Firstly, about Gurudwara Dera Saheb Kartarpur. It was here that Guru Nanak spent a chunk of his last years at that location. Hence the emotional attachment of Sikhs to that place.
Secondly, about its physical location. The Gurudwara is located just above 2km from the nearest point on the Indian Border, across the Ravi River. Thus, a corridor for controlled access to the Gurudwara is eminently feasible. Here is a Google Maps screenshot.
This brings us to the question – Why in the world was a corridor not established in the 71 years that both India and Pakistan have existed as independent nations?
The answer to this question should be clear enough to all of us, on both sides of the border, so I won’t waste time on that.
Now this gives rise to two other questions in my mind – WHY NOW? and WHAT NEXT? It is these questions that have been trickling my brains for some time now. It is these questions that I am seeking to delve into, by the way of this blog post.
But first, let me state that I refuse to believe that the decision to open up this corridor has been a ‘spur of the moment’ decision, as an offshoot of the visit of Mr Navjot Sidhu to Pakistan a few months ago. IMO, this has had to have been in the works for a much larger period of time via Track II efforts, either by the GOI or by persons not part of the Govt. Given the fact that it has already been announced, it doesn’t really matter now whether it was a Govt led effort or otherwise.
Thus, I truly believe that the announcement that this corridor was being considered was merely a formality to bring these behind the scenes negotiations out in the open & that a decision had more or less been made into making it happen
With this, let me go back to the first question that I talked about a few paragraphs above – WHY NOW?
One of the first thoughts that came to my mind was about the political maneuvering in light of the upcoming 2019 General Elections in India. That Imran Khan is no big fan of the Indian PM not at all a closely guarded secret. So it would make sense to give a strong argument to one of the principal opposition parties as India gears up for the next general election. And this is exactly what happened. Mind you, I don’t say the above as a statement of any political affiliation.
Why I made the above statement is because of the timing of the announcement and the circumstances behind it which are too glaring to ignore this point of view. However, another thought crossed my mind too, with respect to the timing of the announcement.
Two thoughts, in fact. Firstly, despite all the hype and hoopla over the past few months, Pakistan has consistently failed to draw India towards even a facade of diplomatic engagement, leave alone resumption of a full fledged bilateral dialogue.
The frustration was marked by the overenthusiastic invites to India by Pakistani politicians, alongwith the continuing cross border terror by the terrorists in Khaki, leading to the inevitable rebuff by India which has made it clear that Dialogue and Terror can’t go together. This was followed by jilted lovers’ type statements such as the one quoted below. Basically, their dreams of grandeur lay shattered and their true selves lay exposed for what they were – hollow posers.
In light of this, such an ‘grand offer’ made eminent sense to cajole India towards engaging them in some sort of dialogue in order to boost their sense of importance in the larger scheme of things.
Not surprisingly, came the announcement of a meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA Session, which was duly declined by India, thanks to the Paki Army’s inability to control the homegrown terror factory. It was this that led to the very ‘diplomatic’ statement by Shri Imran Khan, the screenshot of which is shared above.
Thus, there were no talks happening anytime soon.
At some level, it might even look to some as a carefully orchestrated ballet between the Pakistani politicos and their masters in Khakis – good cop bad cop, if you will, to make sure it never happens.
Of course, what I said above is once again, mere speculation. But then, another thought comes to mind as to WHY NOW?
Pakistan as of now, is in the middle of a really bad economic mess, and being squeezed by both, China as well as the US / IMF. This situation hardly encourages misadventures or misunderstandings with your adversaries that might make an already ‘hot’ border even ‘hotter’, esp when your own pockets are empty and you are begging for spare change from anyone who cares to listen.
In fact, their own loudmouth Foreign Minister said as much, a few days ago – that this overture for peace is forced upon them by the state of their economy. Here’s a link to what he said – Pakistan FM scored self-goal with ‘googly’ remark, says New Delhi
This is a screenshot of the relevant part mentioned in the paragraph above
All this happened in the duration between the announcement of the corridor and the actual ceremonies to mark the inauguration of the same.
Soon after the corridor was inaugurated, Pakistan Govt tried once again – by extending an invite to the Indian PM for a SAARC Summit in Islamabad which was once again, duly tossed aside by the India MEA, the ‘googly’ of Pakistan Foreign Minister notwithstanding!
(Link: India dismisses Pak ‘invite’ to PM Modi for Saarc meet as ploy)
This brings me to the next, more interesting question – WHAT NEXT?
To think that the corridor has happened due to sudden benevolence on part of Pakistan would be a joke, esp since not so long ago, even Indian Diplomats were refused entry into Nankana Saheb!
Here’s a news link for those who weren’t aware of this incident – Pakistan stops Indian diplomats from meeting pilgrims in gurdwaras, New Delhi lodges strong protest
Now, what shape this corridor takes, one is not quite sure. But one thing that is definite is that it gives leverage to Pakistan in that it can close the corridor at will in case it feels like, putting the GOI under political pressure, whenever it wants.
In addition, it potentially gives access to Khalistanis on both sides to meet each other under garb of pilgrimage. This again has huge implications for internal security in India, more so in light of the recent bomb blast in Amritar. (Link: Amritsar Blast Being Treated As A Terror Attack, Say Punjab Police)
However, on the contrary, in case of a future conflict, this corridor can actually give a legitimate claim to India for retaining this piece of land, if captured!
I guess no one has talked about this till now, but I do hold this view that it does.
In fact, a quick google search tells me that in 1971, the Indian Army very nearly reached Kartarpur, held back only because they decided not to cross the Ravi River that winter! Here is an account of the Battle of Dera Baba Nanak – Link
That time the Indian Army went back to own side of the IB. But in future, with the corridor existing, who is to say that the Indian Army cannot stay on and enforce its claim?
Bottomline – this development and the timing of the same is not a sign of good faith on part of Pakistan, but a carefully calculated move.
Of course, getting access to the holy site is welcome any day for ordinary folks who couldn’t care less about the state of relations between the two countries or the intentions behind this sudden ‘benevolence’ of Pakistan.
But what this whole thing has done is that it has made the ‘game’ a lot more interesting, including in ways that the other side may not even have dreamt about.
Bring it on, I say!
Of course, the date chosen for the inauguration might have been purely coincidental with the tenth anniversary of the dastardly Mumbai Terror Attack. But then, knowing their proclivities, it just might have been the Khakis’ way of cocking a snook at India.
As also making Mr Navjot Sidhu take a photo with a Khalistani without his knowledge, that once again showcases the true intention of the Pakistani State behind this whole issue.
But knowing whatever little I know of Pakistan, or more specifically, Erstwhile West Pakistan, I don’t think they’ve gamed it fully, beyond very short term tactical gains, ala Kargil War.
Like I said before, the ‘game’ just got a lot more ‘interestinger’!
Keeping internal and regional politics aside, I’ll close this thread with this beautiful video.
For the time being, I’ll leave the ‘worrying’ about future for a later date!