No matter how hostile relations between two countries get, the religious freedoms of their citizens should be kept separate from any inter-state tensions. Unfortunately, it seems India has become so seethed in its hatred for Pakistan that it is willing to impede the religious rights of its own citizens, as it deprives its Sikh citizens of carrying out their religious pilgrimage in Pakistan.

Despite carrying valid visa and travel documents to attend Jorr Mela, a tradition held every year at Nankana Sahib to mark the death anniversary of Guru Arjun Dev, Indian Sikh pilgrims remained stranded at the Attari railway station as they waited for hours for the special train arranged to take them to their location. After delaying to accept and allow the entry of the special train designated to pick up the pilgrims and bring them to Lahore, the Indian authorities finally rejected the entry of the train, causing the pilgrims to wait hours and leaving them finally stranded.

For India to pre-emptively refuse its Sikh citizens to get visas and travel to Pakistan for pilgrimage would have been a hostile and undemocratic move in the first place, considering how sacred a place Nankana Sahib is for the Sikh religion. Yet to impede the process of travel after visas had been issued and the pilgrims had made arrangements for their travel is a travesty, not just to Pakistan but to Indian citizens. Under a bilateral agreem­ent between the two countr­i­­es, Pakistan can issue visas to as many as 500 pilgrims for this event, yet this is not the first time that India has abruptly cut off special travel for pilgrims without an explanation. In 2017, India violated the bilateral agreement by disallowing 80 pilgrims from getting on the special train.

The kindest word that can be used for this interaction is “petty”. The disregard with which India deals with its Sikh pilgrims show that India under Modi is not only discriminatory towards its Muslim citizens- it clearly does not respect Sikh religious traditions either. This agreement should have been a win-win for India; it was a goodwill gesture towards the Sikh community and allowed another passage of diplomacy with Pakistan. If India keeps negating bilateral agreements, which are legally binding in international law, and making irrational abrupt decisions just for spite, it will not have much credibility in its other international dealings as well.