It may be a coincidence that the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks in Mumbai on 26/11, when 10 Pakistani terrorists took the city hostage and killed 166 people, was also the day when Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone of the proposed Kartarpur Corridor on the Indian side up to the international border that will provide pilgrims direct access to the shrine — Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate work on the corridor on the other side a day later. The symbolism cannot be exaggerated. As the nation remembers the stories of those who were killed in cold blood by the terrorists who came across the water from the other side, of those who sacrificed their lives to save others, and of the survivors who have rebuilt their lives with courage and resilience, it seemed fitting that India chose this very day to start work on a project to make a new connect with Pakistan. Naidu called the corridor “a bridge that will connect the people of the two countries”. Such moments do not come every day in the history of nations, especially two with such a violent and mutually destructive seven-decade-long history.
It is outrageous that those responsible for the 26/11 attack in Pakistan are roaming free and that they continue to spread their message of hate and hostility towards India. It is even worse that Pakistan has chosen to set aside the findings of its own investigators and makes lame excuses for not bringing the perpetrators to book. And it is imperative for India never to let its guard down as there is no guarantee that such an attack or a worse one may not occur again.
But now there is also a message from the other 26/11, the one that unfolded at Dera Baba Nanak and —- ignoring the petty provincial politics that Punjab’s leaders put on display on stage — it is this: India cannot forever remain in the dark tunnel into which it was dragged by Lashkar-e-Toiba. The will of the people counts for something too. They wanted this corridor. As for Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistan Army, whatever the motivations behind their decision to open the international border at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, they have embraced through this one act Pakistan’s South Asia legacy, its shared history with India, the pain of a violent Partition, the remnants of its own syncretic traditions and diversity — everything that sections of that country’s leadership over generations have tried to deny, much to its own detriment. A decade after the cowardly act against India’s most welcoming city pushed the two countries so far away from each other that today their foreign ministers cannot even be caught smiling at each other, there is a chance for healing. It must not be squandered.