IN LANGUAGE that is rarely heard in the context of India-Pakistan relations, especially since 2014, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday said the Kartarpur Corridor would act as a bridge between the people of the two countries and pave the way for peace and prosperity in the region.
In sharp contrast, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who jointly inaugurated the development of the Kartarpur Corridor with Naidu, raised the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and warned Islamabad to “rein in” its army, saying that the Indian army is “bigger” and “fully prepared”.“This is a corridor that connects us to the Guru we revere, to the sacred space where he spent the last 18 years of his life. Not only that, it is a bridge between the people of the two countries who have so much in common. This is a corridor to the shrine of peace, harmony and humanism, to the universal vision of a world as one family, to the sublime ideal of service to humanity. This is a corridor that opens new doors. It is a path that opens up new possibilities,” said Naidu.
He described the proposed corridor as “a unifier, building bridges across old chasms”. “It promotes deeper understanding and a new resolve to connect the people of our two countries through love, empathy and invisible threads of common spiritual heritage,” he said.
“As Guru Nanak Ji had exhorted, let us, on this auspicious day, ‘make the heart the pen, the intellect the writer and write that which has no end or limit’. That is the history we have to create together, a history that will make our two countries and the entire world a more peaceful place for our children and grandchildren to live and grow together,” said Naidu.
Singh, in his speech, thanked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for reciprocating India’s move on developing the Kartarpur Corridor, but targeted Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa. “The Pakistan PM should rein in his army as the ISI, which works under the army, works against us. Such army chiefs (referring to Bajwa) should understand that we have a bigger army than they have, and we are fully prepared. There is a limit… If you do it (provoke) repeatedly, then India will also have to think,” said Singh, adding, “Nobody wants war. We want peace and development.”
In a speech that lasted about 20 minutes, Singh spent about 15 minutes talking about terrorism emanating from Pakistan against India and the killings of soldiers on the Line of Control. He said as an ex-armyman himself, he saw no justification in killing soldiers, which he described as an act of cowardice, not becoming of army personnel. “Soldiers are taught to protect and serve their nations, not to kill innocent people,” he said.
Multiple statements a balancing act
AS THE Ministry of External Affairs questioned Pakistan’s sincerity in bringing the terrorists to book, Capt Amarinder Singh warned that India’s Army was bigger than Pakistan’s. But at the same event in which the Punjab CM spoke, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu hailed the “beginning of a new chapter”; a message in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invocation of the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline the Kartarpur Corridor’s potential. Statements from the Indian side signal a balancing act — underlining its old concerns with Pakistan, even as new ground is broken.
“I was in the Army. I am senior to Pakistan Army Chief Bajwa. Every soldier knows what another soldier is thinking. Who has taught to kill soldiers by taking them by surprise? Who taught to attack people holding a religious congregation in Rajasansi Amritsar? We, Punjabis, know how to give a befitting reply to such forces… Bajwa should wake up,” he said. He recalled the 26/11 Mumbai attack as a grim reminder of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India, and pointed out that the Dina Nagar and Pathankot attacks also stood out as major examples of the terror unleashed by Pakistan in this part of Punjab.
“I want to go to Kartarpur, and also visit Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib gurdwaras again, but I cannot go there as I have to enter Pakistan, which is killing my people every day,” he said. “People are telling me on Facebook to go to Pakistan on November 28. But I can’t go until there is peace,” he said.
Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, Union Ministers Nitin Gadakari, Hardeep Singh Puri and Harsimrat Kaur Badal were among those present on the occasion. Urging Gadkari to try and ensure that the Kartarpur Corridor starts functioning by the next Gurpurab, Singh later said he would accompany the first jatha, through the corridor, to Kartarpur. The road, which India will build up to the International Border at Dera Baba Nanak, and which Pakistan will develop from the IB to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur 2 km inside its territory, will give pilgrims direct access to a shrine revered by Sikhs as the place where Guru Nanak is said to have spent his final days and died.
India announced the decision to develop the corridor last week, and Pakistan’s official announcement that it would develop the road on its side came minutes later. The function on Monday was held 3 km from Dera Baba Nanak town for reasons of security arrangements. The foundation stone is to be shifted to the existing road from Dera Baba Nanak to the IB, which will be four-laned and redeveloped as the Kartarpur Corridor.