India-Pakistan corridor set to open for Sikh pilgrims

About 5,000 devotees will be able to use the corridor to visit Sikh shrines dedicated to Guru Nanak in Pakistan.

    The Sikh faith began in the 15th century in the city of Lahore, which is now part of Pakistan, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that preached equality [Getty Images]
    The Sikh faith began in the 15th century in the city of Lahore, which is now part of Pakistan, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that preached equality [Getty Images]

    After decades of diplomatic tensions, members of India's Sikh community will be able to visit one of their religion's holiest sites by being able to cross the border with Pakistan without a visa.

    The Kartarpur corridor, a 4.7-kilometre (2.9-mile) long passage that connects the Sikh temples of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (in India's Gurdaspur) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (in Kartarpur, Pakistan), will be inaugurated on Saturday.

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    According to the agreement, about 5,000 devotees from India will be able to use the corridor and visit, in Pakistan, the place where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, died at the start of the 16th century.

    This agreement will mark a landmark moment as it will be the first time since the partition of British India in 1947 that pilgrims are able to travel between the two temples.

    "They are very excited," custodian of the Kartarpur Shrine Ramesh Singh Arora told AFP on Thursday, saying he hoped the initiative would pave the way for similar access to other Sikh sites in Pakistan in the future.

    "If you look at the history, the foundation of Sikhism is from Pakistan."

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will see off the first group of pilgrims, and they will be welcomed by his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan at the shrine.

    'Emotional moment' 

    The opening comes just days ahead of Guru Nanak's 550th birthday on November 12, which is marked with celebrations by millions of Sikhs around the world.

    "For over 70 years, pilgrims haven't had the chance to cross over, to come over, and that is just ... it's just ... it's going to be a really emotional moment," said Karan Deep Singh, a pilgrim from Malaysia.

    Others hoped the corridor would help mend ties between the rivals after years of hostility.

    "It should improve and I'm hoping that it will improve. Definitely. Because the goodwill is oozing," said Bhajan Singh Grewal from Australia.

    The Sikh faith began in the 15th century in the city of Lahore, which is now part of Pakistan, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that preached equality.

    There are an estimated 20,000 Sikhs left in Pakistan after millions fled to India following partition in 1947 that sparked the largest mass migration in human history and led to the death of at least a million people.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies