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Arvind asked: Can't Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Dargah Ajmer Sharif rightly be termed as 'Shrine Diplomacy’?

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  • Reply: A direct answer to the question would be an emphatic 'No', because he did not plan to undertake the Shrine to build bridges with India. Zardari's primary purpose was to pay a visit to the dargah in his personal capacity. Given his position as the President of Pakistan, his meeting with the Indian Prime Minister must have been factored in, however, while contemplating such a visit. Such visits assume significance when they lead to unexpected political outcomes. In this case, even if Zardari's visit was a personal one, it did have some balming effect on Indo-Pak relations and reinforced the process of dialogue that was recovering from the shocks of both Mumbai attacks and the unnecessary diplomatic assault from the then Pakistani foreign minister in July 2010. The resumed dialogue process gathered some pace after the visit, though it had already started gathering momentum since the November 2011 announcement of (working towards) granting of MFN status to India by end 2012. It would be incorrect to say that he undertook the shrine visit to cement ties with India.