- Across one of the world’s most militarised borders
The Kartarpur corridor issue has led India to hold talks with Pakistan without prior conditions, something the BJP led government had ruled out earlier.
With a long history of hostility between India and Pakistan, any positive gesture from one side is likely to be looked at with suspicion by the other which may not be altogether unjustified. The assurance by COAS Bajwa to Indian Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu regarding Pakistan opening the corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th anniversary was seen by the Indian government as a maneuver by Pakistan to win over the sympathies of the Sikh community. India however agreed not to oppose what Pakistan had decided. Sidhu meanwhile was condemned by Sushma Swaraj for “politcising” the issue while BJP allies in Indian Punjab labeled him as a “puppet” of Pakistan.
India then pulled out of the second bilateral meeting scheduled for April 2, expressing reservations over the inclusion of two pro-Khalistan activists in Pakistan’s Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee that is assigned the task of facilitating the pilgrims. The meeting was held only after Pakistan replaced the names.
While FO Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal maintained that over 80 per cent has been agreed upon between the two sides, he did not spell out the points of convergence saying that he could not share details until a final agreement was in place. Intriguingly, the India side has announced a list of what it considers agreed points. The two sides have apparently narrowed down their differences. But uncertainties will persist till the differences over 20 per cent remaining area are resolved.
Will Kartarpur Corridor lead to an all-round thaw in relations encouraging the two countries to take up other issues through a dialogue? The flow of traffic from Indian side could increase up to five thousand pilgrims a day. Sikhs from all over the world will converge on Kartarpur round the year, tens of thousands on the Guru Nanak’s anniversary alone.
Kartarpur agreement could lead to demands for more people-to-people initiatives as well as an increase in cross border trade. If there is political will, a lot of steps encouraging religious tourism, overland commerce and cross-border trade in electricity and hydrocarbons can be taken.