Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated a crossing for Indian pilgrims visiting a Sikh shrine in Pakistan on Saturday (November 9), in one of the most significant acts of cooperation in decades by the old rivals.
The border crossing pact between the nuclear-armed neighbours allows visa-free access from India to the Pakistani town of Kartarpur, home to a temple that marks the site where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, died.
Hundreds of Indian pilgrims and delegates including former prime minister Manmohan Singh and politician and cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu arrived for the ceremony.
Congratulating the Sikh community on both sides of the border, the prime minister said he was happy to see the pilgrims being able to perform their rituals and expressed hope for a close resolution to the dispute with India over Kashmir. He had earlier said that the border crossing pact was a testimony of Pakistan’s commitment towards peace of the region.
The Punjab region, the ancestral home of the Sikh faith, was split between India and Pakistan at independence from Britain in 1947. Many Sikhs then migrated to India.
Sikhs in India have sought easier access to holy sites in Pakistan ever since. Visas to travel between the two countries often take months to process.
The two countries hope that when fully operational, some 5,000 pilgrims will be able to cross into Pakistan every day through the new checkpoint, a huge increase on current numbers.
(Production: Shahabuddin Shahab, Chiara Rodriquez)