Implications of Opening of Kartarpur Corridor

Implications of Opening of Kartarpur Corridor

Col NN Bhatia [Retired]

The Indo-Pak border created on the basis of the Radcliffe accord runs from the line of control (LoC) that divides J&K region and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) in north to zero point in south between Indian state of Gujarat and Sindh province of Pakistan, roughly 3323 km in length.

Ever since its artificial logic less creation, there have been wars and conflicts between both the nations and many western journalists term it as the most dangerous and complex border between two nation states. Similarly, the erstwhile border between India and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) crisscrossed riverine terrain, jungles, hills and marshy swamps dividing villages and tilling lands in each other’s territory adversely affecting families, farming, land records, property, housing and flood management. By and large the middle line of the main channel/river was to constitute actual boundary but most of these water bodies kept changing their course during Mansoons keeping conflicts alive.

Language, population, and religion and contiguity were some other factors-some followed and others grossly misused. Like so many deficiencies, the Radcliffe accord overlooked the significance of Kartarpur Gurudwara to Sikh faith just 4.7 km away from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab by awarding Shakargarh tehsil to Pakistan located on right bank of the Ravi River, including Kartarpur and  Gurdaspur tehsil on the left bank of Ravi to India. Rightly, it should have been then awarded to India on religious and faith basis only but not.

Likewise, the erstwhile India- East Pakistan border had numerous enclaves that Bangladesh inherited from the East Pakistan along the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, and Meghalaya. Both the governments ratified agreement on 6 June 2015, whereby India received 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (covering 7,110 acres in the Indian mainland, while Bangladesh received 111 Indian enclaves (covering 17,160 acres in the Bangladeshi mainland. The enclave residents were allowed to continue residing at their present location or move to the country of their choice. While India and Bangladesh resolved this complex issue, resolving it with Pakistan would have been rather an impossible proposition with the type of multiplying mistrust existing between both the countries.

Notwithstanding the India-Pakistan trust deficit, China-India dispute over the land border has also been the bane of the British Raj further complexed by the economic competition that has led to strained relations between the two Asian rivals. China has close ties with Pakistan and both support each other over their dispute(s) with India. That is why and how China has always supported Pakistan in its argument(s) over Kashmir with India. The first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev Ji founded Kartarpur in 1504 AD on the right bank of the Ravi River and established the first Sikh dera (????) there. After his demise in 1539 both Hindus and Muslims claimed him as their spiritual Guru/Pir and constructed tombs in his memory with a common wall in between which were eventually washed away with the changing course of the Ravi River and a new abode was constructed at Dera Baba Nanak (DBN) on the left bank of the Ravi River.

In 1947, the Indian sub continent was partitioned into India and Pakistan as two independent countries due to the Muslim leaders’ mistrust over the majority Hindus living in the subcontinent. This division was created on religious lines. Along with the partition was the problem of the amalgamation of 650 princely states that were given the right to opt for either Pakistan or India or with certain reservations, to remain independent.  Because of its location, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) could choose to join either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of J&K was Hindu while the most of its population was Muslim, desired to be neutral with a hope to be an independent country! But his dream to remain independent was shattered as Pakistan to annexe J&K, sent Pashtun Muslim tribesmen duly supported by the Pakistani Army to capture Srinagar. The Maharaja appealed Indian government for military help and signed the Instrument of Accession, ceding Kashmir to India on 26 October 1947.

India approached the United Nations on 1 January1948 and in a resolution dated 13 August 1948 the UN asked Pakistan to completely withdraw its troops, after which India was to follow withdrawing bulk of its forces and holding a free and fair and plebiscite. Pakistan failed to comply with the UN resolution and ceasefire was enforced on 1 January 1949 with 65%   J&K in India and rest under illegal occupation of the Pakistan. Thus, ever since October 1947, both Indian and Pakistani forces have been embroiled in numerous wars over Kashmir. Strained relations and tensions between the two countries kept brewing following the Chinese incursion into Ladakh in 1962 followed by 1965 War between India and Pakistan. A cease-fire was established in September, followed by signing of Tashkent Agreement by both the countries in January 1966 emphasizing to resolve all the issues peacefully. But Fighting again flared up between the two countries in 1971 leading to dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh. Shimla Accord was signed in 1972 emphasizing that henceforth, both the countries would live peacefully and resolve issue bilaterally. It was widely apprehended by some hard core elements on both sides that Pakistani PM Mr Bhutto had tacitly accepted the line of control as the de facto border, although which was  denied by the Pakistani PM. After Bhutto’s execution in 1979, the Kashmir issue once again became the leading cause of conflict between India and Pakistan. During 1980’s the Muslim militant elements trained and supported by Pakistan got disillusioned and intensified insurgency operations in the Kashmir valley. Pakistani psywar for Jihad subverted Kashmiri youth that escalated the situation further.

On his initiative the Indian PM Vajpayee arrived on 19 February 1999 at Wagah by the inaugural bus service between New Delhi and Lahore and was received by the Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif. Both the PMs signed bilateral agreement ‘The Lahore Declaration’ signifying avoidance of nuclear confrontation and conventional wars BUT Pakistan again stabbed India in the form of Kargil War. In May 1999, Pakistan intensified artillery shelling in the Kargil sector and tactically occupied positions within and west of the Kargil area vacated by Indian forces during winter. Intense fighting ensued between the infiltrators and the Indian Army that lasted more than two months. The Indian Army managed to reclaim most of the area on the India side of the line of control (LoC). The Indian Army lost approximately 500 troops, with almost double that number of Pakistani armed forces in the garb of infiltrators were killed.

The Kargil War was a major blow in stalling the Lahore treaty and the relations between the two countries worsened. General Musharraf is widely believed to be the strategic mastermind and brain behind this avoidable war. After much diplomatic efforts, the Agra summit started between President Musharraf and PM Vajpayee amid high hopes of resolving various disputes between the two countries including the five decades old Kashmir issue. But the talks collapsed due to lack of trust and abundance of mistrust.

Ever since 2014 and 2019 the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has swiped polls both in centre and various states, the party has been advocating Hindutya vigorously much to the suspicion and discomforts of secular forces, minorities and Pakistan. On 14 February 2018, a suicide bomber member of the Pakistani militant separatist group killed 40 members of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in the last three decades. India carried out surgical strikes and destroyed militant camps across Balakot on 26 February 2019 when Indian warplanes flew over POK and dropped bombs in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (erstwhile NWFP) province in Pakistan.

Notwithstanding above hostile acts, Pakistan’s dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been openly sheltering, training and funding Khalistani Sikh militants. Also, Pakistan’s close relationship with China and creation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) complicated further the   unruly   relationship through the disputed region of Kashmir at a time when a tension is simmering between India and China over land border dispute.

History of Sikhism flourished Inspite of Mughal emperors’ onslaught against Sikhs and Hindus. Many prominent Sikh leaders were killed by Emperor Jahangir for refusing to accept his orders. Out of 10 Sikh Gurus, two Gurus (Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur) were tortured and executed and their close kith and kin killed by the Mughal kings. Two sons of 10th Guru Gobind Singh were tortured and killed along with saintly prominent followers like Banda Bahadur, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das, and Bhai Dayala for disobeying Mughal rulers.  Maharaja Ranjit Singh fought bravely Mughal Empire and consolidated his kingdom to include J&K, Ladakh and Peshawar under his able military chief Hari Singh Nalwa.

To de-stabilize India, Pakistan has been pumping Indian economy with fake Indian currency notes (FICN), drugs, arms and ammunition and reaching out to anti-national elements (ANEs) and Naxalites and various insurgent groups in the heartland and the Northeast. While Pakistan has violated Shimla Agreement, Lahore Accord, and Agra Summit vehemently, internationalized Kashmir issue against resolving it as bilateral issue, and has repeatedly shown trust deficit; India needs to view opening of Kartarpur corridor with sustained suspicion. We have been bitten by Pakistan not once but endless times and it is unlikely that PM Modi will gamble his new-found power and conciliatory national security advisor (NSA) and army chief by reaching out to Pakistan softly. Some geo-strategic analysts predict his massive poll mandate may even validate India’s harder line to spell a bold new Pakistan policy as Pakistan, India and China have nuclear arsenals.

In view of the above reasons, too much should not be made of the gesture of opening of Kartarpur corridor as exclusively done by Pakistan BUT by both Indian and Pakistani governments. Pakistan is overplaying it on 550th  Parkash Diwas of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to  exploit Sikh sentiments not only within India but internationally to revive dormant pro-Khalistani elements active in UK and Canada joining hands with anti- Indian demonstrations over removal of Article 370 in J&K. How can secular India where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and other sects live in peace and harmony, forget the Mughals kings torturing and killing Sikh Gurus, their kith and kin and devoted followers?

The Akali leaders and certain Sikh political leaders like Navjot Singh Sidhu must get over the initial euphoria of opening of the Kartarpur corridor by turning the pages of history backwards to learn how their Gurus were tortured by the then Muslim rulers. Though opening of corridor will bring some people to people contacts which have little meaning in otherwise government to government frozen relationship. General Bajwa and his  dreaded ISI coterie has larger interest to exploit softness of corridor to open another channel to push terrorists to create unrest, smuggle drugs, FICN, arms, ammunition and explosives and let India bleed through 1000 cuts inflicted by its nefarious psy & proxy wars.  No wonder, while Imran and his generals are turning no stone unturned to internationalize Kashmir and Kartarpur corridor to draw mileage, PM Modi relentlessly keeps exposing Pakistan’s nefarious linkages and support to Muslim fundamentalists and terror outfits to destabilize India militarily and financially at all international forums. Many feel, we can trust snake BUT not Pakistani politicians and it’s behind the scene military dictators whose survival lies on hate India bogey!

Acknowledgement- Photo map of Kartarpur Corridor   courtesy Google/ Wikipedia.                                                                          

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