The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tour swap: Taj for Taxila
- Plan to allow Pakistani tourists to visit Agra with a rider

New Delhi, June 30: Pervez Musharraf visited Taj Mahal but Pakistan will have to pay a price for his compatriots to get a glimpse of the monument to love.

If India and Pakistan agree on a package the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC) is planning, passengers on the bus plying between Delhi and Lahore might get to see the Taj Mahal and visit the holy shrine of Ajmer Sharif.

But they will get a glimpse of the marble mausoleum — which the Pakistan President and his wife visited in 2001 — only if Islamabad reciprocates with a similar package for Indian tourists.

The proposal is to include Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, and Taxila, the site of the ancient university.

While there is no separate bus to Agra now, the DTTDC is planning an extension of the current route.

Now, two Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC)-owned Tata buses ply from Delhi to Lahore with a capacity of 34 passengers each.

On the Lahore-Delhi route, the Volvo buses of the Pakistan Tourism Corporation (PTC) ply with a capacity of 39 passengers each. Overall, these buses make four stops a week in Delhi with the DTC buses scheduled for arrival and departure on Thursday and Saturday and the PTC buses scheduled on Wednesday and Friday.

According to sources in the Delhi government, the DTC is planning an expansion in its bus service to Lahore. It all started when Pakistani tourism officials approached DTC chairman A.J.S. Sahni to come up with a proposal that would include Agra and Ajmer Sharif in the journey for Pakistani passengers coming to India.

“They wanted Agra for tourism purpose and Ajmer Sharif for its religious importance. In turn, Delhi Transport Corporation officials made a similar proposal for Pakistan authorities to include Nankana Sahib, which is the birthplace of Guru Nanak, and the ancient university at Taxila, which is of historical interest,” said a Delhi government official.

Senior Delhi government officials said the ministry of external affairs approved of the proposal in principle last month. However, the issue of extending the bus route needs political consensus on both sides of the border. The initial decision to start the Delhi-Lahore bus in 1999 was taken at the level of the Prime Ministers.

Besides, there are several security concerns that are likely to arise once the new route is approved. At the moment, tourist visas are not issued to Pakistanis. Pakistani travellers to India get only city-specific visas and similar is the case with Indians visiting Pakistan. Also, travellers are expected to report to police after their arrival.

Delhi government officials say talks between Indian and Pakistani authorities are going on and once they agree, necessary security arrangements will be in place.

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