Will Kartarpur corridor lead to peace ?

Dr. Sudershan Kumar
On 28th November 2018, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the 4 Km long corridor connecting Kartarpur in Pakistan to Dera Baba Nanak in India. This is expected to be completed by next year on the most auspicious occasion in Sikh religion history , i.e. the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji, the founder of this religion. This ground breaking ceremony was attended by two Indian union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri, Harsimrat Kour Badal and Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu along with other dignitaries. Also prior to this, our vice President Venkaiah Naidu also laid the foundation stone of Dera Baba Nanak Kartarpur Sahib Corridor (up to international border) at Mann Village of Gurdaspur District of Punjab. The corridor has immense sentiments attached to it as Kartarpur sahib has great religious sanctity. The founder of Sikh religion Baba Guru Nanak Dev ji had spent his last 18 years of life at that place. The present Gurudwara is built on the site where Guru Nanak Dev ji died on 22 September 1539. After independence, following partition, this religious place became part of divided Punjab on Pakistani side. It is an irony of fate that over the past seventy one years Sikh devotees have been offering prayers near the international border and are always wishing to pay obeisance of this holy and most sacred place. There has been long pending demand of opening of this Gurudwara for Sikh pilgrimage. In 1999 Atal Bihari Vajpayee proposed this Corridor to Pakistan authorities during his bus ride visit to Lahore as a part of peace initiatives. Subsequently Pakistan agreed to allow Sikh pilgrims to visit Shrine without passport and visa by constructing bridge from Indian side of border to Pakistani side. Hence the laying of foundation stone at both sides is a welcome step. Recently there have been repeated gestures by Imran Khan after assuming the office of Prime Minister of Pakistan to advocate for peace with India. His statement that “if India takes one step forward Pakistan will take two steps” collected huge appreciation. He even went to the extent of saying that if Germany and France after bitter rivalry can forge friendship and live peacefully together then why not India and Pakistan. He further mentioned that on this offer of peace, powerful Pak army, politicians, and Pakistani people, all are on the same page. But all these steps were full of skepticism as he didn’t utter a single word on terrorism, terror camps, and action against those who are perpetuating terrorism in India. It is unfortunate that the ceremony which was purely religious in nature, Imran Khan left no stone unturned to politicize it and more worsely went ahead to rake up the old chant of Kashmir problem. He even tried to exploit the Sikh sentiments for personal gains. Moreover given the turbulent nature of bilateral relations between the two nuclear states India and Pakistan, the role of media becomes even more important. This, Imran Khan also understands very well since it was an opportunistic moment for Pakistan also so Pakistan Prime Minister mischievously exploited this to the best of his ability and portrayed himself as an apostle of peace in the presence of the large media contingent. Indian leaders were left with no option except to condemn Imran Khan’s maneuver on this pious and religious occasion and also reminded Pakistan to fulfill its international commitment and obligations of taking effective steps to wipe out terrorism from its soil.
All the more surprising is to see the audacity of Imran Khan, who himself is on a sticky wicket owing to lack of simple majority in Pakistan general assembly, to talk about the risks and bold decisions for the benefit of this region. He was even audacious enough to criticize Indian leadership for their balanced act. His sycophant minister is constantly rattling about throwing googly at Indian leaders. This clearly reflects the nefarious designs of Pakistan and their hypocrisy about the sentiments of Sikh religion. Pak leaders’ only mission and agenda is to bring India on to the negotiating table to seek some concession about Jammu and Kashmir. They have been fruitlessly pursuing this endeavour for the last seventy years. Their present googly comment is also another step towards this direction which needs to be reciprocated by a sixer. But the need of the hour is to very intricately analyze the circumstances, which had led to this sudden paradigm shift in the attitude of political leaders. The reasons seem to be manifold but the author has tried to list few of them. Firstly, the inclusion of Pakistan in the grey list of countries thus directly implicating it in terror funding and financing from June 2018 onward has sent ripples across Pakistan.
Secondly, the sagging Pakistan economy already under heavy debts from China and suspension of aid from America has further pushed it towards melt down unless Pak seeks bail out package from International Monetary Fund (IMF). Their leaders are fully acquainted of this precarious situation and the repercussions it can have as it can be fully exploited by their all weather friend China. The Chinese may infringe upon its sovereignty in return of offering loans and bail out packages.
Thirdly, the present policy of Proxy War and pushing terrorists to other countries adopted by Pak army has not paid them much dividends. Moreover, Pakistan, Pak army, and extremist leaders stand very much exposed at the international arena and time and again they have been reprimanded for acting as breeding grounds and safe havens for all types of terror organizations. Even Donald Trump has acknowledged this fact and suspended all military aid and revoked it for its activities in India and Afghanistan.
Fourth, the strong and retaliatory action of Indian army against cease fire violations has made Pak to revise its policy towards India because even after thirty years of Proxy War, they have not achieved much. So they are now looking for soft paddle approach towards India.
Lastly and most importantly, the menace of fanaticism and extreme fundamentalism has pushed Pakistani society to the brink of civil war. Pakistani Government has no control over their activities thus facilitating chaos and anarchy within it’s own country.. This was publicly admitted by Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi during his interaction with students at London in United Kingdom . His words “Pakistan does not need Kashmir; it is not able to handle the four provinces it has” reverberated the factual state of affairs.
In the wake of the above facts, Pakistan must act seriously in improving its relations with India and show some visible change on ground. Bitter experiences from past and the presence of Dawood Ibrahim, and Hafiz Sayeed will continue to raise eyebrows towards the true intentions of Pakistan. Even the present prime minister has inherited this legacy of terrorism and inability to carry a crackdown on the hate mongers and culprits. Imran Khan Sahib, the world wants an answer from you that in the presence of a powerful military, are you in a position to nail them? Hafiz Sayeed and others have been openly spitting venom against India and United States of America. Besides even in your present tenure the fundamentalists and radical elements have their say and they do what ever they want. Burning of girls’ schools in Gilgit Baltistan is the glaring example of this.
* Looking into the present environment and global scenario, the present initiative of the corridor has security constraints but at the same time, India’s straight way no to Pak’s proposal will not serve any purpose. Initiative through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor needs to be carried-forward. But at the same time Indian authorities must ensure that nefarious designs of Pakistan’s ISI and its powerful military are thwarted. In no case they should be allowed to disturb the peace and communal harmony in Punjab.
The author is of the view that opening of Kartarpur Corridor on the 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and visa free movements for Sikh pilgrims is the first step in the right direction. This has happened by the God’s will and carries no grudge or question. The preaching of Guru Nanak Dev ji in itself reverberate the true human nature as “Hukam Rajayee Chalana Nanak Likheya Naal”. Therefore, Government of India must adopt multi prong strategy to tackle Pakistani’s opportunistic manoeuver and evolve a strategy to strategically tackle Pak’s initiatives of peace with India. For this, we must respond to Pakistan’s gesture positively and set a broad agenda for talks through diplomatic channels.. Enough ground work must be done by leading experts from both sides on all the contagious issues including dismantling of terror camps and many others. Once both sides agree on a common platform, only then Government of India should invite Imran Khan for talks for which Pak Prime minister is too eager.. Through this we would be able to sabotage Imran Khan’s policy of becoming ” hero” or the messiah of peace in front of international community and also take stock of all security concerns through this corridor. Also through this process if India and Pakistan are able to sort out all their issues then it will certainly be the beginning of new era in South Asia and will certainly be good for coming generations. But it all depends on powerful Pak army ‘s intention and political leadership of that country.
(The author is former Director General and Special Secretary DRDO, MoD, GoI)


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