Pilgrimage Tourism

Pilgrimage Tourism

Around 200 pilgrims from Pakistan have been denied visas to participate in the death anniversary of Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Awliya by authorities in India. This not only is a travesty but also constitutes a missed or lost opportunity in terms of building peace between India and Pakistan. Moreover, it also goes against the gravamen of pilgrimage tourism. After the partition of the sub continent, many shrines and pilgrimage sites fell on either side of the Indo-Pak divide. However, except for times of extreme tension and stress, pilgrimage tourism was allowed by both sides. Allowing pilgrimage tourism has intrinsic merits: it both just and humane. But, it also potentially can be made to yield political and hence peace dividends. At a time when relations between India and Pakistan are at their lowest ebb, pilgrimage tourism can or should be allowed with full gusto. It can potentially constitute the diplomatic opening for India and Pakistan to gradually normalize their relations. This assertion might sound rather ludicrous to skeptics who would point out to the abyss that the relational dynamic between the counties has plumbed to. But, history demonstrates that in the ebb and flow of nations’ relations, lowest points appear to the best arenas for diplomacy. The same would hold true for India and Pakistan. But, having said this, there is a caveat in order. While good relations for their very own sake are not bad, but essentially or ideally these should constitute a means to an end. The end goal between or in terms of India and Pakistan has to be comprehensive peace between the two. This can only happen when all issues and sticking points that preclude normal or peaceful relations between India and Pakistan are resolved- of course, to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. It amounts to belaboring the obvious that the conflict in and over Kashmir is one major sticking point between the two arch antagonists. This conflict must then be resolved. One strand of conflict resolution theory suggests a staggered approach to conflict resolution which, among other things, means resolving issues of a lower order first and then the higher order ones. However, in the context of Kashmir, India and Pakistan, this approach has patently failed. Prudence and wisdom then suggests, in terms of the Indo Pak dynamic that the most thorny issue be resolved first. The reference obviously is to Kashmir. Let powers that be across the Indo Pak divide grasp the nettles and give comprehensive and lasting peace a chance now. What better way than to begin with pilgrimage tourism.