to facilitate visits to Gurdwara Kartarpur Saheb.

“Are we happy? Happiness is a small word. We are absolutely thrilled and congratulate Pakistan for taking this historic decision,” said Sardar Jasbir Singh, chairman of ‘Sikhs of America’ — the largest Sikh organisation in North America.

“This is a big khush khabri (good news) from Pakistan,” said Baljinder Singh Shammi, a former president of the Sikh Association of Baltimore. “We have been working for it for decades. Finally, it happened.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform the groundbreaking of the 4km-long corridor, which will provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

Kartarpur, which is about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Baba Guru Nanak is said to have died.

“Every Sikh wants good relations with Pakistan. We have very strong ties with the neighbouring country,” said Jasbir Singh. “Every day, we pray for Pakistan. We cannot do otherwise because some of our holiest shrines are there. Pakistan is also the main source of Punjabi culture and literature.”

Jasbir Singh, who is also adviser to President Donald Trump on religious diversity, said Republican Pakistani leader Sajid Tarar “worked tirelessly with the North American Sikh community” to make this happen.

Mr Tarar said he decided to work on this project because he believed it would help improve relations between South Asia’s two nuclear powers. “It is not just the Indians or Pakistanis who want good relations between these two countries. All peace-loving people across the globe want this,” he said.

Jasbir Singh also welcomed India’s positive response to the Pakistani proposal. “We want India and Pakistan to be like the United States and Canada,” he said. “We want to have breakfast in Amritsar and dinner in Lahore.”

Baljinder Singh said building the Kartarpur corridor would be good for all, as the movement of such a large number of devotees would also bring economic benefits. “We thank Prime Minister Imran Khan and all Pakistani leaders and officials who made this happen,” he said, adding: “A very big thing has happened and we hope more will happen to improve ties.”

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018

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