The Indo-Pak agreement to have a corridor linking Gurdaspur’s Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib is a welcome development. The 16th-century shrine in Pakistan’s Narowal district was where the founder of Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, breathed his last. Located four kilometres away on the banks of river Ravi, the revered shrine is visible from the Indian side. The opening of the corridor marks a momentous occasion as it fulfils the long-pending wish of the Sikh devotees and provides them easy access to the sacred shrine. It is heartening that the corridor project is coming to fruition in the run-up to the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikh Guru. Political polemics surrounding the event apart, the move could, hopefully, break the chill in the bilateral ties and serve as a bridge between people of the two countries. The Indo-Pak ties nosedived in recent years with no signs of resumption of composite dialogue. The ties suffered a severe strain after a string of terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups two years ago, prompting India to launch surgical strikes. New Delhi had called off a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this September, citing the brutal killing of three policemen in Jammu & Kashmir and the release of postal stamps in Pakistan glorifying Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.
While Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative in opening the Kartarpur corridor is laudable, he must certainly answer the pointed questions posed by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh over Islamabad’s continued support to anti-India militant groups operating from his country. Singh has rightly declined Pakistan’s invitation to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony and described as an act of cowardice on the part of Pakistani army to send trained militants into India to create mayhem. The bilateral bonhomie will have no meaning unless Pakistan abandons its strategy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. There are fears that Islamabad’s gesture could be a ploy to revive the Khalistan movement. And, these fears need to be addressed. Preliminary investigation into the recent grenade blast inside Amritsar’s Nirankari Sadan revealed that the strike was planned in Lahore with the involvement of pro-Khalistani Sikh diaspora in Germany and Canada. This reflects a desperate attempt to revive militancy in Punjab. The External Affairs Minister too has opted out, citing prior engagements while two junior Central ministers– Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur and BJP’s Hardeep Puri–will travel to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony. The corridor project is a good beginning to foster people-to-people contact, though there are many hurdles that need to be cleared along the way.