The move to build the Kartarpur Corridor has the potential to undo the “freeze” in ties between India and Pakistan and push the two sides to engage in a positive and purposeful manner, the Pakistani media commented on Thursday. The planned corridor will connect Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev’s final resting place in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district in India, fulfilling a long-pending demand of the Sikh community.
It took more than 70 years for Pakistan and India to bridge a distance roughly 7 kilometres on either side of their border, the Express Tribune said in its editorial, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor on the Pakistani side. The initiative to build a corridor connecting two Sikh holy sites — Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan and Dera Baba Nanak in India — came from the Pakistan side, it claimed.
As proposed, the Indian government will construct and develop the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border, while Pakistan will build the other part of the corridor connecting the border to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Narowal district in Pakistani Punjab. “The Kartarpur development comes at a time of no dialogue and little contact between Pakistan and India,” the daily said. “A meaningful confidence-building measure, the move has the potential to undo this bilateral freeze and push the two sides to engage in a positive and purposeful manner,” it said. “It’s not just the reopening of a route closed by the Partition, but the beginning of an unprecedented form of diplomacy — religious diplomacy. The initiative can become a template for cross-border exchanges based on faith and extend the momentum to other areas, given the undeniable role religion and religious beliefs are playing in interstate and intrastate conflicts and aspects of international affairs in the 21st century,” it said.
The paper criticised Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for brushing off any possibility of improvement in the bilateral ties in the wake of the Kartarpur move. Swaraj on Wednesday said there will be no dialogue with Pakistan unless it desists from terrorist activities against India. In a clear expression of disregard to Pakistan’s initiative that only comes in pursuit of peace. However, such an undiplomatic disregard from the Indian side is nothing new, and is meant to serve its long-maintained policy of trying to isolating Pakistan diplomatically and in all other contexts, like sports and culture — albeit with no success, the paper said.
Dawn newspaper said the move had many of the ingredients for what a normalised relationship between Pakistan and India could look like — the governments of Pakistan and India working together to facilitate people-to-people contact and religious tourism and Indian officials visiting Pakistan in a relaxed, even joyful manner. The Indian government rushed to smother the goodwill generated by the inauguration of the corridor, and once again doused hopes that bilateral dialogue may be restarted soon, the paper said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government should pause and reflect on what it is they hope to achieve by repeatedly slapping back a hand offered in peace, it said. While India may have some legitimate complaints, as does Pakistan against India, there is no plausible scenario in which not talking to Pakistan at all will address the issues on both sides, it said.
For Pakistan, the challenge will remain to keep open the offer of dialogue to India, while doing whatever can be done to reduce regional tensions, it added.