Pakistan had issued around 3,000 visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims on the eve of the 552nd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev from November 17-26. "They [the jatha] will visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Sri Panja Sahib, Dera Sahib, Kartarpur Sahib and Gurdwara Sacha Sauda," said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
"The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has issued around 3,000 visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims to participate in the 552nd birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev ji in Pakistan from November 17-26. During their stay in Pakistan, the Sikh pilgrims will pay obeisance at different gurdwaras, including Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur," read a Pakistan High Commission release.
The move came keeping in view the significance of the upcoming occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, and the sentiments associated with the religious festival.
Guru Nanak Jayanti, also known as Guru Nanak Gurpurab, celebrates the birth of the first Sikh Guru and is considered one of the most sacred festivals among Sikhs. The day is celebrated on the full moon day of the Kartik month as per the Hindu calendar. It is also marked as Kartik Poornima. This year the day falls on November 19.
Earlier this year, Pakistan had denied permission to Sikh pilgrims from India on two occasions in June this year-- one on the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji and the second on the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
The visas of the Sikh pilgrims have been issued under the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, which provides for the visit of Sikh pilgrims from India to Pakistan for the birthday celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev ji.
The 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines between India and Pakistan is a set of principles that was implemented while keeping in view the sentiments and devotion of the various communities in the two countries.
The protocol states that such visits from one country to the other shall be allowed without discrimination as to religion or sect; up to 20 parties may be allowed to visit from one country to the other every year, while the number could be revised from time to time.
Every effort should continue to be made to ensure that the places of religious worship mentioned in the agreed list are properly maintained and their sanctity preserved, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. Thousands of Sikh Pilgrims residing in countries other than India would also be visiting Pakistan to attend the event.
Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, also known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, is located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the Ravi. It is one of the most significant historical and spiritual places for Sikhs.
According to historians, the first Sikh Guru (Guru Nanak Dev) had arrived in Kartarpur between 1520 and 1522 and spent the last 18 years of his life there. In Kartarpur, he laid the foundation of the Sikh religion.
The Kartarpur Corridor connects Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district.
At the time of the India-Pakistan partition, the Line of Control (LoC) had divided the province of Punjab into two parts —one of which remained in India and the other was within the Pakistan borders.
Thus, a lot of Sikh pilgrims could not visit Darbar Sahib Gurdwara without a visa, even though it was merely 4 km away from Indian borders.
In 1999, then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif proposed this corridor under the Delhi-Lahore bus diplomacy.
In 2018, the Government of Pakistan approved the construction of the corridor
On November 26, 2018, Indian Vice President, Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone of the corridor from the Indian side, and two days after, on November 28, 2018, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the fountain from the other side of the border.
On the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Kartarpur Corridor was completed and the first batch of Indian pilgrims was sent to visit their holy pilgrim place
The Kartarpur Corridor was thrown open in 2019. The corridor was built to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism.