The Indian government has refused to provide security to Pakistani pilgrims visiting the shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer Sharif this time around. Its statement that against the ‘backdrop to the ongoing friction’ between the two countries, their safety cannot be guaranteed looks more of an excuse. By making this allusion to the friction, it is obvious that a reference is being made to Sarabjit Singh.

Granted how the issue was blown out of proportion in the Indian media and in political circles, it had the intended effect; some anxiety within the general public was registered, but it is inconceivable that the issue would be used as a pretext for denying security to the pilgrims. The duty of the Indian government to remain unbiased at least where pilgrims are concerned has a moral and ethical side to it as well. Besides, it is not only Pakistani travelers who go over to Ajmer Sharif but there are a good many pilgrims from India who come over across the border each year to pay homage at their places of worship. Mutual visits by respective people are meant for praying and worshipping something that should have nothing to do with anything such as conflict over prisoners. The repercussions of sacrificing cultural exchanges at the altar of politics would be negative. A Sufi and his shrine are places where people go to find inner peace hoping to get a moment of solace from the hustle and bustle of the world around them. What could be worse than denying the faithful this much consolation.

New Delhi, it seems is making a big deal of it. Perhaps, the revenge killing of Sanaullah was also not enough to cool things down. The propensity of sabotaging virtually all facets of the relationship the moment some irritant crops up is again manifest. Ultimately, what we are dealing with is a very capricious neighbour. Involving Sufi shrines and pilgrims’ security into the game of state animosity is shameful. India must reconsider its decision.