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NEW DELHI : The Indian government on Tuesday said it was re-opening the Kartarpur corridor that connects Sikh shrines in India and Pakistan, given the decline in covid-19 cases.

The movement of pilgrims from India to Pakistan through the corridor will begin from Wednesday “keeping in view improved covid-19 situation," a statement from the home ministry said.

“In a major decision, that will benefit large numbers of Sikh pilgrims, PM @Narendramodi govt has decided to re-open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from tomorrow, Nov 17. This decision reflects the immense reverence of Modi govt towards Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and our Sikh community," Shah said in a Twitter post.

“The nation is all set to celebrate the Prakash Utsav of Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji on 19th of November and I am sure that PM @NarendraModi govt’s decision to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib corridor will further boost the joy and happiness across the country," Shah said in a second post.

The decision also comes ahead of polls in Punjab next year.

There was no immediate reaction from Pakistan to the Indian decision.

Two years ago, India and Pakistan had opened the Kartarpur corridor, a visa-free border crossing that connects the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to India.

The 4.7-kilometer-long corridor was inaugurated on 9 November, 2019 to commemorate the 550th Parkash Gurpurb (birth anniversary) of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. It is believed that the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib is the final resting place of Guru Nanak. Tense ties between the two countries and the covid-19 pandemic have clouded the travel of Sikh pilgrims wishing to visit the shrine.

According to the home ministry statement on Tuesday, movement through the corridor had been suspended since 16 March, 2020 “on account of the covid-19 pandemic."

“ Shri Kartapur Sahib is a place of devotion for crores of Indians and the decision of the Modi Government to resume operations of the Shri Kartarpur Sahib Corridor shows the sensitivity of the Modi Government towards the Sikh community. This decision of the Modi Government will benefit large number of Sikh pilgrims," the statement said.

Home minister Amit Shah had held a number of review meetings with officials to expedite resumption of the operation of the Corridor at an opportune time, it said.

Pilgrimage through the corridor will be facilitated as per existing procedures and adherence to covid protocols, the statement added.

Last week, the Indian foreign ministry had said that a group of 1,500 Indians will visit Pakistan later this month on a pilgrimage to several Sikh shrines in that country. That group was to travel through the Wagah-Attari border crossing and not through the Kartarpur corridor.

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