Peshawar: A delegation of Pakistani Hindus will visit shrines in India later this month, officials said here on Sunday, as the government encourages religious tourism for minorities in the country.

Chief of Pakistan Hindu Council Ramesh Kumar called the move a “big step towards normalisation of ties between India and Pakistan”, setting the tone of the new year.

The delegation is expected to reach India on January 20 and a host of temples are scheduled in the itinerary. However, details on which temples would be visited and how many pilgrims would be in the visiting group is yet to be finalised.

Kumar said more such exchanges of “religious tourists” are being planned between the countries.

Over 200 Hindu pilgrims from India, the US and the Gulf region prayed at the 100-year-old renovated Maharaja Paramhans Ji mandir in northwest Pakistan on Sunday.

The group reached the temple in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday, amidst extensive planning by the local and federal governments – deploying 600 security personnel, setting up shelter areas and easing clearance of travel documents.

Among the delegation, 157 ‘yatris’ are from India who performed their rituals and left for holy sites in Hasan Abdal in Punjab province on Sunday.

The ‘yatris’ will stay in Pakistan for four days and are also scheduled to meet the Federal Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser

Similarly, last year in November a group of 60 Pakistani devotees visited Nizamuddin Auliya shrine in New Delhi as part of the annual Urs – commemorating the death anniversary of a Sufi saint.

Kumar said these religious exchanges are being organised under the aegis of ‘faith tourism’.

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