Tense relationship between Pakistan and India hit a new low because of Indian PM Modi

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Tense relationship between Pakistan and India hit a new low because of Indian PM Modi

*LAHORE: *

The perennially tense relationship between India and Pakistan has hit a new low during the Covid-19 health crisis. While Islamabad continues to allow Sikhs and Hindus to cross the border to perform religious rituals, the Narendra Modi government remains rigid in its policies towards pilgrims from Pakistan.

According to detail available with The Express Tribune, the Indian government has stopped issuing visas to pilgrims from Pakistan. “Pilgrimage visas to India are not being processed,” confirmed a resident of Lahore, who wishes to cross the border for an upcoming Urs of a revered saint.

Despite India’s refusal to allow pilgrims from Pakistan, the government in Islamabad has recently issued visas to members of the Sikh community. The move allowed more than 600 Sikh pilgrims to visit Nankana Sahib for the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak last week.

The exchange of pilgrims and uninterrupted religious tourism between the two rivals was sealed in an agreement more than four decades ago. Under the pact, Pakistan promised to issue visas for Sikh and Hindu religious events. Similarly, New Delhi also agreed to issue visas to Pakistani pilgrims for the annual Urs of revered saints, who are mostly buried across the border in India.

“India has never followed the agreement on religious tourism,” said Imran Siddiqui, spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs. Siddiqui confirmed no visas were issued to Pakistani pilgrims this year.

India, he said, is using the pandemic as an excuse to restrict Sikh pilgrims from visiting Pakistan. On the other side of the border, Devika Mittal, a senior professor at the University of Delhi and a human rights activist, also believes that religious tourism must continue.