Sun, 12 Jul 2020

Hundreds of Indian Sikhs crossed over to Pakistan on November 9 to visit a shrine, a rare instance of cooperation between the countries amid heightened tensions over Kashmir.

The border crossing pact between the nuclear-armed neighbors allows 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, died.

Among the first pilgrims to cross over into Pakistan's Punjab Province from the town of Dera Baba Nanak in India was former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who told Pakistani state media that it was a 'big moment.'

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

They came close to a fourth in February after a suicide bomb attack by a Pakistan-based militant group killed scores of Indian paramilitary police in the Indian part of the disputed Kashmir region, which both countries claim.

Relations have been especially tense since August, when India stripped autonomy and statehood from its portion of Kashmir.

Pakistan reacted by cutting trade and transport ties and expelling India's ambassador.

The Punjab region, the ancestral home of the Sikh faith, was split between India and Pakistan when the subcontinent gained its independence.

Many Sikhs then migrated to India.

Sikhs in India have sought easier access to holy sites in Pakistan ever since.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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