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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Revisiting the Kartarpur Diplomacy

Kartarpur is a visa-free-free border crossing and religious corridor, connecting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, near Lahore to Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab. The crossing allows devotees from India to visit the gurudwara in Kartarpur, Pakistan, 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) from the India-Pakistan border on the Pakistani side without a visa.

General Asim Munir arrived in China on a four-day official visit. His visit was aimed at boosting bilateral defense ties between Pakistan and China and seeking a financial bailout amidst pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Pakistan to arrange at least $6 billion to bridge the external payment financial gap.

It is widely believed that the establishment intends to resurrect the traditional “Iron Brothers” relationship with China that started after the 1965 War between Pakistan and India. During this war, the U.S. blamed Pakistan for starting the hostilities by sending infiltrators into the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K). President Johnson punished Pakistan by cutting off all the economic and military aid to its SEATO and CENTO ally. Thus started the re-defined Sino-Pakistan relationship that withstood the stresses and strains of the Cold War and lasted well into the present geo-political re-alignments.

Read more: Pakistan slams India’s remarks about partition, Kartarpur corridor

Understanding the matter better

Kartarpur is a visa-free-free border crossing and religious corridor, connecting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, near Lahore to Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab. The crossing allows devotees from India to visit the gurudwara in Kartarpur, Pakistan, 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) from the India-Pakistan border on the Pakistani side without a visa. The corridor was proposed by Navjot Singh Sidhu, a former Indian cricketer, and politician, to General Qamar Javed Bajwa. On 26 November 2018, the foundation stone was laid on the Indian side by Prime Minister Narendra Modi; two days later, then-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan did the same for the Pakistani side. The corridor was completed for the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, on 12 November 2019.

General Bajwa was the architect of the Kartarpur Diplomacy that started with a harmless initiative to establish a religious corridor for the Indian Sikhs, but it had wider connotations. While the Kartarpur Corridor is operationalized, ostensibly to facilitate the Indian Sikhs, one should not ignore that Qadian, the birthplace of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the Punjabi prophet, is located just 45.5 km to the east of Kartarpur. There is a strong likelihood that sometime in the future the Qadianis, through their foreign interlocuters, will demand a corridor linking Qadian with Rabwah. They have not given up on their ambition to create a state – a sort of Qadiani Vatican, in the heartland of Pakistani Punjab.

The parameters of the so-called Bajwa Doctrine, which was never officially spelled out, but which trickled out in bits and pieces through his various public and not-so-public statements, can be adumbrated as follows: –

  • Peace with India by putting the J&K dispute on the back burner.
  • Reorienting Pakistan- U.S. relationship to the original relationship that started during the 1950s. To promote this aspect, General Bajwa is on record saying that Pakistan’s armed forces rely upon, and need American equipment which is far too superior to the Chinese equipment.
  • A soft approach to Israel.

General Bajwa shouldn’t have bothered about peace with India because, for the last many years, a cease-fire is observed along the LoC by both the belligerents. Presently both India and Pakistan lack the conventional punch to knock down their adversary. While India is busy integrating the IHK into the Indian Union, Pakistan is facing an existential threat due to an almost imminent financial meltdown. The world has grudgingly or ungrudgingly recognized IIOJ&K as part of the Indian Union. The holding of the G-20 meeting in Srinagar, to be attended by China, Saudia, and UAE, among others, is an indicator that Pakistani politicians are living in a cloud cuckoo world.

Read more: WATCH: Brothers separated for 74 years meet at Kartarpur

As for General Bajwa’s inclination towards the U.S.- during and after the 1965 and 1971 wars, economic aid to Pakistan was partially stopped while military aid was completely cut off. The aid was completely stopped by President Carter during the period 1981-82 due to Pakistan’s purchase of a Uranium reprocessing plant from France. The 1985 Pressler Amendment authorized banning most US assistance to Pakistan if an annual presidential certification that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device was not given. In 1990, senior Bush was the first to withhold such a certification. The same Bush had looked the other way when the Soviet forces were in Afghanistan.

While the US aid dropped dramatically during and after the 1965 and 1971 wars, it kept on trickling at low levels to cover the payments to US espionage networks in Pakistan. This also included funding Pakistani diplomats, media persons, and politicians on the US payroll.

A significant portion of the US economic aid to Pakistan is consumed in defraying the cost of salaries and other perks to the USAID employees (most of whom double as CIA operatives), and the batteries of US Trojan horses working in Pakistani media and NGOs. This includes the “think tanks” like Hussain Haqqani. This explains why the economic segment of US aid is way higher than the military one.

We talk about Israel now. Whereas successive Pakistani governments have parroted their commitment to the Palestinian cause, their support, even as the support of the Arab states, is nothing more than a cosmetic gesture.

During the Suez crisis Iskander Mirza, Pakistan’s first president, had even secretly congratulated Israeli leaders on the superb performance of their ‘little army’ in giving a bloody nose to the Egyptians. Pakistani gesture was not lost on the Egyptians. Fifteen years later, in the aftermath of the 71 War, Hasnain Heikal, while addressing his Indian audience, remarked, “You were not alone during the 71 war. We were with you”. Such are the dynamics of International relations. Today, the Arab Middle East stands fragmented, more than it was after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

Instead of maintaining a dubious relationship with Israel, we must decide in which direction we want o go. Pakistani rulers, even as their Arab counterparts, have a common DNA when it comes to hypocrisy. Nawaz Sharif did not have business relations with India’s Jindal only. He had also bought Israeli machinery for his Jeddah steel mills. Folks! Grapevine has it that Pakistanis, ranging from politicians to bureaucrats, to maulanas, frequently visit Israel. In the past, Maulana Ajmal of JUI had created news when his secret visit to Israel was exposed in the media. At the Ben Gurion airport, Pakistanis requested the Israelis not to stamp their passports. Then, depending upon their preferences, they pay homage at the Aqsa Mosque, the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange, or frequent the Cathouse at Tel Aviv.

 

Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.