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Pakistan opens Kartarpur border for Indian Sikh pilgrims

A Sikh pilgrim shows his documents to police before crossing over to Pakistan for the inauguration ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Dera Baba Nanak on November 9, 2019. (AFP Photo)

Pakistan on Saturday opened a key border crossing with neighboring India for Sikh pilgrims ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, founder of their religion.

With a giant gate opened with a clutter at Zero Point -- a border that connects Pakistan's northeastern Narowal district to Indian Gurdaspir city -- a group of Sikh pilgrims, men and women, led by former Indian Premier Manmohan Singh entered Pakistani side of the border to mark the official opening of the crossing.

"This is a historic moment," the two-time Indian premier told reporters in a brief talk, thanking Prime Minister Imran for "understanding India's wishes and turning Kartarpur into reality".

The delegation also included Chief Minister of India's Punjab state Amrindar Singh, and other dignitaries.

Footage aired on state-run Pakistan Television showed the pilgrims being taken to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara -- the death place of Baba Guru Nanak who died in 1539 -- via shuttle service.

Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara situated in Narowal district -- some 115 km (71 mi) from the provincial capital Lahore -- is one of the most revered places for the Sikh community as Baba Guru Nanak spent last 18 years of his life there.

The distance between Kartarpur and the town of Gurdaspur in India is merely 3 km (2 mi). But the closure of this crossing meant that Sikh pilgrims from India had to travel, hundreds of kilometers to cross the border at Wagah, near Amritsar and then travel to Lahore, to reach Kartarpur.

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