Sikh 'jatha' from India to visit 'Nankana Sahib' in Pak on 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak

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New Delhi, Nov 19 (PTI) A Sikh 'jatha' from India will visit 'Janam Asthan Gurdwara Nankana Sahib' in Pakistan from November 27 to December 1 on the occasion of the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the visit will be as per the 1974 bilateral protocol on visit to religious shrines between India and Pakistan.

Asked at an online briefing if the Kartarpur Corridor will be opened for Sikhs to travel to Pakistan on the occasion of the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Srivastava said this and related issues have been discussed in consultation with the concerned authorities in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

'It has been decided that a Sikh Jatha from India will visit 'Janam Asthan Gurdwara Nankana Sahib' from November 27 to December 1 on the occasion of the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji,' he said.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, all health related protocols will be strictly followed, and the size of the Jatha is, therefore, likely to be reduced, he said.

Every year, a large number of Sikh pilgrims from India and different parts of the world gather at the Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak, in Pakistan's Punjab province. This year, the 551st birth anniversary of the Sikhism founder will be marked on November 30.

Asked about a court in Sri Lanka permitting officials to destroy several Indian fishing boats seized in the last few years for allegedly crossing into the island nation territory, Srivastava said, 'We have seen these media reports, as per the information that I have, the 121 boats in question have been deemed unsalvageable by a team from Tamil Nadu and their disposal is to be done through auction.' 'We are presently in close touch with the government of Sri Lanka to take this process forward,' he said.

The government of India has been taking up the issue of release of Indian fishermen and their boats at the highest level, he asserted.

'We have also been taking up the issue through diplomatic channels from time to time and presently the information that I have is that there are no Indian fishermen in custody in Sri Lanka,' Srivastava said.

On the possibility of an air bubble arrangement with Nepal, he said India is exploring such a possibility.

'As far as the land border goes, you would know that from March 2020 onwards since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Nepal stopped the entry of foreigners through the land route and regular entry of foreigners has not been allowed since then, it is only granted in very compelling cases. As per MHA guidelines, Nepalese nationals are allowed to come to India,' Srivastava said.

Asked about Vijay Mallya's extradition from the UK, he said, 'We've been told that there is this confidential legal issue which needs to be addressed and following the completion of the legal issue, Vijay Mallya can be extradited to India.' 'No particular timeline has been indicated to us and we continue to take up this matter with the UK authorities,' Srivastava said. PTI ASK TDS TDS