The change of government in Pakistan has given a new lease of hope in the matter of religious tourism between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, local media reports have informed.
Tense relations between India and Pakistan have, in the past, affected people-to-people contacts particularly bilateral exchanges regarding religious tourism since last December after India accused Pakistan of harassing Kulbhushan Jadhav’s wife and mother, who visited Islamabad to meet the convicted Indian spy.
Under the bilateral agreement of 1974, both countries had decided to allow each other’s nationals to visit religious site every year to promote people-to-people contact and tourism. However, implementation of the agreement has unfortunately been poor and since last December as a number of aspiring Pakistani pilgrims could not travel across the border to participate in events related to annual Urs of Sufi saints due to tensions.
The ray of positivity was experienced when the new Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government invited applications from people to attend the annual Urs of Ajmer Sharif, scheduled to be held in India from March 17 to 18 next year.
Pakistani officials are hopeful that this time the Indian government would not refuse visas to Pakistani pilgrims under the current positive environment.
The PTI government has already announced that it was planning to open the Kartarpur crossing to allow Sikh pilgrims to visit the place, where their spiritual leader breathed his last on the Pakistani side of the border.
The government has also floated the idea of establishing a specific visa-free corridor to allow Sikh pilgrims to visit. The announcement came from former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was given this news by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan.