Even as official relations between India and Pakistan remain lukewarm, people-to- people relations between the two countries have continued to burgeon. According to the data released by the Indian tourism ministry, 2013 recorded the highest number of tourist arrivals from Pakistan since 2007. The number of tourists from Pakistan touched 111,000; the highest since 2007 when India welcomed 106,000 Pakistani tourists. The dramatic increase in the number is significant given that the tourists’ inflow had diminished to 59,846 in 2012.
Improved opportunities for business and enhanced healthcare facilities in India have contributed to the growth of tourists from Pakistan, say experts. The resilience and growth in tourism amid the persistence of trust deficit at the political level underscores that the popular yearning for peace and friendship transcends the imperatives of geopolitics. The last year, for example, saw bilateral relations coming under strain due to the alleged killing of Indian soldiers at the Line of Control by Pakistani soldiers, that serves as the effective border between the two subcontinental neighbours.
Thaw? Encouraging signs
There has been signs of a thaw under the new leadership in India shepherded by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014. Mr Modi signalled his strategic intent to seek peace with Pakistan by inviting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi May 26. The talks between the two leaders on May 27 were productive and have set the state for warming the relations between the two neighbours, whose ties have been marred by persistent distrust and have yet to recover from the blow inflicted by the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai unleased by 10 Pakistani militants, allegedly with the support of sections of Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment. Expanding tourist and people-to-people contacts should top the agenda of the leaders of the two countries in the months ahead.
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