- First batch of pilgrims includes Manmohan Singh, Amarinder Singh
- Pak PM Imran Khan will declare it open from the other end of the corridor
- Corridor connects Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India to Darbar Sahib in Pak
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today thanked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for "understanding the sentiments of India", ahead of the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor, which will allow Sikh pilgrims to travel to Darbar Sahib in Pakistan. PM Modi will inaugurate the corridor three days before the 550th anniversary of founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. Among the first group of 550 pilgrims who will travel to Kartarpur are former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, actor-politician Sunny Deol, and Union Ministers Hardeep Puri and Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu, who too was given political clearance to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib by the foreign ministry on Thursday, reached the Integrated Check Post.
"After the construction of this corridor, Gurudwara Darbar Sahib (in Kartarpur, Pakistan) will become easily accessible to Sikh pilgrims. I express my gratitude to the Punjab Government, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee and every partner who helped built this corridor in due time," PM Modi said at the Dera Baba Nanak shrine, wearing an orange turban.
Pakistan will hold a separate event on the other side of the border, with Mr Khan declaring it open from the other end of the Kartarpur Corridor.
PM Modi will inaugurate the passenger terminal building, also known as Integrated Check Post, where pilgrims will get clearance to travel through the newly-built corridor. Before the inauguration ceremony, the Prime Minister offered prayers at Ber Sahib Gurudwara at Sultanpur Lodhi.
The 4.5 km-long corridor connects Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur with Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, a small town about four km from the International Border, located at Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province. It is the place where the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev is believed to have spent the last 18 years of his life.
The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement but Indian pilgrims are required to carry their passports and will have to just obtain a permit to visit the Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Kartarpur.
After reportedly informing India earlier in the day that it will levy such a "service charge" on all days starting today, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson on Friday tweeted to say that they will abide by Imran Khan's announcement that no fee will be sought on the inaugural day of the Kartarpur Corridor.
India had objected to the $20 service charge that Pakistan said it would impose on Sikh pilgrims. Disagreement over the issue even led to a delay in launching online registration for pilgrims intending to visit the shrine.
PM Modi will participate in a public programme at Dera Baba Nanak after the inauguration.
Dera Baba Nanak is likely to receive some 30,000 pilgrims daily for four days between Friday and Monday. The pilgrims will be accommodated in 544 European-style tents, 100 Swiss cottages and 20 darbar-style tents on a 30-acre plot.
Sikhs from around the world have been arriving in Pakistan ahead of the celebrations for several days already.