Corridor of uncertainty

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Dec 2018 13:06:34


By Rahul Dixit,








THERE is a rumour floating from across the border. Pakistan is keen to have peace and “normalisation” of relations with India. The latest bid has its genesis in the foundation stone for the religious corridor between Kartarpur in Pakistan and Gurdaspur in India. It is being touted as the “corridor of hope and goodwill”. As much one wants to believe in this initiative from Pakistan, one is reminded of the falsity behind many such earlier efforts. It is a rumour and will stay a rumour. The Kartarpur corridor, vehemently being insulated as the one-time balm to all the past pain, is full of uncertainty.

The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan — the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev — with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India. It is of immense religious importance to the Sikh community as the link will facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur by obtaining just a permit. However, the conflicting voices from India over Pakistan’s gesture tell a story of the wounds inflicted by Pakistan in more than one instances of backstabbing. The negative legacy of Kargil (1999) and Mumbai terror attacks (2008) is too haunting to fall prey to Pakistan’s peace posturing.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was forthright in reminding Pakistan of the strength of the Indian Army. Capt Singh is no policy-maker in the Central Government but the statement was the sentiment of an Army officer who knows the reality behind Pakistan’s peace overtures. The analogy of fall of Berlin Wall invoked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was more with a hope of Pakistan staying true to its word over opening of Kartarpur border. It should not be seen through a tinted glass. India’s official response over the corridor has put things in perspective. It was an isolated religious programme and should not be linked with anything else. Hence the voices of diffidence, leave aside the naiveté of Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has the habit of gushing over anything at the first hint of personal pleasure.

Scoring political points is strictly out of question in the Kartarpur corridor foundation ceremony. The initiative has to be viewed in isolation, as suggested by Army chief General Bipin Rawat. It cannot be a gateway to bilateral dialogue. Pakistan’s propensity to offer an olive branch with gun in the other hand dilutes all such initiatives. Kargil war after former Prime Minister late Atal Behari Vajpayee’s bus trip to Lahore, Mumbai attacks after a pragmatic peace deal over Kashmir offered by then PM Manmohan Singh, slaying of security personnel hours before India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was to meet her Pakistan counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in New York in September the chronicles of betrayal roll on.

Even in the Kartarpur corridor event, Pakistan’s depraved intentions were exposed when Imran Khan raked up Kashmir to be resolved through dialogue. It was unnecessary politicisation of a pious occasion and reveals the old ways of working of the new Government. What is of critical importance for India is the timing of this ‘religious diplomacy’ by Pakistan.

Access to Kartarpur was a long-pending demand of India’s Sikh community. That Imran Khan chose the moment, when India has entered election mode, to accede to this demand is a point of minute analysis. Some prominent factors cannot be missed in this initiative.

Pakistan’s deteriorating economy, China’s pressure on Islamabad to change its policy towards India to save the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor, severe cut in aid from the United States, looming black list of FATF, and most striking is the dirty design of influencing pro-Khalistan elements in Punjab.

The last factor is of grave significance for India. New Delhi’s suspicions over the initiative were confirmed when pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla was spotted mingling with Pak Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the foundation laying ceremony. Pakistan has regularly indulged in malicious propaganda against India using pro-Khalistan outfits at various Sikh shrines in its land. It was recently exposed when Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a US-based separatist organisation, launched ‘Referendum 2020’ campaign at Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Lahore. SFJ has already drawn up strategies to push terrorism and separatist activities through the proposed Kartarpur Sahib corridor.

Already, the separatist group is terming the Kartarpur corridor as ‘Bridge to Khalistan’. SFJ runs its anti-India campaign at the command of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI. It has announced that it would hold “Kartarpur Sahib Convention - 2019” in Pakistan for anti-India propaganda in November 2019 during the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.

The Kartarpur corridor is full of such dangers where the pro-Khalistan elements will be trying to brainwash gullible youth and wean them away from India. The grand show of unity by Pakistan Army and Government during the foundation laying ceremony also shows Pakistan’s desperation for resuming trade ties with India. With its economy in doldrums Islamabad is tapping free trade option with New Delhi through peace talks.

As veteran Pak journalist Khaled Ahmed, Consulting Editor at Newsweek Pakistan, wrote in his column: “Reportedly, China too wants Pakistan to “patch up eastwards” so it can push its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

If anyone thought India would bite after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued his “two-steps forward” statement on a proposed bilateral dialogue, he was soon disabused. The bilateral equation has worsened and India is growling more ominously than at any time in the past.” (Indian Express, Nov 29).

The ground reality has not lost on Pakistan. India’s blunt refusal for a dialogue “until and unless Pakistan stops sponsoring terror” has conveyed its intrinsic feeling over the betrayals. Till the terror tool is not dropped by Pakistan’s policy-makers, New Delhi will continue to view the Kartarpur corridor with suspicion.