News Desk |
Technical teams from India and Pakistan today (Tuesday) are all set to meet at Dera Baba Nanak at Zero Line in Kartarpur to discuss matters related to the construction of the corridor, roads, and other technicalities of the project. Diplomatic channels reveal that the two parties will share information on the technical aspects of the Kartarpur Corridors and technical experts from various fields of construction will finalize matters.
This technical dialogue was announced by Dr. Muhammad Faisal, the official spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, after his meeting with Indian delegation at the Attari border on 14th March. Reports suggest that 50% of the construction on the Kartarpur Corridor’s 4km route has been constructed by Pakistan, while the route between Guru Nanak’s Shrine to Zero Line is being constructed by India.
New Delhi intends to construct a passenger terminal at Zero Line, and the estimated cost of this project is $1.9 billion. This terminal will have the capacity to manage immigration and customs clearance for over 5000 Sikh pilgrims on a daily base. The second phase of the project will involve the construction of temporary accommodation and a hospital for the pilgrims, along with the construction of a bridge on River Ravi.
We hope they will continue to show goodwill, meet each other halfway, properly handle differences through dialogue, work for the improvement of relations and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.
The second meeting between the Indian and Pakistan delegations over the Kartarpur Corridor will be held at the Wagah Border on 2nd April. The authorities intend to complete the first phase of the Corridor before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak so the Sikh pilgrims can visit the shrine to commemorate the birth of the founder of their religion.
Kartarpur Corridor: A Step towards Cordial Relations?
During his regular press briefing, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang commented on the symbolic significance of the Kartarpur Corridor in easing tensions between India and Pakistan. Shuang stated that China welcomes this “latest interaction between India and Pakistan” and remains hopeful that it will aid in promoting cordial bilateral relations and “improving the regional situation”.
Read more: Kartarpur Corridor: A new hope for peace
Shuang said, “India and Pakistan are neighbors that cannot be moved away. Good neighborly relations serve the fundamental interests of both countries and are the common aspiration of the international community. We hope they will continue to show goodwill, meet each other halfway, properly handle differences through dialogue, work for the improvement of relations and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.”
While speaking to senior newsman Ejaz Haider, Defence Analyst Air Marshal (R) Shahzad Chaudhry commented on the emotional-religious appeal of Kartarpur Corridor for the Indian Sikh community and New Delhi’s resolve to not allow this project to influence the Indian-Pakistani bilateral relations. He noted that it was pleasant to see diplomatic developments after the rapidly escalating military strife, and highlighted that indeed this project has crucial importance to a very important minority in India and Pakistan as well.
Pakistan has to be very careful in terms of how we take care of our Sikh visitors, and make sure that they are well looked after so no one has any reason to play dirty in that entire process.
AM (R) Shahzad Chaudhry commented, “It was a very fine initiative taken by the government of Pakistan of opening such a corridor from Indian into Pakistan, across the border, and practically ceding away a space of land and saying that the Sikhs have the freedom to travel to their second of three holiest places, one that was just visible but not within their reach”.
He noted that Kartarpur Corridor will certainly have a positive impact on at least a part of India (Punjab), however, it is also to be noted that “New Delhi’s heart is not in it”. He went onto say, “They have identified that this (Kartarpur Corridor) does not reflect on the broader India and Pakistan equation, but they are in a bind and they cannot refuse it or deny it.”
While highlighting the logistical, political and functional sides of the Kartarpur Corridor, AM (R) Shahzad Chaudhry that there is a great deal of potential for a political “slip”. He explained, “On the political side, if something happens between India and Pakistan, India finds it very convenient to pin it on Pakistan as seen with Pulwama, which got blown up into a near-war. If New Delhi’s heart is not in it, you’ll find that at the smallest pretext, there will be some reason for obstruction.”
Ejaz Haider noted that India has disconnected the Kartarpur Corridor with the broader Pak-India relations. AM (R) Chaudhry remarked, “If something happens in Punjab with the Sikh visitors from India or abroad, like a false flag operation perhaps, it can be reason enough for them (New Delhi) to break off and lament that Pakistan could not take care of the Sikh pilgrims. Pakistan has to be very careful in terms of how we take care of our Sikh visitors, and make sure that they are well looked after so no one has any reason to play dirty in that entire process”.
Does India Really Want Peace with Pakistan?
Senior strategic analyst Ejaz Haider highlighted the context of hybrid warfare and covert actions through which perceptions can be created, and how the Modi-Doval duo have made “it very clear on more than one occasion that they are ready to play the covert game in the Punjab heartland” much as they are doing in Balochistan and other regions of Pakistan. Haider also connected the Kartarpur Corridor with the Khalistan movement and Pakistan’s support for the Khalistani Sikhs, which New Delhi might use as a ploy to create an anti-Pakistani perception in India.
On Saturday last week, Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar made a rather flamboyant statement of “merging Pakistan with India” after 2025. While addressing a conference on “Kashmir Way Ahead”, Kumar said, “I am ready to give this in writing, after five to seven years, you will get the opportunity to buy houses and do businesses in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Sialkot.
The ruling party has been increasingly vulnerable in recent months. It was elected in 2014 on a platform and a mandate to engage in economic reform and the (Indian) government struggled to push a lot of those reforms through.
India Today quoted Indresh Kumar, “There was no Pakistan before 1947. People say it was a part of Hindustan before 1945. It will again be a part of Hindustan after 2025.” While conspiring for an “Akhand Bharat”, Kumar called out for merging India with Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Kumar further added that the BJP-led Indian government has the “political willpower” to take a tough stance against Kashmir.
Kumar stated, “Now, the political willpower has changed and this is why, we dream to settle in Lahore, and visit Kailash Mansarovar without having to seek permission from China”. While speaking to Carol Castiel of Voice of America News, Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, noted that the upcoming election is also motivating BJP to raise anti-Pakistan rhetoric and avoid meaningful bilateral relations.
Michael Kugelman noted, “This attack on Kashmir that precipitated this crisis is really an election gift to Modi. The ruling party has been increasingly vulnerable in recent months. It was elected in 2014 on a platform and a mandate to engage in economic reform and the (Indian) government struggled to push a lot of those reforms through.
The most alarming thing for the (Indian) government is that unemployment has risen, and in fact, right before the crisis broke out between India and Pakistan, it was a huge domestic scandal in India because the Indian government essentially suppressed the release of a report that had been put together by a government-linked research organization that highlighted just how high the unemployment figures were”.
While highlighting that the Congress, the main opposition party had managed to secure multiple seats in state elections, Kugelman said, “The ruling BJP party was looking particularly vulnerable and then you had this attack and this crisis, and largely speaking, the government has been able to count on a rally-round-the-flag effect and also, they have been given a great incentive to be really tough on Pakistan, to use tough talk against Pakistan in the campaign trail. In India, when its election season, if you talk tough on Pakistan that is going to help you a lot.”
Mina Jahangir with additional input by News Desk.