India missing the point
The Indo-Pakistan talks, which began on Thursday at Atari, on the draft of the agreement for the celebration of Guru Nanak’s 500th death anniversary ay Kartarpur would have been worth watching, but they gained heightened significance because of the recent Indo-Pak confrontation over the Pulwama attack. Pakistan and India came to the brink of war with each other, and India had vowed that it would not have any talks with Pakistan until it had obtained satisfaction for the attack. That the talks took place at all was thus a signal success, and gave a further indication that the intervention of such outside powers as the USA, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, had borne fruit, and the war clouds were being dispelled. It was thus encouraging for those favouring peace that the head of the Pakistan delegation, commenting after returning from the talks, characterised them as ‘powerful’, and said that they had been positive. They were not final, though, and there remain some differences on the draft, necessitating another round of talks on April 2 in India.
At the same time, though India would not like to alienate the Sikh community, which is the country’s second biggest minority, by a breakdown in the talks, the BJP government stopped short of only that, placing as many hurdles in the talks. At the outset, the holding of the talks at Atari, while Pakistan had wanted them held in New Delhi, was an indication of how the Indian side wanted to downplay them. The same mentality that whipped up war hysteria in India after Pulwama was also uncomfortable with the holding of the talks. Only the thought that 300,000 yatris were expected to visit Kartarpur at the commemoration seemed to have let the talks go ahead. However, while Pakistan had issued visas promptly to Indian journalists who wanted to cover the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor by Prime Minister Imran Khan last November, India denied visas to the Pakistani journalists who wanted to accompany the Pakistani delegation to Atari.
India’s failure to realise that the Kartarpur Corridor is a more important step for Pakistan is probably typical. Pakistan is bending over backwards to provide a corridor which will be used by the citizen of another country (Pakistani Sikhs, already few in number, can already come and go there freely), but India is still trying to be obdurate.