By C Kiran:
PRIME Minister Imran Khan declared the opening of Kartarpur Corridor as a “victory of peace.” However, it did not attain a tangible outcome. The deadlock on bilateral talks continued between India and Pakistan, and the Modi government once again turned down Pakistan’s invitation to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit. Prime Minister Khan inaugurated Kartarpur Corridor on November 28, 2018. It was a historical event. The passage connects Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal district to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district. It facilitates the Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib with permits issued on nominal fee instead of passports or visas.
The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib is one of the most sacred places of worship for Sikh community because Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, lived last 18 years of his life at the Gurdwara and after death was buried at the same Gurdwara. The Sikhs are celebrating easy assess to the Darbar Sahib. However, the Modi Government seems uncomfortable over the olive branch extended by the government of Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stressed to restart a dialogue to resolve the outstanding issues sounds rational because war is not a solution between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. He correctly pointed out: “Both the countries are nuclear powers and war would be synonymous to suicide. There is no room for war, so then what is the way forward?” However, Mr. Qureshi had failed to realize that the Modi government is determined to use a military force or threat of force to pursue its political objectives.
India has colossally been spending on the sophisticated military hardware and reformation of its Armed Forces. The Indian army chief also concurs the Hindutva hawkish approach towards Pakistan. During the last week of September 2018, the Modi Government celebrated Surgical Strikes Day to muster political support during the future four states and national elections. The timing of the Kartarpur initiative seems ill-conceived. The ruling elite in India is busy in four state elections and also preparing for the 2019 national election. Anti-Pakistan propaganda is one of the essential components of the BJP elections strategy. It increases warmongering during the elections campaign to muster the Hindutva vote.
Instead of appreciating Prime Minister Khan’s inauguration of Kartarpur the Modi Government reiterated its accusation that Pakistan perpetrates terrorism in India. From the beginning, the Modi Government is disinclined to resolve the outstanding bilateral issues through a sustained dialogue process between Islamabad and New Delhi. On November 28, it expressed its unwillingness to start a dialogue process. It stated: “bilateral talks are linked with curbing terrorism, not Kartarpur corridor.” India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj expressed its dissatisfaction over the Pakistani initiative to mend fences with its eastern neighbor. She said: “Until and unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in the summit.” The exchange of tweets between Mr Qureshi and his Indian counterpart was not encouraging. Instead of taking Mr Qureshi remarks lightly that ‘PM Khan had bowled India a “googly” by taking Kartarpur initiative, she reacted bitterly. She tweeted: “Mr. Foreign Minister of Pakistan — your ‘googly’ remarks in a dramatic manner has exposed none but you. This shows that you have no respect for Sikh sentiments. You only play ‘googlies.’” Mr. Qureshi tried to pacify the situation by alleging her to “mislead” the Sikh community and an attempt to spoil the positive initiative of Islamabad. Besides, Prime Minister Khan said that the “Kartarpur initiative was not a googly; it was a sincere effort.”
The participation of two Sikh members of Mr. Modi Cabinet — Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri — was well received in Pakistan, but Ms. Swaraj claim dashed the optimism that “Let me explain to you that we were not trapped by your ‘googlies’. Our two Sikh ministers went to Kartarpur Sahib to offer prayers in the Holy Gurdwara.” From the beginning, Premier Khan has been trying to engage the Modi Government for improving bilateral relations. In his first speech, he said, “If India takes one step, we will take two steps toward peace and reconciliation.” However, his Indian counterpart is encountering the corruption allegations in the purchase of military equipment and is using warmongering to improve his popularity. Hence, presently, expecting anything positive from Prime Minister Modi and his cohorts is naïve thinking.