India willing to talk to Pakistan on pilgrim flights
- India is positive and willing to engage in talks with Pakistan on religious pilgrimages to allow air travel and increase the number of shrines that pilgrims from both countries could visit.
- Officials to meet to upgrade 1974 protocol on religious travel.
About 1974 protocol
- Both side agreed on the following principles:
- Such visits from one country to the other shall be allowed without discrimination as to religion or sect. The list of shrines to be visited will be finalised shortly through correspondence. The agreed list may be enlarged from time to time by mutual agreement.
- Upto 20 parties may be allowed to visit from one country to the other every year. This number may be revised from time to time.
- Every effort should continue to be made to ensure that places of religious worship mentioned in the agreed list are properly maintained and their sanctity preserved.
- Such visitors will be given Visitor Category visas.
- Pakistan government had sent a proposal from the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) to allow a group of 170 pilgrims to fly directly from Karachi and Lahore to places of worship in India.
- There is an interest on both sides to expand the agreed list of shrines and mode of travel.
- MEA also hoped to secure clearances to transport food aid to Afghanistan over the land to Pakistan, which is otherwise closed, shortly.
Government's current status
- The permissions requested for flights beginning January 29 have not been granted at present.
- Officials on both sides could meet early next week to iron out the details of how to upgrade the protocols which mandate up to 20 visits by eachside including Hindu, Muslim and Sikh pilgrims.
- The new proposal sent by the PHC calls for pilgrim flights every month from each country to the other side, to give a push to its “faith tourism initiative”.
Recent Happy happening
After Kartarpur reopening:
- Indian national Sika Khan, who had reunited with his brother(Pakistani national Muhammed Siddique after their separation during Partition) at Kartar pur this month.
- The story of the two brothers is a powerful illustration of how the historic opening of the visa free Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in November 2019 by Pakistan is bringing people closer to each other.