Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] Corridor of hope: On the Kartarpur proposal


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Ray of hope in India-Pakistan ties through the kartarpur corridor


Green signal to kartarpur corridor

  1. The announcement by India and Pakistan of plans to operationalise a visa-free corridor between Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab heeds a longstanding plea of Sikh pilgrims
  2. That demand had gathered pace in 1995 when Pakistan renovated the Kartarpur gurdwara, situated on the site on the bank of the Ravi
  3. It is a shrine built at the place where the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev, is believed to spent his last 18 years and died

Why is this a positive development?

  1. Given its easy logistics, the 4-km-long Kartarpur corridor is a low-hanging fruit as a meaningful confidence-building measure
  2. The initiative can also become a template for cross-border exchanges based on faith, which could provide a balm for many communities
  3. Kashmiri Pandits have long asked for access to visit the Sharda Peeth in the Neelum Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
  4. Sufis in Pakistan wish to visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan
  5. Sikhs in India and Pakistan want to visit important shrines on both sides of the border

Implementation of the announcement crucial

  1. Much will depend on how quickly India and Pakistan act on their commitment
  2. Even more will depend on how the two governments manage their relationship in a way that avoids making pilgrims a pawn in bilateral tensions
  3. It is important that issues related to the corridor are managed in a non-political manner and details left to diplomats and officials to sort out
  4. India and Pakistan entered into an agreement on pilgrimages in 1974 under which both sides issue visitor visas for a handful of shrines on either side
  5. The visa-free corridor is only for Indians
  6. But it will require a separate agreement for operationalisation, which will involve complex negotiations given the security ramifications

A renewed opportunity for both the sides

  1. The proposed corridor holds great potential for a wider thaw in India-Pakistan relations, which have languished in sub-zero temperatures for a full decade now since the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks
  2. This is probably the first instance of the two sides setting aside mutual hostility to bend to the will of the people
  3. A large part of the failure of the two countries to come out of the holes into which they have dug themselves owes to the vacuum created in citizen interaction

Way forward

  1. Given the bilateral freeze, the Kartarpur project will compel India and Pakistan to engage in a positive and purposeful manner, at a time when few other avenues for engagement exist
  2. It is a reminder that dialogue and search for areas of concord are the only way forward for both countries
  3. India should build on the leap of faith that it took on the Kartarpur corridor

With inputs from the editorial: Kartarpur opening

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