India and Pakistan on Thursday signed a landmark agreement to operationalise the historic Kartarpur Corridor to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, notwithstanding a chill in bilateral ties.
The corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, just about four km from the international border, located at Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
The agreement signing ceremony took place at the Kartarpur Zero Point at the International Border, removing a key legal hurdle for the opening of the corridor.
S.C.L. Das, Joint Secretary in the Union Home Ministry signed the pact on India’s behalf while Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal singed the agreement from Pakistan’s side.
Speaking to the media after the signing of the agreement, Faisal said Prime Minister Imran Khan had fulfilled his promise and completed the corridor in a year.
Online registration of devotees began soon after the signing of the agreement.
The agreement will allow access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Norowal district of Pakistan where the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev spent last 18 years of his life.
Under the agreement, the pilgrims would come in the morning and return in the evening after visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. At least 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the holy site every day without a visa.
Each visitor would be required to pay USD 20 as fee, though India has requested Pakistan not to charge the Indian pilgrims. The agreement was finalised after three rounds of negotiations.
Mr. Khan would formally inaugurate the corridor on November 9, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on November 12.
The foundation stone for the Kartarpur Corridor on the Indian side was laid in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu last November.
Two days later, Mr. Khan aid the foundation stone of the corridor in Narowal.
Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
The four-lane highway connecting the Zero Point of the Kartarpur Corridor up to National Highway-354 on the Indian side is being constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
The two countries signed the agreement despite bilateral relationship witnessing a chill following India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August following which Islamabad downgraded ties with New Delhi.