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Saturday Oct 03 2020
Web Desk

Kartarpur Corridor: Pakistan welcomes Sikh pilgrims, but India not yet willing to send them

Web Desk
A view of Kartarpur Corridor road at Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab. Photo Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI: India on Saturday said that it has not yet decided about the reopening of Kartarpur Corridor even though Pakistan has already announced it will allow Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy site.

A notification issued by the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs on Friday had stated that after reviewing an overall improvement in the COVID-19 situation in Pakistan, it had been decided to reopen the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib Corridor with immediate effect.

Quoting an official from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Indian publication Hindustan Times reported that the movement of the pilgrims through the corridor had been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We remain in touch with all concerned authorities, including ministries of home affairs and health and family welfare. A decision on reopening of the corridor would be taken in accordance with the Covid protocol and easing of restrictions,” MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

He also asked Islamabad to complete the construction of a bridge on its side of the border.

Pilgrims asked to comply with COVID-19 SOPs

Indian visitors are welcome to visit daily from dawn to dusk as per a bilateral agreement made in 2019 between India and Pakistan. They have, however, been requested to comply with precautionary measures for COVID-19.

Local visitors will also be able to visit from dawn to dusk every day, subject to the observance of COVID-19 safety protocols.

Visits to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur had been suspended for Sikh pilgrims in March by Pakistan as the country battled the coronavirus pandemic.

It was reopened briefly in June to commemorate Maharaja Ranjit Singh's death anniversary, but India rejected Pakistan's offer and refused to open the corridor on its side.

The first Guru of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak Sahib, had spent the last 18 years of his life in Kartarpur, a town located in Punjab province's Narowal district. For millions of Sikhs around the world, it is one of their holiest places. 

When Pakistan was carved out of colonial India at independence from Britain in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the western side of the border — though most of the region's Sikhs remained on the other side.

For them, Kartarpur Sahib is tantalisingly close — just four kilometres inside Pakistan; so near that Indian Sikhs have been known to stand on the other side and simply gaze across the divide at the site.

Decades of enmity between India and Pakistan left extreme restrictions on their ability to visit the site, until November 10, 2019, when Prime Minister Imran Khan formally inaugurated the corridor.