Pakistan and India have agreed to "expeditiously" work out issues related to a new border crossing that would allow Sikh pilgrims visa-free access to one of their holiest temples in Pakistan.
High-level delegations from the two nuclear-armed rival countries met Sunday on the Pakistani side of the Wagah border checkpoint to discuss what is named the "Kartarpur Corridor." The number and safety of pilgrims as well as infrastructure were among the issues on the agenda.
The temple, known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, is one of the holiest sites in Sikhism and it is believed to have been built on the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion, who died in the 16th Century.
The chief of the Pakistani delegation told a post-meeting news conference that both sides have resolved most of the issues and another meeting would be required before a final agreement is reached.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal, center, briefs the media before the meeting with Indian officials at Wagah border, near Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, July 14, 2019.
"We had in-depth and productive discussions on the proposed draft agreement and agreed to expeditiously finalize the modalities for operationalizing the Kartarpur Corridor in time for the 550 the anniversary celebrations," Mohammad Faisal said.
India and Pakistan are aiming to make the corridor operational by November, ahead of the commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
India's Sikh minority community has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur. Currently, pilgrims must must first secure visas, travel to the eastern city of Lahore or other major Pakistani destinations before driving to Kartarpur. Political tensions between India and Pakistan often make it difficult for citizens of both the countries to secure timely visas.
Indian officials from Ministry for External Affairs arrive after crossing the border for a meeting with Pakistani officials at Wagah border, near Lahore, Pakistan, July 14, 2019. VOA
Pakistan and India agreed late last year to open the Kartarpur corridor, which will lead from the Indian border straight to the temple, with sides fenced off.
The progress toward opening the new border crossing later this year marks a rare instance of cooperation between the two countries, which have fought three wars against each other and came close to a fourth one in February this year.
Most of the conflicts stemmed from the divided Kashmir region, claimed by both sides in its entirety, and it continues to be the primary source of regional tensions. (VOA)