For the last seventy one years, the Sikh community has been yearning for opening of Kartarpur border to facilitate their access to Gurdawara Guru Baba Nanek Saheb at Kartarpur and their wish has finally been fulfilled by the initiative taken by the PTI government in Pakistan readily reciprocated by the Indian government. Before these lines are published, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will have already inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor on 28th July.

The proposal for opening the Kartarpur border was mooted by the COAS while talking to Navjot Sidhu at the oath taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan and it is indeed a matter of great satisfaction that the proposal has materialized into reality within a short span of nearly hundred days, which has sent a wave of elation and gratitude among the Sikh population in India. It is pertinent to mention that the idea of opening Kartarpur border was discussed for the first time when Vajpai visited Pakistan in 1999. The PPP also supported the idea and during Musharraf regime when the composite dialogue process was launched in 2004-5 between the two countries, a proposal for launching Khokhrapar –Munabao railway line and Amristar-Lahore-Kartarpur road link was also discussed. However these plans failed to materialise due to renewed strain in relations between the two countries. During PML (N) government, Pakistan made several efforts for direct access of Sikh Yatrees to Kartarpur Gurdawara (shrine) but no headways was made because of lack of response from the Indian government.

Pakistan views this gesture as a peace initiative to normalise ties with India as well as an acknowledgement of the right of followers of different religions to have easy access to their holy places. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly speaking at a function to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Nanek Dev said” May be with the blessing of Guru Nanek Devji, the Kartarpur Corridor will not just remain a corridor but act as a bridge between the people of the two countries. People-to-people contacts have tremendous potential and power” In regards to improvement of relations between the two governments and resolution of disputes he said they would happen at an appropriate time. The optimistic and reconciliatory tone of Narendra Modi will be welcomed by all those who have a stake in normalisation of relations between the two countries and the resolution of disputes, including Kashmir that have marred relations between them.

It is pertinent to point out that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talking to Times Now an Indian news channel in January also said that Pakistan and India had fought enough and it was time for them to get together to fight poverty, illiteracy and disease , as by fighting against them together they could win faster. On the face of it his observations sounded good and nobody in his right mind could deny the indispensability of bonhomie between the two neighbours to change the fate of the teeming millions on both sides of the border, to ensure security and stability in the region and to realize the goal of shared economic prosperity in the region.

But the question is, does he really mean it and has he done anything during the last four years to establish his credentials as a promoter of peace in the region and engaging Pakistan in a meaningful dialogue to find an amicable solution to the core issue of Kashmir which is the real cause of continued strained relations between the two countries? The answer unfortunately is in the negative.

Pakistan has made several peace overtures towards India and even the present civilian and military leadership has repeatedly expressed the desire and commitment to live in peace with her. But unfortunately those overtures have not been positively responded to and instead India has upped the ante against Pakistan. For the last more than one year the Indian security forces have been violating the Ceasefire Agreement of 2013. Since its inception the Modi government has been striving to isolate Pakistan in the region and at the global level and has used every available forum to pursue its objective. It has persistently tried to portray Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism notwithstanding the fact that it was itself committing state terrorism by fomenting insurgency in Balochistan and orchestrating acts of terrorism in Pakistan, as corroborated by Kalbhushan Yadev in his confessional statements. It has also been taking overt and covert steps to sabotage CPEC.

Relations between India and Pakistan cannot normalise without the resolution of Kashmir dispute and for that India will need to revisit her stance on it being its integral part and show commitment to the UN resolutions that allow the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. But the reality is that BJP government led by Modi is striving hard to suppress the freedom movement in IHK through ruthless use of force and even changing the demographic realities in the valley. Its elections campaign was also premised on repeal of clauses of the Indian constitution that gave special status to Kashmir such as Article 370. The reign of terror and killing spree let loose in the valley by the Indian security forces since the martyrdom of Burhan Wani amply demonstrates Indian intentions to subjugate the people of Kashmir permanently instead of accepting the ground realities and finding an amicable solution in conformity with the UN resolutions.

The foregoing actions of the Modi government surely do not reinforce his credentials as a sincere leader in regards to normalising relations with Pakistan and settling the disputes between the two countries. Political analysts and watchers of history of Indo-Pak relations, particularly since Modi becoming Prime Minister of India do not see his statement on opening of Kartarpur Corridor as an encouraging and positive development and feel that it might well have been prompted by internal political reasons like the elections in 2019 to appease the Sikh voters.

Normalisation of relations and building bridges between the people of the two countries does not require rhetoric steeped in political gimmickry but concrete actions. India will have to abandon its war like state posture. If India takes one step forward towards that direction Pakistan would surely reciprocate with two steps because it feels that peace, security and prosperity in the region was inextricably linked to normalization of relations with neighbouring countries, more so India. A realistic and shrewd approach by the Indian government could save the region from instability and usher in an era of shared economic prosperity leading to positive change in the economic situation of the people on both sides of the border. Is India ready for it is the real question?

The writer is a freelance columnist. 

Pakistan views this gesture as a peace initiative to normalise ties with India as well as an acknowledgement of the right of followers of different religions to have easy access to their holy places.