India-Pakistan : Religious Exchanges – UPSC GS2

Context: Pakistan Hindu Council has sent a proposal to India to allow pilgrims of both countries to travel by air to avoid complicated procedures.
Existing religious exchanges between India-Pakistan:
  • Kartarpur corridor came up in 2019 due to attempts made by both governments. This was the year when the two countries nearly went to war over the Pulwama attack.
  • Religious exchanges between both countries are governed by a protocol signed in 1974.
  • Routes for Sikh pilgrims from Punjab to the Pakistani Punjab province are easy. But pilgrims who cross over at the Wagah/Atari border to travel to the Hinglaj Mata Mandir in Balochistan, the Paramhans Mandir in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Ajmer Sharif dargah in Rajasthan, the Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi faced difficulty due to complex routes.

What is the new proposal from Pakistan?
  • The Pakistan Hindu Council has signed an MoU with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to facilitate faith-based tour groups.
  • It has asked that PIA charters from Karachi and Lahore be allowed to fly direct to Indian cities.
  • It has proposed this with a view of reciprocal air charters from India. This is the first time ever that pilgrimages would be given this facility.
Why is the present state of India-Pakistan relations?
  • India-Pakistan ties are at worst currently even when there is peace. There is no political dialogue at a bilateral or multilateral level for over five years.
  • Due to many attacks, India has stopped normal communications and cultural exchanges. Pakistan also stopped all trade ties after the Government’s moves on Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Both countries have also reduced their diplomatic missions.
  • COVID-19 pandemic has further resulted in the virtual sealing of borders. Now, only a few direct routes are operating.

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