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India, Pakistan sign pact on cross-border temple visits

India, Pakistan sign pact on cross-border temple visits

India and Pakistan made easier for pilgrims to visit the sacred place, Sikh shrine in Pakistan. The respective agreement on Thursday was signed by both countries in Kartarpur. Since November 9, the Indian pilgrims don’t need a visa to cross the border to a Sikh shrine.

The signing pact on easing the temple visits became a rare example of cooperation between the nuclear-armed rivals, India and Pakistan. Especially, at a time of tension and clashes elsewhere on their border.

The agreement will introduce 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, passed away.

“Today is a day of celebration,” Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told a signing ceremony in Kartarpur. He signed the agreement on behalf of Pakistan with an Indian official.

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan will formally open the border to pilgrims on November 9, Faisal confirmed and confessed that reaching that accord was a result of “very, very difficult and tough negotiations with India”. Unfortunately, the history of both countries doesn’t make it easy.

According to Faisal, the $20 was a service charge, not a fee, and pilgrims would just have to present their passports, which would be quickly scanned, to cross in.

The inauguration of the crossing point comes just before the 550th birthday of Sikhism’s founder on November 12.

Indian-Pakistani relations were never easy but countries cooperate

The pact comes at a time of considerable tension between the rivals, with Pakistan particularly aggrieved over recent Indian government measures in its part of the divided Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.

The Sikh minority in India has long sought easier access to the temple, which is just over the border in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The sacred place, Sikh shrine, is about 4 km from the border.