Kartarpur (Pakistan): The first batch of the Indian pilgrims entered Pakistan on Saturday through the historic Kartarpur corridor which was thrown open ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.
The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab's Gurdaspur.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first batch of over 500 pilgrims, saying it will be easy to pay obeisance at the Darbar Sahib gurdwara after the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.
Asserting that he is fortunate to be able to dedicate the Kartarpur corridor to the country, Modi said the opening of the corridor and the integrated check post will bring double happiness to the people.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will receive the Indian pilgrims which include former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Akal Takht Jathedar Harpreet Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee members and all the 117 MLAs and MPs from Punjab including ministers are also part of the first 'jatha'.
Prime Minister Khan, who congratulated the Sikh community on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, said the historic opening of the Kartarpur corridor is a testimony to Pakistan's commitment to regional peace.
"We believe that the road to prosperity of region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace," Khan said in his message on the occasion.
"Today we are not only opening the border, but also our hearts for the Sikh community," he said.
Khan said the unprecedented gesture of goodwill from his government was a reflection of its deep respect for Guru Nanak Dev and religious sentiments of the Sikh community.
Pakistan believes that interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence would provide an opportunity to work for larger interests of the people of the sub-continent, he said.
Notwithstanding their strained ties, India and Pakistan signed an agreement last month, paving the way for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor. According to the pact, Pakistan will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.