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Hindu lawmaker from Pakistan’s ruling party has govt backing to start religious tourism with India: sources

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Islamabad, Jan 25 (PTI) An initiative from a prominent Hindu lawmaker from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling party to start religious tourism with India through chartered flights has the support of Pakistan’s Foreign Office, well-placed sources said here on Tuesday, indicating that the proposal is now waiting for approval from New Delhi.

Patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council and Member of National Assembly Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani said on Monday that he would lead a delegation of Pakistani pilgrims to India on January 29 on a special chartered flight of the Pakistan Airlines International (PIA). During their three-day stay in India, the delegation planned to visit Dargah Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, Dargah Khawaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer and the Taj Mahal in Agra.

But diplomatic sources in Islamabad told PTI that the Indian government has not formally consented to Vankwani’s proposal.

“It is purely a private initiative by Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, but he needs consent of the Indian government, which has not been granted as yet,” according to the sources, amidst a chill in bilateral ties between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism.

To a question about the approval of Pakistani authorities to the idea of Vankwani for launching religious tourism with India, the sources just said that “Foreign Office is on board” about the proposal.

In New Delhi, there was no official word on the proposal from the Indian side.

Vankwani, who is currently out of Pakistan, said that he would lead the group of Pakistani devotees to India as part of “faith tourism” between the two countries.

“We have started faith tourism. Every month a flight will go from here (Pakistan) to there (India) and vice versa,” he said in a voice message shared with PTI.

He further explained: “I have started religious tourism between Pakistan and India. I brought people from India, first on November 24 (last year) and then on January 1. Now I am taking a group of pilgrims from Pakistan on January 29 and then I will bring a group from India on February 20 and March 1.” Devotees from India would come to Pakistan by Air India flight and travellers from Pakistan to India would fly by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), he said.

He has not said anything about the composition of the group travelling from Pakistan.

Vankwani said that for the promotion of religious tourism in the region, on February 20 an Air India flight will be operated from New Delhi to Peshawar to bring Indian pilgrims to Samadhi of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj, Teri temple, in Karak area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that a series of flights between the two countries has been started on a monthly basis. He further expressed the hope that the promotion of religious tourism could bring the people of the two countries closer.

The bilateral relations between India and Pakistan have been affected badly over the Kashmir issue and India’s decision to withdraw the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories in August 2019. Pakistan’s support to cross-border terror attacks in India also led to a chill in bilateral ties. PTI SH ZH AKJ ZH ZH

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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