Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : Jan - Feb 2019

Kartarpur Corridor Imran Googly takes a wicket

Can a religious place, or to be more precise, revered place like Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, unite the two enemy countries of India and Pakistan? This is a million-dollar question whose answer, even the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, his Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa or from our side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi or External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, can also not give. In a move of one-upmanship and quick developments in the aftermath of Navjot Singh Siddhu going to Pakistan to witness the swearing in ceremony of his friend Imran Khan, his hugging Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and the latter assuring him that the corridor would open, led to the actual launch of the corridor from both sides. No less a person than Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Man of the Match of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, is in the dock. Instead of getting accolades from all sides, he is being gifted with brickbats. Not only is he being targeted by his own Cabinet colleagues for disobeying his own Chief Minister, but also by the Central Government for showering praises on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. In fact, Siddhu has no one to blame but himself for disrespecting his own Chief Minister and raking up the Rafale issue in Pakistan, thereby embarrassing the Prime Minister. Interestingly, the launch of the 4 km long corridor that would connect Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and Kartarpur Sahib witnessed speeches that were laced with bonhomie and peaceful gestures on both sides across the border. However, barely after a couple of days, allegations and counter-allegations have replaced the spiritual and peaceful initiative that was meant to unite the Sikhs and people at large from both the sides. Infact, it was a smart move from the Indian side, with both the Centre and the State Government, deciding not to cross the line, swayed by the religious sentiment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided not to go himself. Neither did he send External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Instead, he chose to send two Cabinet Ministers hailing from Punjab, Harsimrat Kaur and Hardeep Puri, to Pakistan. Similarly, Captain Amrinder Singh, who was present at the launch of the corridor on the Indian side in Gurdaspur, was forthright to accuse Pakistan Army Chief Bajwa for the killings in Gurdaspur and Amritsar. While welcoming the launch of the corridor, he expressed his unwillingness to go to Pakistan, unless they stopped abetting cross-border terrorism from their side. In an interview, he also was candid to admit that his Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu defied his orders and went on his own to Pakistan. Except for Sidhu, the Indian leadership showed restraint and were careful enough not to be trapped by the smart move made by Pakistan. However, Pakistan, known for its backstabbing and immaturity, was quick to claim credit with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi terming it as Pakistan’s “googly.” In a function, Qureshi stated, “Imran (Khan) delivered a googly and India sent two Ministers to Pakistan.” Furious over his comments, not just Sushma Swaraj but Hardeep Puri and Harsimrat Kaur, too, combatted Qureshi, accusing him of exploiting the Sikh sentiments. Puri threatened that the initiative could be “undone,” if Pakistan persisted in its efforts to expose itself. Tragically, even before the first brick could be laid for the religious corridor on both the sides, the fight for one-upmanship has begun between the two warring nations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had equated the corridor with the fall of the Berlin Wall, perhaps did not realize that there is a vast difference between the unification of Germany and the building of 4-km long corridor between India and Pakistan. There has been no meeting of the minds between India and Pakistan. Every day, our jawans are being killed and civilians fired upon from across the border. In fact, the day when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made the “unwarranted” remarks, MEA had accused Islamabad of harassing the Indian diplomats by denying them the access to meet the Indian pilgrims visiting Nankana Sahib and Sacha Sauda Sahib in Pakistan.

History will be created if the two sides can forget their political differences and build a religious corridor that unites the two Gurudwaras on both the sides. But it seems quite difficult, as there is a trust-deficit. Rightfully so, Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh will have to think thousand times before he is assured that his single step would not lead to opening up the path to violence once again. Punjab has seen enough of violence in the past and is therefore cautious not to allow any Khalistani activities on its soil. Every single person in Punjab would prefer that the Kartarpur Corridor is opened, but not at the cost of the lives of hundreds of innocents in Punjab. For the 20.8 million Sikhs in India, opening of the corridor would mean visiting the sacred Gurdwara where first Guru and founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life before his demise in 1539. But more than exploiting the religious sentiments, it is the duty of any government to save the lives of its citizens. Given the past history and the mala-fide intentions of Pakistan, the Indian leadership is not so naïve to fall into its trap. In India itself, one has witnessed how the religious sentiments can be exploitedto achieve political ends. Despite several years, the fight for the construction of Ram Temple shows no sign of ending. Having laid the foundation for the Kartarpur Corridor, the Modi Government should go slow on the project, unless there are remarkable steps taken by Pakistan to stop the inflow of terrorists from their side. Prime Minister Modi is too shrewd a leader to fall into the trap of Pakistan. He took the right step in turning down the offer of Imran Khan to attend the SAARC Summit in Pakistan. Similarly, one expects that he will not be trapped by any of the so-called “googlies” thrown by Imran Khan. As for National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, who says that all the routes along the LoC and IB in J&K should be opened for Pakistan, he is somewhere wooing his minority votes, as elections are drawing near. Indians expect their leaders to be loud-mouthed and offensive when it comes to exposing the lies of Pakistan. Security of our citizens cannot be risked at the expense of religious sentiments. After all, a Chowkidaar and a 56-inch chest leader can never be trapped. It is high time Pakistan realizes this fact.

-Anita Saluja

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