On Thursday, India and Pakistan conceded to progress with a new border crossing and route for Sikh pilgrims to visit a holy temple in Pakistan, a rare hint of collaboration after tension erupted over the neighbors’ years-old Kashmir conflict.
The meeting was the first between the nuclear-armed enemies since a dogfight between the warplanes of the two countries took place over the Himalayan region last month, which eventually led to the shooting down of an Indian aircraft and the capture of its pilot, and releasing the pilot as a sign of peace gesture.
“Both sides held thorough and meticulous discussions,” the two nations stated during a joint statement after the officials of the two nations met on Thursday at the Wagah checkpoint on their border to figure out the details of the crossing and the route.
The discussions were gracious and another meeting of technical experts is scheduled for next week. Moreover, both sides had admitted working toward making the route functional very soon.
The Sikh minority community in India’s northern state of Punjab and abroad has long wanted easier entry to the temple in Kartarpur, a village that is just over the border in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Many Sikhs observe Pakistan as the place where their religion began: its founder, as Guru Nanak, was born there in 1469 in a small village near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.
However, to reach there, travelers need to first secure hard-to-acquire visas, travel to Lahore or some other important Pakistani city and then head to the village that is just 4 km away from the Indian border.
This week’s discussions follow an accord the neighbors reached last year to open a new path, the Kartarpur corridor, which would allow the pilgrims direct and visa-free access to the holy site that will be partitioned.