Religious dialogue as a peace building tool between India and Pakistan : the Ulema as peace builders

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Kasbekar, Durgesh
International Relations
Peace Building
Religious Dialogue
Religious Peace Building
Religion played a critical role in the creation of the State of Pakistan. However, religious dialogue has never been considered as a means of peace building between India and Pakistan. This dissertation probes the rationale and possibility of religious dialogue as a peace-building tool between the two countries. It identifies the ulema as cross-border actors who are best suited to communicate on this subject and probes the nature of religious dialogue between Indian and Pakistani ulema on the topic of peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims. Ethnographic research of the Indian ulema reveals that the community is socially, politically, and ideologically fragmented. Although there has been no interreligious dialogue between the ulema of the two countries, they jointly participated in two international peace conferences in India. Also, as nonstate religious actors, the Indian ulema have developed a syncretic culture with the Hindu community and can initiate religious dialogue with their Pakistani counterparts. This offers scope for religious peace building between the two countries, shifting the dialogue from an India–Pakistan framework to a Hindu–Muslim framework. The religion in international relations theory, which identifies religion as the blind spot in international relations, lends support to such a dialogue. Strongly supported by the international relations theories of neoliberalism and constructivism, religious peace building offers opportunity for hope and experimentation. By aiming to reduce the trust deficit associated with a Hindu–Muslim civilizational cleavage, religious peace building fills a gap in the literature on India–Pakistan relations. However, the feasibility of religious dialogue, which looks weak, completely hinges on the ulema’s capacity to rise above preoccupations, personal ambitions, and disunity.
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