The Kartarpur breakthrough
India and Pakistan have been living in animosity since the two countries were carved from one single entity. Each new year that the two countries add to their existence sees a new low in their relationship and the past three decades have been the most severe.
However, the change of guard in Pakistan generated some hopes of reconciliation as the new Pak premier Imran Khan had in most of the election speeches and policy statements shown an notion towards peace and friendly relations with India. But the domestic compulsion for both the government’s, India as well as Pakistan did not let things take the shape that could have spelled a new phase for the two neighbors.
Ever peace move from Pakistan hit a road block. Meetings between ministers were cancelled and even SAARC summit had to be called off as India showed reluctance to mingle with Pak on any of the issue that is troubling the two countries.
Among all this Kartarpur happened. The move proved to be a breakthrough that took everybody by surprise. The media and the policy makers in both the countries saw it an ice breaking effort and a move that could cement the strained relations into some concrete peace building effort.
Apparently proposals for the corridor – a 4km stretch of land that will allow visa-free access to Guru Nanak’s shrine – were lying dead since 1988 because neither government had the inclination to take them forward.
What made the authorities to change their heart all of a sudden, is a matter of debate. But the way things have started moving forward has generated fresh hope that concerns may improve to the level where both countries can feel some comfort and organise a comprehensive effort to resolve issue that have been causing friction among them.
Though the Indian response over the move has been diplomatically reserved, it still is encouraging in the larger scheme of things. Though the external affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj gave the inauguration ceremony a miss, but still ministers from the federal government and the state government in Punjab participated in the event and media here too gave its thumps up despite some bad mouthed anchors who prefer TRP’s rather than the larger interest if the country as well as its people.
Kartarpur has given both the countries an opportunity to come to the people-to-people level. The animosity and mistrust that has over the years grown into a infallible wall of hatred and dislike can be overcome by these measures.
Our new generations have little understanding of the generations-old hatred that keeps the governments at daggers drawn. The new generation needs an environment of peace, commerce, investment and jobs.
India is looking for a greater role for itself in the Asian subcontinent and this role can only be turned into a reality if it is at peace with its major neighbors and Pakistan is one such neighbor that India cannot afford to ignore.