A request by Pakistan to allow a group of five India-based foreign journalists to travel to Islamabad through Wagah has been declined by Indian authorities as border crossing is virtually closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday. It is learnt that Pakistan planned to take the journalists for interactions with top political leadership and senior officials on the overall situation in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been trying to influence the international narrative on its role in Afghanistan in the face of mounting criticism of Islamabad by the Afghan government for allegedly continuing with its support to the Taliban. At a regional connectivity conference in Tashkent last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hit out at Pakistan for the influx of foreign terrorists into Afghanistan from that country. In presence of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, he also criticised Islamabad for failing to do enough to influence the Taliban to seriously engage in the peace talks.

One of the persons familiar with the development said the visit was planned from August 3 to 7. A group of Afghan journalists visited Pakistan last month and they had interacted with Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad.

The Wagah border crossing point was initially closed for few weeks in March last year and subsequently, the restriction was extended. It is now closed for all other categories of travellers except diplomats and some others. Currently, flight services between India and Pakistan are also suspended due to the pandemic.