Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed of the day] A bridge across the India-Pakistan abyss

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Impact of kartarpur talks on future bilateral talks

Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

Ties between India and Pakistan are at an ebb — their lowest in two decades. The thread from this phase, as a series of events — the Kargil war (1999), the Agra Summit (2001), the attack on Parliament (2001) and Operation Parakram (2001-02) — meant a sustained period of deep hostilities, with diplomatic missions downgraded and travel routes truncated.

Kartarpur corridor

  • What has been disconnected from all those tensions are the talks on the Kartarpur corridor.
  • That the talks have continued through one of the most difficult years in the relationship is equally remarkable; there have been three rounds of technical-level meetings to ensure both sides complete the infrastructure needed before November 2019, the 550th anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak.
  • The symbolism for pilgrims who will be able to travel from Dera Baba Nanak town in Punjab to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur just a few kilometres inside Pakistan, which are sites where Guru Nanak spent his last few years, goes well beyond the date and year.

Some irritants

  •  The Kartarpur corridor project is an issue that has been raised by India for several decades, with New Delhi’s reasons for wanting the corridor clear.
  • However, in the case of Pakistan, these have not been as transparent, with the military establishment’s surprise backing only raised doubts on whether Islamabad has an ulterior motive.

1.Allowing Separatist groups –

  • In a dossier handed over during the last round of talks on Kartarpur on July 14, India spelt out its apprehensions over Pakistan allowing separatist Khalistani groups, including those funded by groups based in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, to try and influence pilgrims.
  • Of specific concern is the ‘Referendum 2020’ plan by the Sikhs for Justice group (banned by India).

2.Drugs and Arms Supply –

  • The other irritant is the possible use of the corridor for drugs and arms movement; there are many routes and tunnels at the border between the two Punjabs.
  • The terror threat by Pakistani Punjab-based anti-India groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad is also a constant concern.

Hope for future Talks

  • With such strictures in place, New Delhi’s decision to embark on a course that will need regular and repeated India-Pakistan meetings is nothing short of a breach of its otherwise firm “no talks without terror ending” policy.
  • For example, at a time when Indian and Pakistani Ministers do not even hold talks when they meet at multilateral conferences, New Delhi sent two senior Ministers to Pakistan to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony for the event.

A range of possibilities

1.Other faith-based corridors – The obvious extension from this would be for having other faith-based “corridors” for Hindu, Muslim and Sikh pilgrims in both countries; this would be in addition to the list of 20 shrines (15 in Pakistan, five in India) that were negotiated under the 1974 Protocol on visits to Religious Shrines.

2.Template for bilateral negotiations

  • The template that Kartarpur has given both sides is also worth considering for the format of other bilateral negotiations given that the talks have been immunised from both terror attacks and election rhetoric.
  • The venue of the talks, at the Attari-Wagah zero point, lends itself to more successful outcomes too away from the glare of the media, without focus on arrangements for both parties.
  • The two sides can cross over, meet for the duration of talks and return after issuing a pre-arranged joint statement.

Impact of FATF

  • Ahead of the next plenary of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October, Pakistan will remain under pressure to keep terror groups subdued.
  • According to various reports, infiltration figures at the LoC are significantly lower (a 43% reduction since the Balakot strikes in February); officials have marked about 20 terror camps in PoK they believe have been “shut down” recently.
  • Civilian and military casualties from ceasefire violations have also reduced.

Way Forward

Thus, it would be a travesty to waste the opportunity made possible by the Kartarpur corridor, and by extension, the founder of the Sikh faith himself (revered by Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan) to bring both countries back to the table for talks.

 

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