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India ready to engage with Pakistan on expanding list of pilgrimage sites, mode of travel: MEA

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said once the Covid restrictions are lifted, discussion can be expected on expanding the list of pilgrimage sites under the 1974 protocol.

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New Delhi: It is good news for pilgrims in India and Pakistan who wish to visit their respective religious sites on either side. India and Pakistan have shown interest in opening up more sites and mode of travel for pilgrims.

There is an existing protocol to facilitate pilgrims on both sides. However, there is reportedly a new proposal to expand the number of sites and mode of travel.

India has a positive approach and is ready to engage with Pakistan on the issue, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during the weekly media briefing.

“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,” he said.

According to Pakistan media reports, Pakistan Hindu Council has proposed to fly 160 Pakistani Hindu pilgrims from Karachi to Jaipur and the trip has been postponed due to “non-clearance” from the Indian side.

India has said that the expansion of the list of pilgrimage sites needs discussion and once the covid restrictions are lifted then there can be talks on the issue under the 1974 protocol.

“It naturally needs to be discussed under the protocol. Let me underline India has a positive approach on this matter and is willing to engage with the Pakistani side. You are also aware restrictions are in place on movement and gathering in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the situation normalises we expect that time can be utilised to hold a discussion,” Bagchi said.

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