The Indian authorities seem intent on making attempts to demean and malign Pakistan. After the entire Jadhav family episode and India painting it as a Pakistani propaganda setup, a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday that India has now postponed the issuance of visas to 192 Pakistani pilgrims. These pilgrims wished to attend the annual Urs of Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia, which is to take place in Delhi from January 1-8, 2018.
This is a gross violation of the spirit of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines agreement. According to this agreement, both countries will accommodate visitors wanting to cross the border to pay a visit to the religious shrines. This is not the first time the Indian government has indulged in the violation of the agreement. In June this year, several Sikh pilgrims travelling to Pakistan for the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev were stopped by the Indian government despite issuance of visas by the Pakistani High Commission. Later in the same month, India stopped over 300 Sikh pilgrims, who wished to attend the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, citing refusal from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to clear their names for travel.
Whereas Pakistan on the other hand has been nothing short of a good neighbour. Just a few days back, Pakistan freed 145 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture despite the war of words going on between the two countries.
Pakistan, time and again, has proved that it wants to establish peaceful relations with its neighbours but Indian authorities refuse to get past the traumatic and hateful past. Even on the day of Jadhav meeting his family, India launched an attack on the LOC. This is a proof of how they do not want to play their part in improving regional ties, and want to paint Pakistan as the terrorist hub, and a country unable to fathom human rights.
However, they must not forget that these activities are not hidden from the rest of the world. Instead of accusing Pakistan and carrying on the anti-Pakistan propaganda, they should consider reciprocating the goodwill gestures of Pakistan. They can start by allowing visits to religious shrines because they hold a lot of sentimental value for people on both sides of the border. Despite national disagreement, local cultures and religions span borders – that should not be impeded at any cost.