Pakistan, harbinger of peace
PAKISTAN is promoting religious vibes in the region by facilitating various ethnic communities.
It is the only country in South Asia where minorities are living in a peaceful way. However, there are certain quarters in the region such as Indian and previous Ghani-led Afghan governments that deliberately and continuously tried to malign Pakistan over flimsy grounds.
On the other hand, Pakistan kept facilitating minorities by giving them their due rights. While out eastern neighbour India is following its traditional Hindutva approach by making the life of minorities, especially the Muslims miserable.
This tendency of BJP is putting regional cooperation in jeopardy. The mindset behind this discriminatory approach of Modi government is trio of Modi-Shah-Doval.
There should be no involvement of extremist religious idea when it comes to bilateral ties of both states. Both India and Pakistan have different religious clots.
Pakistan is Muslim majority state while India is dominated by Hindus. Pakistan is going all out to facilitate minorities including Hindu and Christians. Pakistan has opened different religious sites in the country to allow minorities to perform their religious obligations.
Kartarpur Corridor, Gurdwara of Baba Guru Nanak in Nankana Sahib, Shardha Peth Temple, Katas Raj Temple and Param Raj Samadhi in the KP are practical demonstration of how Pakistan is facilitating minorities. Hundreds of Hindus/Sikhs are visiting Pakistan every year to take part in their religious festivals.
In recent history, the renovation project of Katas Raj temple complex, located at Chakwal in Pakistan’s Punjab province, is another useful example of a failed peacemaking enterprise based on religious sentiment of Indian extremist government. The then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, called the widely celebrated temple restoration, a symbolic gesture to reach out to the Muslim nation’s minority communities and also soften the country’s hard-line image abroad.
To perform religious rites of their respective religions, both countries have signed a treaty in 1974.
The Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines 1974 is a bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan facilitating Indian and Pakistani nationals to visit certain religious shrines in both countries.
As of November 2018, fifteen locations in Pakistan and five in India are covered under this protocol. Pakistan is following the treaty in true spirit by issuing a number of visas to Hindus and Sikhs.
Moreover, India has refused to follow the treaty’s obligation over extremist ideology of Modi government. Indian government is continuously in violation of the protocols of the treaty. It has rejected visa applications of Pakistani nationals to visit religious shrines in India. Likewise, Pakistan has issued visas to 136 Hindu pilgrims.
By issuing visas to Indian citizens, Pakistan has once again demonstrated that how it is promoting inter-faith harmony apart from the political differences. With Pakistan’s open heart support to minorities, a large number of people are also coming from Western states to visit religious sites of Hindus and Sikhs. Pakistan is becoming religious and interfaith harmony hub for minorities. Even, international community and organizations are acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts to promote religious harmony.
At the same time, the RSS mindset in India is promoting religious intolerance by killing Muslims/other minorities in the name of religion. The diminishing concepts of Nuhruvian India are setting bleak future for Indian federation, where it will be difficult for minorities to live peacefully. Whereas RSS mentality in India is destroying the wishes of peace and prosperity.
This mentality exists in the power corridors of India as its Prime Minister himself had been active supporter of RSS to accomplish the concept of “Akhand Bharat”.
As per official reports, Pakistan hosts more than one million Sikh each other year and this trend is continuing since partition of the subcontinent.
Even Pakistani courts have asked government officials to facilitate non-Muslims at maximum level by giving them all their constitutional and fundamental rights. Pakistan has upgraded all religious sites in the country, belonging to Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities.
Likewise, Kartarpur Corridor is regarded as an important peacemaking measure between India and Pakistan. Various international organizations have welcomed the corridor, including the UN.
Drawing from history, opening a pilgrimage corridor or renovating a place of worship, and other such attempts to bridge India and Pakistan using religious sentiment inevitably fail to address the deep-rooted suspicion and anxiety in Indian extremist designs.
The article suggests deeper engagement, including fostering a sustained academic cooperation between the two countries to harness their shared knowledge. These suggestions may also prove beneficial in finding possible answers to the long-term disputes between the two neighbours.
Pakistan’s efforts to respect its diplomatic commitment to open Kartarpur Corridor have set in motion discussions in India regarding how to build on this positive sentiment and respond with a similar peacemaking gesture.
Various groups across political leanings have come up with a number of options that, according to them, could reciprocate Pakistan’s “Kartarpur diplomacy”. The current Indian government is led by a party that adheres to the extremist ideology of Hindutva. Therefore, it is not honouring its commitments on religious independence.
—The writer is Mphil scholar at QAU Islamabad.