ISLAMABAD (DAWN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – It may seem impossible at this point in time. But in the larger perspective, small steps can go a long way in easing the complex Pakistan-India relations.
Analysts have often noted that if positive action is taken on ‘soft’ issues, the trickier challenges that have plagued relations in the subcontinent may also be ripe for resolution.
The recent release of Indian fishermen prisoners by Pakistan qualifies as one such step.
Religious visits also fall within the category of doable ‘soft’ solutions, and proponents of peace on both sides have long been saying that pilgrimages to sacred sites in India and Pakistan should be facilitated.
In this regard, the reopening of the Kartarpur corridor is a welcome sign.
The gurdwara – sacred to Sikhs for its connection to their religion’s founder Guru Nanak – located in Pakistan was renovated and opened with much fanfare in 2019.
The move was appreciated by Sikhs across the world, including in India, and the opening ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.
However, the visa-free corridor facility was closed last year due to Covid-19. Now, with the reopening announced by the Indian side, it is hoped that Sikh pilgrims are allowed to visit the sacred site freely.
Of course, matters in the subcontinent – especially involving bilateral peace – move very slowly, and expecting breakthroughs based on developments like the Kartarpur reopening are unrealistic.
Moreover, the fact remains that a great deal of mistrust exists between Islamabad and Delhi, fuelled by the Modi government’s anti-Muslim posture, particularly the troubling situation that has prevailed in India-held Kashmir for over two years now.
However, dialogue is the only way forward, and as mentioned here, working on soft issues may one day lead to more substantial talks.
Other religious sites of interest to Hindu and Sikh pilgrims should be opened up in Pakistan, while India should allow easy access to Ajmer and other holy sites to Pakistanis wishing to pay their respects.
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