Pakistan, India sign visa-free corridor deal for Sikh pilgrims

Agence France-Presse . Islamabad | Published: 01:19, Oct 25,2019

 
 

Islamabad and New Delhi signed an agreement Thursday on a visa-free corridor between the two countries that will allow Sikh pilgrims in India to visit the shrine to their religion’s founder, which is in Pakistan.

The Kartarpur Corridor deal — a rare example of cooperation between the nuclear-armed arch-rivals — follows months of heightened tensions, mainly over the disputed region of Kashmir.

‘Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin... can use the corridor. The travel will be visa-free,’ said SCL Das, a joint secretary in the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, at a press conference after the agreement was signed.

‘Pilgrims from around the world are also welcome,’ added Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal.

The deal allows for a secure corridor and bridge between the two countries, leading directly to the grave of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak, just four kilometres from the Indian border.

Pakistan had employed hundreds of labourers to spruce up the shrine, including building a border immigration checkpoint and a bridge, as well as expanding the grounds comprising the shrine itself.

India had long been asking Pakistan for such a corridor, but the project’s realisation was prevented by years of diplomatic tensions between the two countries that have fought three wars since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

The corridor is expected to be inaugurated in early November, ahead of the guru’s 550th birthday on November 12, which is marked with celebrations by millions of Sikhs around the world.

However Delhi said that it is still contesting Pakistan’s bid to charge each pilgrim $20 per visit.

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