ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan and India are close to an agreement that would open a corridor and new border crossing to allow Sikh pilgrims to visit one of their holiest shrines despite Kashmir tensions, officials in Islamabad said.
“We hope to sign a deal in coming weeks to open the corridor by November,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Mohamed Faisal, said in a statement late Wednesday.
Pakistani and Indian diplomats met to discuss the corridor in a rare interaction since a move by New Delhi last month to strip the disputed region of Kashmir of its special autonomy.
The corridor is meant to allow Sikh pilgrims from India to visit Kartarpur Sahib in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab.
Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, spent the last 18 years of his life and died at Kartarpur Sahib, which is now in Pakistan.
The followers of the Sikh faith live in both countries and often face difficulties visiting their shrines due to tensions between Pakistan and India.
The project, hailed as a peace corridor, has survived current tensions. Diplomatic relations between the nuclear-armed rivals have been downgraded and trade suspended since the Kashmir move.
The announcement comes as foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) urged Pakistani leaders to tone down their rhetoric against India in a visit to Islamabad on Wednesday.
Diplomatic sources told dpa that the ministers’ visit was part of global efforts to avert another conflict between India and Pakistan. The neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory.