The Kartarpur Corridor is a border area between Pakistan and India that connects the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in Punjab, India and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Punjab, Pakistan. The corridor was created to facilitate the travel of Sikh devotees from India to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur without a visa. The Gurdwara in Kartarpur had been built to commemorate the spot where the first guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, is said to have died.
Before the construction of the corridor, Sikh pilgrims from India had to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is a 125-kilometre journey. The site was close enough to the border that people on the Indian side could easily see Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on the Pakistani side.
The first time that construction of the Kartarpur Corridor was proposed was in 1999 by then prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif of India and Pakistan respectively. It was to be part of the Delhi–Lahore Bus diplomacy. But things could not move forward after tensions arose between the two countries during the Kargil War and later after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone for the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib–Kartarpur Corridor on November 28, 2018 near the Narowal district of Punjab in Pakistan. Indian ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hardeep Singh Puri, Navjot Singh Sidhu, and member of the Parliament from Amritsar, Gurjeet Singh Aujla were present at the event.
Before the event in Pakistan, Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu had laid the foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Corridor on November 26, 2018 at Mann, a village in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab in India.
It was only in August 2019 that India and Pakistan agreed to allow visa-free travel of Indian citizens to Kartarpur, but differences persisted about Indian consular officers being located at the site.
On October 24, 2019, SCL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Union Home Ministry from India and Pakistan Foreign Office Director-General South Asia and SAARC Mohammad Faisal met at Zero Point near Dera Baba Nanak in the border town of Gurdaspur to ink the memorandum of understanding. The signing of this agreement paved the way for 5,000 Indian pilgrims to visit the holy site without a visa on a daily basis.
Under the memorandum of understanding, pilgrims would come in the morning and return in the evening after visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, and each visitor would have to pay 20 dollars as a service charge. India urged Pakistan to waive off the fees, which in turn led to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announcing that Sikh pilgrims coming from India will not be charged any fee on the day of inauguration and on Guru Nanak Dev's 550th birth anniversary on November 12, 2019. The fee, however, was applicable for other days.
In further developments, the Pakistan government had announced waiving off the passport requirement for Kartarpur pilgrims extending up to one year. However, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, as per the agreement between the two countries, announced that a passport would be required.
The Pakistan government completed the construction of the corridor on November 1, 2019, and it was inaugurated by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on November 9, 2019. The ceremony was held in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib complex, Kartarpur and around 12,000 pilgrims were present.