India on Friday said there is an interest on both the Indian and Pakistani sides to expand the agreed list of shrines and mode of travel under the 1974 protocol for visits to religious places, asserting that it has a positive approach on the matter and is willing to engage with Islamabad on it.
The assertion comes days after a prominent Hindu lawmaker from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's ruling party urged India to issue visas to a delegation of pilgrims to visit the country as part of his faith tourism initiative between the two neighbours.
Patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council and member of the National Assembly Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani has said he would lead a delegation of Pakistani pilgrims to India on January 29 on a special chartered flight of the Pakistan Airlines International (PIA).
Asked about India's stand on the issue and if approvals had been given, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "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, he said.
"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 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the situation normalises, we expect that this time can be utilised to hold discussions under the bilateral Protocol," Mr Bagchi said.
"It is our hope to facilitate early exchange of visits to all shrines of interest to pilgrims," he said.