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Pak pilgrims meet J&K CM

By Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar
April 09, 2008 19:01 IST
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Hindu pilgrims from Pakistan called on Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in Jammu on Wednesday, after completing their pilgrimage to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.

The chief minister welcomed the 52 pilgrims from Pakistan and hoped that the "frequency of such visits would be increased in future". "The arrival of the Pakistani pilgrims in the state is a welcome beginning," said Azad.

The chief minister said that he would like to see pilgrims from Pakistan visiting the Amarnath shrine in Kashmir also.

 "Yearning for peaceful and friendly ties between the two countries has always there among the people on both side. The two governments have also realised now that peace in the region and cordial bilateral relations were in the interests of both sides," he said.

"The peace process initiated by the two countries had resulted in closing the mouths of guns and mortars on the border and opening of up a new phase of reconciliation and friendship," Azad said.

The thawing on Indo-Pak relations had come as a relief for the people living in border areas, said the chief minister
"The people to people contact, leading to exchange of journalists, politicians, pilgrims and students further improved the environment. The atmosphere of mistrust was replaced by optimism and trust," Azad said.

This is the first ever visit by Pakistani Hindu pilgrims to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. The pilgrims also met Governor Lieuteant General (Retired) S K Sinha, who called for "hassle free travel for pilgrims and facilitating more people to people contact between India and Pakistan."

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Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar