*Hindu Rights to Survive with Dignity & Sovereignty *Join Hindu Freedom Movement to make Bharat Hindu Rashtra within 2025 *Jai Shri Ram *Jayatu Jayatu Hindu Rashtram *Editor: Upananda Brahmachari.
Sachin Parashar | TNN | New Delhi | Jan 29, 2022:: Even as bilateral ties with Pakistan remain in deep freeze, India is looking to build on the goodwill created by religious tourism by expanding the agreed list of shrines pilgrims from both sides are allowed to visit. India proposed the same to Pakistan in a note verbale Friday saying that pilgrims be also allowed to travel by air.
The government said Friday it had a positive approach to the issue and was willing to engage Islamabad. India believes an early implementation of the proposal will help both Sikhs and Hindus who are keen to visit pilgrimage centres in Pakistan.
The foreign ministry also confirmed Friday India will begin supply of wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan soon.
“As you are aware, under the 1974 Protocol between India and Pakistan, visits to religious shrines are being facilitated regularly. There is an interest on both sides to expand the agreed list of shrines and mode of travel. It naturally needs to be discussed under the Protocol,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
“Let me underline that India has a positive approach on this matter and is willing to engage the Pakistani side,” he added.
The official also said that, as the pandemic situation normalised, India expected this time to be utilised for discussions under the bilateral Protocol. “It is our hope to facilitate early exchange of visits to all shrines of interest to pilgrims,” he said.
Both countries have been looking to facilitate visits by pilgrims since the Kartarpur Corridor reopened last year. Pakistan had last month issued visas to 112 Indian pilgrims allowing them to visit a Hindu temple in Pakistan Punjab.
Religious tourism and humanitarian issues have kept diplomats on both sides occupied even in the absence of any substantive bilateral engagement between the 2 countries. Visits by pilgrims under the 1974 Protocol have continued despite the occasional disruption like in 2018 when India denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims following the strife over the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. A mechanism to facilitate religious tourism was among the 5 agreements that PM Narendra Modi had reached in 2015 with his then counterpart Nawaz Sharif in a bilateral meeting in Russia.
India is currently also working with Pakistan to supply wheat to Afghanistan through the Attari-Wagah land route. The government said Friday it was hoping to begin the delivery soon and that it remained committed to providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
“The process to procure wheat and to arrange its transportation is currently underway. Naturally, this takes some time. We will share the updates as soon as we have them. We hope to be able to do it shortly,” said Bagchi.