The last couple of days have seen the cycle of violence between India and Pakistan continue unabated with over 20 terrorists being killed, three soldiers martyred, many young boys abducted, and some killed after the kidnapping.
Against this background, it is astonishing to see that the same Pakistani government which encourages and perpetuates this cycle of violence has given its consent to the Kartarpur corridor.
Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib is Guru Nanak's final resting place. (Source: YouTube)
There was a certain necessity to fast track the project given that next year is the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak. However, when it comes to Pakistan, one has to look beyond the obvious claims made.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is literally batting without pads. He heads a coalition government and only has rhetoric to his credit.
He has become the PM because he was Pakistani Army’s suitable boy for the post. As such, if Khan has accepted opening of the corridor, the Pakistani Army is certainly with him on the issue.
A lot of us would like to believe that Khan needs to be given a chance. That the track 2 diplomacy, which must have preceded the Kartarpur masterstroke seven decades after independence, has not just opened Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur for the devout, but also opened communication channels for the two countries.
Without either crucifying or touting it as a great deal that would lead to the leadership of both countries initiating meaningful dialogue mechanisms, let’s first dwell over a few security related issues.
The opportunity to visit the shrine may be a welcome step for large sections of the Sikh community, but if Pakistani leadership is driven by the assessment that the community is going to be won over by the gesture, it would be a utopian dream.
Pakistan, has of late been trying to create a link between terrorists in J&K and Sikh fundamentalists. Drugs smuggled through Kashmir are being pushed into Punjab where a fairly large consumer base already exists. However, the Khalistani call hardly finds any resonance in Punjab today.
Pakistan’s decision to open the corridor is unlikely to make a difference to the perceptions or attitude of the Sikh community towards Pakistan. As such, the corridor has no major security implications for us in the immediate term.
On the contrary, the corridor would allow more people to people contact, something we welcome. People to people contact can only benefit India. With conditions on our side being much better, exchanges between citizens could only raise the aspirations of Pakistanis across.
With easier passage at Kartarpur, the number of our devotees is bound to increase and would be an attractive target for terrorists based in Pakistan. It’s a probability that both nations need to discuss.
Both sides need to deploy adequate resources for the safety of the transients. We have faced such issues with the Samjhauta Express in the past, and need to undertake prophylactic security measures.
Pakistan is likely to use the Kartarpur Corridor for anti-India activities. (Source: PTI)
With the increased flow of traffic along this corridor, smugglers and criminals will also creep in. There are possibilities of the corridor being used for limited quantities of drugs, counterfeit currency and other goods being smuggled. Obviously, necessary security mechanisms have to be in place.
With our citizens spending a reasonable amount of time at the shrine and its surroundings, the ISI is not going to sit back and watch. There will be attempts at influencing Indian visitors and even recruiting agents. Necessary intelligence elements would have to be positioned by us to keep a close tab.
Pakistanis may use the corridor as another pressure point should relationship between the two countries deteriorate. It could close the corridor if the relations take a dip. However, it’s unlikely to affect the people of Punjab in a major way.
For a country like Pakistan, isolated globally, considered as the crucible of global terror, repeatedly ostracised by one-time dependable partner US, put in the dock by Financial Action Task Force, carrying a debt burden far beyond its capabilities, this was at least a small gesture for the whole world to appreciate that Pakistan is trying to turn the corner.
The SAARC summit is due to be held shortly in Pakistan and our PM had been invited. India has already made it clear Narendra Modi won’t attend the conference.
Perhaps, Pakistanis were expecting Modi would accept the invite as an immediate pay off.
However, the corridor to Kartarpur and the highway to Islamabad are fundamentally different in construct and alignment, and may hold only minimal inter-se relevance. In any case, Sushma Swaraj has already doused all hopes by clearly stating that Modi will not be going for the SAARC meet.
All told, there are no major threats that the corridor holds. But to bank on it to improve bilateral relations between the two neighbours, would be farfetched.