People to people contacts

THERE is no let up on the part of Indian government to whip up tension with Pakistan. On the one side it is breaking all records of brutality in occupied Kashmir and has increased ceasefire violations on the line of control and the working boundary and on the other side, it is also bent upon hurting the diplomatic relations and people to people contacts.
A day after Pakistan called back its envoy from New Delhi after incidents of harassment of its diplomatic staff, there are now reports that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad is also reluctant not to issue visas to Pakistanis desiring to visit the neighbouring country to participate in the annual Urs of Ajmer Sharif which is scheduled to begin on March 19. There is a 1947 pact between Pakistan and India which stipulates issuance of special visas to citizens of the two countries to attend pilgrimage and celebrations at religious places. According to the agreement, India is bound to give 500 Pakistani visitors every year to participate in Khawaja Garib Nawaz’s Urs but the Indian High Commission especially in recent times is continuously violating this protocol by refusing visas to Pakistani devotees. Last year also, Pakistani devotees were stopped from attending the URs of Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi. Another 200 hundred Hindu pilgrims were also barred from proceeding to Pakistan in connection with a Hindu festival earlier in February, 2018. In fact India has also tightened its visa regime for the Pakistani patients who are now required to take a letter of recommendation from the Foreign Minister to get the visa. This has forced Pakistan to contact other friendly countries such as Turkey and China for treatment of its patients suffering from deadly diseases particularly for liver transplant. The fact of the matter is that Modi government is politicizing even the humanitarian matters much for the desperation of those who want to see the two countries improve their relations for the sake of regional peace and prosperity. Whilst the saner elements in India are now openly criticizing Modi’s policies, it is also time they force their government not to close the doors of people to people contacts with Pakistan and rather sit with it for the resolution of all outstanding disputes. Indeed people to people contacts at different levels are important to remove misunderstandings and misperceptions. We, therefore, will suggest that visa regime should be relaxed not only for patients and religious tourists but also for other segments of the society including the students, faculty, artistes and intellectuals. Though nothing good can be expected from Modi, but he needs to understand sooner rather than later that this contact at the people’s level is the way forward to develop bonds of friendship and free the region of hostility.

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