ISLAMABAD: Hostilities between India and Pakistan are taking a new turn with each passing day, leaving thousands of people on each side of the border vulnerable to the worsening bilateral relations between the two estranged neighbours. The latest to be affected are 503 Pakistani devotees of Sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti.
India has failed to issue visas to Pakistani pilgrims who had wanted to travel to India between March 19th and 29th to participate in the annual Urs of the saint in Ajmer. The visit was to take place under the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines. Not only has the Modi government violated the set protocol it has also deprived pilgrims of taking part in the urs.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that India had used such tactics. Earlier too, India’s failure to grant visas to Pakistanis to perform their religious duties had left many disappointed. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been prompt in issuing visas to Sikh and Hindu pilgrims travelling to the country. As a result, the Indian side should also be obliged to return Pakistan’s favour by issuing, some if not all, visas to Pakistani pilgrims.
More importantly, both countries should keep religion out of their conflict and devise a plan to facilitate pilgrims coming in from either side of the border.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2018.