The relationship between India and Pakistan has been one of capriciousness there is no single code of conduct or mood that it seems to map. However, the air is currently rife with the herald of a nascent brotherhood in the figure of the Katarpur Corridor between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. There are multiple tropes to be assessed around this issue, and here goes the attempt.
The Kartarpur corridor is a proposal to cultivate a road link for Sikh pilgrims to visit the famous Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan, which is around three-four km from the International Border. The Gurdwara, dating back to the 16th century, stands on the banks of the river Ravi and is believed to be the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, the prime Sikh guru. For decades, Sikh devotees have been demanding that India and Pakistan collaborate to build a corridor, linking it with the Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district. This project seems to have taken flight, for talks are on about how this sanctimonious corridor would allow devotees to walk to the shrine and return in one day without requiring a visa or even a passport. Whats more, we have had former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had first suggest the program when he undertook the landmark bus trip to Lahore in 1999! Even if 20 years on, the project is welcome.
To the average Indian or Pakistani, more so if he/she is Sikh, this seems like an utterly positive step in the direction of a thaw between the two nations as well as making sure the Sikh minority doesnt feel sidelined in a Hindu-dominated nation. At the political front, however, the story is completely different. We find the political leaders divided over how hugging the Pakistani Army General was in bad taste, and demoralized Indians who witness killings led by his army and how Mr Imran Khan turned the foundation-laying ceremony into a political affair by making mention of the Kashmir issue, even if briefly. But, realistically speaking, what was India expecting? This is nothing but another instance of the realpolitik that Khan uses, for there was enormous media coverage for the event, and he was sure it would make global headlines. And it did. While Pakistan seems overjoyed at the development, the Indian Centers reception has been lukewarm at best. Just another India-Pakistan kitty fight, that all of us have grown accustomed to.
The political bickering aside, what would the completion of this corridor mean for both the nations? In a clear statement, the US has lauded the two countries for fostering more human-to-human contact. Further, another site of historic and religious significance to the Kashmiri Pandits, Sharada Peeth, across the Line of Control has found itself under the spotlight again. Alongside Kashmiri Pandit committees and outfits, even mainstream political parties like the PDP have been voicing the demand to make similar arrangements for pilgrims of the temple, clubbed with Imran Khans statement that post the Kartarpur arrangement, proposals like the Sharada Peeth can now be considered. Clearly, the visible darkness is being speckled by bands of light and little by little, it seems, the twigs seem to be coming together in the semblance of a nest of mutual coordination. We sincerely hope the proposal of sparking this voyage cycle is made well in the time promised, on the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak in November 2019.
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