By Safi Nasim
Unlike Pakistan, the general election in India is quite lengthy and tiring. It is phased and spread over a month. Indian Election 2019 started on 11 Apr 2019 and concluded on on 23 May 2019.
Although Pakistan-bashing is one of the primary election factors in India, however, there is one Tehsil, Gurdaspur of Indian Punjab which is quite different. There, though the fight for the parliamentary seat was between Sunny Deol, the Bollywood star of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Punjab Congress Chief Sunil Jakhar but politician ruling the hearts of the people is no one else but Pakistan Prime Minister lmran Khan.
The Kartarpur corridor dominates the minds of the people of Gurdaspur, although other issues are also quite pressing. The voters there do not give credit for the Kartarpur corridor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For them, the heroes are lmran Khan, and cricketer turned politician who is now Minister in the Punjab government Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The Kartarpur Corridor is a proposed corridor between India and Pakistan, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (Punjab, India) and Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur (Punjab, Pakistan) . Currently, the corridor is supposed to allow Sikh devotees from India to visit the Gurudwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 km from lndo-Pak border, without a visa.
In August 2018, Punjab minister and former MP, Navjot Singh Sidhu announced that Pak Army Chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, had told him that Pakistan would open the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
On 28th November 2018, the prime minister of Pakistan, lmran Khan, laid the foundation stone for Kartarpur Corridor near the Narowal district of Punjab, Pakistan. The corridor has been opened within the months after lmran Khan took over. This helped lmran Khan’s image as people hail him from both sides of the border. It is a political stroke from lmran Khan as the talks about Kartarpur Corridor were on since years, but none of the Pakistan PM paid attention to it.
The decision was widely welcomed and heart-warming. The pilgrimage helps the Sikh community enrich its tradition to what it has been long waiting for. It is also believed that the opening of the corridor will facilitate millions of Sikh devotees to pay homage at the historic Sri Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara. The Gurdwara, where the first Sikh Guru spent the last years of his life, is located in Pakistan across the international border and imperfectly visible from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.
When France and Germany, enemies during World War II can have peaceful borders, and West Germany and East Germany could unite, why can’t India and Pakistan have friendly borders? PM lmran Khan questioned . The Indian government claims that the construction work on the proposed corridor is being completed at war footing, but the situation on the ground is different. The work is being delayed for small issues. The Indian government has identified 50 acres of land, but permissions from various agencies are still pending. The only vantage point in India from where devotees were able to take darshan of holy site in Pakistan has been demolished on the advice of Indian Construction Company quite in haste. The Sikh community is now even more anxious to complete the project at the earliest. However, the speed of the work on the Pakistani side is fantastic and making progress daily.
India, on the other hand, remains suspicious over this issue, as the demand for Independent Khalistan movement may gain traction again. Punjabi is a common language across the border and people to people contact may not go well in favour of India. Indian Sikh community is not very happy with Hindutva emerging discrimination against all Non- Hindus in India.
The core issue between Indian and Pakistan is Kashmir. Pakistan claims to Kashmir via the Muslim-majority population a fundamental principle on which subcontinent was divided; India lays claims to Kashmir via the Hindu leadership of Kashmir, which ceded itself to India when there was an uprising against the ruler of Kashmir. The conflicts over Kashmir ended in a stalemate as the United Nations made a mandatory order to stop the war over Kashmir and instructed a referendum at an early date. Pakistan and India need immediate reconciliation to re-establish peace between both nations and need to be civic about Kashmir. A final referendum should be held for Kashmiris to decide where to go or where to stay, as it is the most democratic and helpful solution available to all Kashmiris.
The founding fathers of both India and Pakistan imagined both countries acting well together. Quaid-e- Azam , Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan wanted relations with India as close as the United States and Canada today. However, people are wondering if Pakistan and India will start a Nuclear War with each other.
It is true Kartarpur Corridor gives Pakistan a huge international benefit. It will further enhance Pakistan’s image in the global Sikh community. Pakistan has started enjoying a substantial soft power in India. Pakistan already enjoys sizable influence and respect in the eyes of Indian Muslims. It is believed that the Pakistan factor will dominate Indian general elections in many years to come. India should accept the ground reality and resolve the issue through talks.
Sunil Jakhar, the Congress parliamentarian from Gurdaspur, while addressing his rally says. “People have realized that if you want to open the corridor, then Modi is not the answer. He talks about nuclear weapons; he does not want peace. One has to realise the BJP is against all minorities, be it Christians, Muslims and even Sikhs,” he adds.
It was for people of India to decide, the future of their coming generation. We the people of Pakistan wish them a government which believes in inclusive politics and does not promote the superiority of specific caste or community. The people in the region want peace.
The writer is a political analyst; views expressed by him are entirely his own.