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India, Pakistan officials meet to discuss border opening for Sikh pilgrims

  • Thu, 14 Mar 2019 18:36
Thu, 2019-03-14 08:12

NEW DELHI: Officials from India and Pakistan met Thursday amid easing tensions to discuss opening a visa-free border crossing to allow pilgrims to easily visit a Sikh shrine just inside Pakistan.
India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the talks started after a Pakistani delegation crossed over to the Indian side. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal is heading the Pakistani delegation.
Instead of visas, the two countries plan to give special permits to devotees to access the shrine, the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal border district.
Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, had settled in what is now Pakistan’s Kartarpur, where he spent the last 18 years of his life. The shrine was built after Guru Nanak died in 16th century.
The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border. Indian Sikhs often gather on bluffs to view the site from the Indian side.
It’s unclear how long the construction of a border corridor would take or when the crossing will actually open.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared last month after a suicide attack killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. The Indian air force launched an airstrike inside Pakistan, saying it was targeting militants it blamed for the bombing.
Pakistan retaliated and said it shot down two Indian air force planes. One pilot was captured and later released. India says it lost only one plane. Tensions have eased since.

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