The Kartarpur dream
Raashid Wali Jajua


Kartarpur Shrine, the sacred place of Sikh pilgrimage on an ordinary day is quite a spectacle. Its pearl white domes and minarets shine brightly pitted against the emerald green fields of Punjab presenting a surreal look. Wreathed in white spiritual glow of its marbled splendour the shrine is as much an architectural marvel as it is a place of worship. For over seventy years the Sikh community had yearned for an access to their second most revered religious shrine. Cleaved away from East Punjab in the cataclysm of partition the shrine had lain cutoff from any semblance of communication from Indian Punjab. What has suddenly happened in the Indo-Pak relations that has prompted such a munificent gesture of opening the corridor for Sikh devotees?

The answer might perhaps lie in the changing security perceptions of Pakistani civil-military leadership that after very long is finally on one page. Pakistan is displaying remarkable patience and sagacity vis-à-vis Indian belligerence and destabilizing tactics in Balochistan and FATA. At a time when the indigenous discomfiture with Indian hauteur in Kashmir is reaching a crescendo the Pakistani leadership’s decision to offer an olive branch to India is a positive development for regional peace and security. India with its delusions of grandeur is neglecting its human security in a quest to earn maximum brownie points as a regional gendarme for USA. Modi led Hindutva wedded government has proselytized Indian politicians and intelligentsia into a mass hate paranoia against Pakistan.

As the largest and strongest protagonist in the subcontinental conflict equation; greater responsibility devolved on India to integrate the disparate interests of smaller nations by displaying magnanimity and statesmanship

Instead of taking a leadership role through a “noblesse oblige” model India has opted for a junior surrogacy role in the service of USA; a role that is poles apart from the Nehruvian model of morally grounded Non Alignment. India has failed the subcontinent while ceding space to the foreign interests at the cost of South Asian interests. As the largest and strongest protagonist in the subcontinental conflict equation; greater responsibility devolved on India to integrate the disparate interests of smaller nations by displaying magnanimity and statesmanship. No such luck for the blighted South Asia as India chose to bludgeon its way to regional dominance by leveraging its strategic alliance with a super power. The method in the Indian madness of spawning a perpetual conflict in South Asia can be best understood through a peep in the Indian domestic scene.

India today is being led by BJP’s poster boy Modi who has apotheosized the socio-cultural xenophobia spawning an environment of misanthropy against the religious minorities and scheduled castes including the Dalits. The “Ghar Wapsi” capers and puerile historical revisionism symbolized by violent pogroms against Muslims and Christians are hurtling India back into age of darkness where accident of birth determined a person’s fate. The visceral hatred against all that stands in the way of a caste based Hinutva creed has spilled over the Indian borders also threatening all nations that embrace different religious and cultural values. In its quest for an historical amnesia Modi’s India is obliterating all signs of religious and cultural diversity. It is displaying a hubris born out of its immature megalomania.

All of the above attributes were on display while responding to Pakistani offer of opening a corridor for Sikh pilgrims to their holy shrine of Kartarpur. While Pakistani prime minister and army chief were present on the ground breaking ceremony along with the high ranking cabinet members the Indian government displayed a lukewarm attitude to Pakistani effusiveness. Perhaps a concession to Sikh community conjured up the fear scenarios of Pakistani involvement in the Khalistan issue. Or perhaps it was under the pressure of a super power which did not want Indo-Pak rapprochement for its own narrow interests. Either way it was a display of diplomatic naiveté and lack of strategic vision that hamstrung Indian diplomatic instincts. One might surmise however that the Indian leadership has carried out a cost-benefit comparison of subcontinental amity and conflict and has already opted in favour of conflict.

Kartarpur Corridor initiative as a stepping stone to further diplomatic thaw has been viewed with guarded pessimism by India whose actions have spoken louder than words. A joint statement by BJP and Congress leadership has shown unanimity of views on Pakistani diplomatic putsch downplaying enthusiasm on Pakistani side. The refusal of Sushma Swaraj and East Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh to attend foundation stone laying of the corridor betoken a lack of trust in the sincerity of the Pakistani offer. A spate of recent Indian actions clearly show the bellicose mindset caught in the time-warp of Mandal theory ie “the enemy of your enemy is your friend”. India has held a fourth round of security talks with the Afghan Government in Kabul on 25 November. Speakers at the meeting discussed security issues and future relationship between India and Kabul.

The speakers dilated on insurgency in Afghanistan blaming Pakistan as the main destabiliser. Former National Security Advisor Rangeen Dafdar Spanta while speaking on the occasion accused Pakistan of using insurgency as a tool against India and Pakistan. Another speaker B.K Sharma, head of Centre for Strategic Studies of India remarked,” Afghans treat India as a key strategic partner in its transformational decade”. Nothing wrong with the above except the Indian obsession ,with undermining Pakistan’s legitimate security and economic interests in Afghanistan. Indian diplomatic and economic efforts in Afghanistan to paint Pakistan as a villain of the piece are clear pointers to a policy of isolating and destabilizing Pakistan. What the Indians fail to realize is that by doing so they are mortgaging the peace of subcontinent to the foreign interests.

Kartarpur Corridor had the potential to bridge the chasm of distrust between the two countries but like all the jinxed peace initiatives in the past this too appears foundering on the rocks of power politics. As Johan Galtung negative peace is mere absence of war whereas positive peace is the absence of causes of war. It is time both the countries embraced Galtung’s positive peace concept. To achieve the above end greater responsibility devolves upon India. India needs to give peace a chance and stop pandering to the wishes of overseas patrons for ephemeral strategic gains. India and Pakistan’s ultimate survival as responsible nuclear powers lies in turning swords to ploughshares and in seeking a regional security consensus upon which the edifice of subcontinental peace and cooperation could be erected. Kartarpur dream is a subcontinental yearning for peace which could be shaped into reality through a sea change in Indian thinking.