It would not be incorrect to state that Pakistan, the host of many sacred Sikh religious destinations, has welcomed the Sikh community. Unfortunately, due to hostile relations with India, the situation has often been such that it has been difficult for Pakistan to provide easy passage for Indian Sikh citizens into Pakistan. Where we have previously tried, in the last few months where Pakistan sent special trains to India to accommodate Sikh pilgrims, India has blocked such access, by not allowing travel vehicles to pass through and sending back empty trains, often causing major inconvenience to its Sikh pilgrims in the process.

Yet, with the seeming turn in Indian-Pak relations, judging from the goodwill correspondence exchanged between Imran Khan and Narendra Modi, it seems that perhaps India will soften its approach towards Sikh pilgrims. Certainly, Pakistan has taken the higher road- the federal government has decided to issue visas to 10,000 Indians intending to come to Pakistan to participate in 550th birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak. This is undoubtedly a landmark decision taken for the first time in history, as in the past only 3000 visas have been issued.

10,000 visas is not an easy task- it means making arrangements, providing security and facilitating travel to 10,000 Sikh pilgrims. It is a huge responsibility for the government to take yet it seems to be living up to it. Punjab Governor Sarwar has confirmed that all projects in Nankana Sahab including renovation of Railway Station is being renovated for the occasion and a commission has been set up to ensure the best security for the pilgrims.

Our government’s efforts are a testament to Pakistan’s goodwill and brotherly relations with the Sikh community. What is masterful about the whole plan is that Pakistan is also deriving its own benefit out of allowing pilgrimage- Sikh leaders have floated the suggestion that it should be made binding on the Sikh pilgrims from India to carry dollars instead of Indian rupee, a proposal that Governor Sarwar has supported. Ensuring dollars instead of the Indian rupee will be beneficial for Pakistan’s economy, as well as for our own rupee currency.

This large pilgrimage ceremony can be a mark of friendship between the Sikh and Muslim communities, and be mutually beneficial for both India and Pakistan. Let us hope both our governments act sensibly and let the occasion happen in peace.