Narowal (Pakistan), Nov 27 (PTI) A religious corridor linking a revered Sikh shrine on the bank of Ravi river here with India’s border district of Gurdaspur has the potential to bring “hope and peace” between the two countries, feels people on both sides of the border on the eve of its ground-breaking ceremony.

The foundation stone laying ceremony of the corridor between Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak, and the international border with India will be held here Wednesday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, senior politicians of Pakistan’s Punjab province and a host of top officials will be attending the event at Narowal around 120 Kilometers from Lahore. The foundation stone of the corridor on the Indian side, from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur to the international border, was laid Monday by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.

“We have fought a lot in the last 70 years. There was no gain from those fights by either India or Pakistan. It is now time we begin a new journey and the Katarpur corridor has the potential to bring peace,” says Abbas Khan, a 60-year-old Pakistan trader, a resident of Narowal.

Another Pakistani citizen Bilal Mohammed – who is from Lahore said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an influential leader and both he and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan can bring changes in the bilateral relations if they want.

“It will be a corridor of hope and peace. We must initiate similar efforts to normalise ties between the two countries,” he said.

Kartarpur Sahib is located across Ravi river in Pakistan and is about 4-km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine. The corridor, once built, will give Indian Sikh pilgrims easy visa-free access to the shrine in Kartarpur.

Last week, Pakistan and India announced that they would develop the corridor on their respective side of the border to help Indian pilgrims visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

Prime Minister Modi likened the decision by the two countries to fall of the Berlin Wall, indicating that the project may ease simmering tension between the two countries.

Elaborate preparations have been made at Narowal for Wednesday’s event which will be attended by a host of dignitaries. India’s cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Siddhu has already arrived in Pakistan for the event.

The Indian government has also announced that union ministers Hasimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri will represent India at the event. A large number of security personnel were deployed in and around the venue.

Many Indian residents at the Attari-Wagha border also welcomed the move by both the countries to build the corridor in their respective areas.

“It has been our demand for a long-long time and the governments of both the countries have now decided to roll out the project. We are very happy,” said 35-year-old Manjeet Singh.

“The corridor will boost tourism and it will be beneficial for us. It will help us economically. The face of the areas may change because of the corridor,” said Ranjita Singh, a college student.

India had proposed the corridor to Pakistan around 20 years back.

The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of his cricketer-turned-politician friend Khan as prime minister of that country.

After his return, Sidhu said that Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had told him that Pakistan may open a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib.

India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016.

Sidhu has termed the Kartarpur Corridor as a “corridor of infinite possibilities” and said such initiatives would promote peace and erase “enmity” between India and Pakistan.

“The seed Imran Khan had sown three months ago has become a plant. It is a happy moment for the Sikh community that the corridor to reach Kartarpur to get Baba Guru Nanak’s blessing without any hassle,” he told the media.

“Karturpur corridor will prove to be a path of peace, Sidhu added.

A group of 25 journalists from India have been invited by Pakistan for the event.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.