Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the integrated checkpost at the Kartarpur Corridor, first religious link in seven decades between India and Pakistan through here in Gurdaspur district.
He simultaneously flagged off the first lot of high-profile 500 pilgrims to visit Darbar Sahib Gurdwara, also called Kartarpur Sahib, the last resting place of the founder of Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev, in Pakistan.
The inauguration of the integrated checkpost facilitates pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib from dawn to dusk without possessing a visa. However, online registration by a devotee before travelling, carrying a passport and paying a service fee of $20 are must.
India signed an agreement with Pakistan on October 24 on the modalities for operationalisation of the 4.2 km-long four-lane Kartarpur Sahib Corridor at the Zero Point on the international boundary.
The two countries have already agreed to 5,000 Indian pilgrims based on their faith travelling daily without restrictions, throughout the year.
Officials told on Sunday that initially arrangements have been made for the daily travel of 500 pilgrims.
Gurdeep Singh, who has just returned after praying at Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, was impressed with the hospitality and arrangements made by the Pakistan authorities.
"We crossed the Integrated Check Post early in the morning. After spending many hours there, we returned to India before the sunset," he told .
He said the Pakistani authorities welcomed Indian pilgrims warmly and there were no restrictions placed on their free movement.
"You can spend as much time as you can. There is a free 'langar' (community kitchen) facility and there is a provision of free golf cart service for transportation from the border to the gurdwara," another devotee, Satnam Singh, said.
Dismissing speculation on the issue, he said there was no stamping of passport of the visiting devotees by the Pakistan immigration officials.
The inauguration of the integrated checkpost comes ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak which falls on November 12.
The first batch of pilgrims that visited this gurdwara in Pakistan included Akal Takhat Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, and former Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Members of the Shriomani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and all the 117 legislators and MPs from Punjab were also part of the delegation.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who inaugurated the corridor on his side on Saturday, congratulated the Sikh community on the Guru's 550th birth anniversary and said the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is a testimony to Pakistan's commitment to regional peace.
As per the agreement, Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor, while persons of Indian origin need to carry their OCI card along with the passport of their country.
The pilgrims, who need to travel in the morning are required to return the same day, and the corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance.
( With inputs from IANS )