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Pakistani Pilgrims’ Visit to India Delayed Due to COVID-19 Restrictions

Vankwani in a video message on Wednesday said that a group of 170 pilgrims, who were ready to go to India by a special flight of Pakistan International Airline (PIA), were waiting for approval by New Delhi

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Mahima Rabia
Mahima Rabia
Journalism student covering India

INDIA: Hours after India agreed to engage in talks with Pakistan on allowing air travel of pilgrims under the 1974 protocol, Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the Patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council and lawmaker of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party has announced a delay in the visit of Pakistani pilgrims to India later on Friday. 

“The visit has been delayed as India needs time to make arrangements due to the Covid-19 situation but it has not been canceled,” said Dr. Vankwani, urging people to register for the trip.

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The talks were to take place in the backdrop of damaged bilateral ties between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism. 

The ‘Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines’ is a bilateral agreement between India & Pakistan allowing citizens from both sides to visit certain religious shrines in both countries. A total of five such locations in India and fifteen in Pakistan are included under the protocol, as of November 2018. 

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“Let me underline that India has a positive approach on this matter and is willing to engage the Pakistani side. You are also aware that currently, restrictions are in place on movement and gatherings because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the situation normalizes, we expect that this time can be utilized to hold discussions under the bilateral Protocol,” said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. 

The MEA had also stressed that it was expecting to acquire clearances to transport food aid to Afghanistan via the Pakistan land route, which is closed currently. 

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In a video tweet Vankwani clarified rumors regarding the cancellation of the faith tourism trip and said that both governments have welcomed the initiative. Earlier on Wednesday, he had said that 170 Pakistani pilgrims were waiting for approval by New Delhi to visit India by a special flight of Pakistan International Airline (PIA).

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad had said that trip was an initiative by Pakistan Hindu Council to promote faith tourism.

Also Read: India Blocks YouTube Channels Used by Pakistan to Run a Coordinated Disinformation Operation

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