- A discussion on the Kartarpur Corridor was organised by the Centre for Socio-Cultural Studies (CSCS), Punjab on 03, May, 2019 at the Sharda Sarvhitkari School, Sector 40 D, Chandigarh.
- The invitees were carefully selected from among prominent personalities in the domain of Defence Services, Police Services, Academicians, Journalists, Lawyers and members of Gurudwara Management. More than twenty personnel participated in the discussion, inclusive of CSCS members. The list of invitees is attached below
- While welcoming the invitees, team CSCS highlighted the importance of the discussion. The possibility of opening of dialogue process with Pakistan once the new Indian government is sworn in has been expressed by the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Should such an eventuality come by, the issues concerning Punjab will need to be kept central to the dialogue process and within this ambit the Kartarpur Corridor will be significant. The corridor, in any case, has elicited diplomatic engagement, even though the same has been kept restricted to the project by the Government of India.
- It was proposed to hold the discussion in an open format with all participants eliciting their views freely. The overall framework was identified as follows:-
- Significance of the project
- Stakeholders and their positions
- Challenges for the Nation
- Implication and Impact
- Since the discussion was free flowing, all points were covered simultaneously.
- There was unanimous agreement for the project to be completed in view of the sentiments involved and the efforts made over the years by successive governments and prime ministers for fructification the same. It was highlighted that the Sikh community has remained traumatised since partition by the loss of their historically important areas, which formed the seat of the mighty Sikh Empire. More so because the most important places associated with the first Sikh Master Guru Nanak Dev Ji went to Pakistan among other Gurudwaras too. The Sikh Ardas (prayer) makes specific mention of these holy places with a supplication that the community be given an opportunity to visit, offer prayers and look after the same. Now that an opportunity for visit of one such Gurudwara has come by it should not be lost.
- It was highlighted that along with the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji is revered equally by other communities and in particular the Punjabi community. Hence, there is a need to ensure that the pilgrimage is open to all disciples of the Guru. The universal appeal of Guru Nanak Dev Ji should be given due respect and his message of human equality in the eyes of God should be carried letter and spirit, under the ambit of his enlightened teachings.
- While progressing with the project, Pakistan’s position as a deep state, determined to give a boost to separatist (Khalistani) movements in Punjab, especially so in the context of the Sikhs for Justice (Referendum 2020) movement needs to be kept in mind.
- Along with the separatist movement there will be a need to stay vigilant about Pakistani involvement in proliferation of drugs, generation of social unrest as well as insurgency. The means and methodologies of keeping the common masses isolated from such propaganda will need to be worked out in the social, religious as well as diplomatic and security domains.
- The government should remain sensitive to the Punjabi sentiment and desire for peace with Pakistan in view of the massive loss that the region would suffer in case of conflict, conventional or hybrid. The dealings with Pakistan need to be shared and explained to the people of Punjab at a degree greater than the rest of India since the region is the biggest stake-holder in the relations between the two countries. The Government can also remain confident that the Punjabi people will remain steadfast and courageous in the face of a just and righteous conflict that may emerge with Pakistan and will be ready to make any sacrifice for the country as has been witnessed historically.
- The proposal is also perceived as a diplomatic setback for India, having planned and executed with great deliberations as a part of the Bajwa Doctrine. The Bajwa doctrine looks towards extension of the unrest in India, in view of the emerging situation of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. It is firmly believed that Navjot Sidhu has been used as a pawn in a higher great game. Pakistan has never agreed so easily to what India has said; that such a situation has come to pass in this case is something to be wary about.
- While dealing with Pakistan, the existing status of the country as one going through an existential crisis in the security and economic domain and feeling the heat of international isolation should be seen as a reason for reaching out to international Sikh community which is very strong both politically and economically.
- A deep thought will need to be given by India to prepare for the other proposal that will come in the wake of this initiative gaining traction. Will here is a demand for an extension to include similar visits to Gurudwaras Nankana Sahib, and Gurudwara Panja Sahib. There can be further movement towards opening a corridor to the Sharda Peeth temple in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. There can also be demands for opening up of some Muslim places of pilgrimage in India for the Pakistani people?
- With doubts being raised with regard to the value of the project as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM), the need for fool proof security was emphasised. In this regard the following points were flagged as particularly important:-
(a) The need to use modern, cutting edge technology to the extent of full body scans of the pilgrims to ensure full security. It will need to be ensured that the person who goes is the same person who comes back too.
(b) Meetings of people from Pakistan and India in the premises of the holy place will also need monitoring. An ideal would be to have different timings for Indian and Pakistani pilgrims, but that will create administrative issues.
(c) The monitoring should be overseen constantly and consistently at the political level. Intelligence inputs will need to be studied in detail and pre-emptive action taken where found necessary. Leaving things to bureaucrats and security forces will not be enough.
(d) Any attempt to generate propaganda to influence the Sikhs of the country and the world should meet with immediate counter measure prepared professionally.
- The Kartarpur Corridor is one among many other initiatives being taken by Pakistan to establish ownership of the Punjabi culture. Pakistani Universities, particularly University of Lahore, are introducing courses on the original Gurmukhi languages, history of Punjab through the ages and study of poets and literary icons like Bulle Shah. The Indian literary structures need to response at a much higher level.
- In conclusion the main factors are summarised in point form as given below:-
(a) The Kartarpur Corridor project should be completed at all costs.
(b) The universality of teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji needs to be kept in focus.
(c) The Guru has a following in all communities and this factor should be respected.
(d) The proposal has been assiduously engineered by Pakistan has put India on the diplomatic back foot; the situation needs correction.
(e) Pakistani propaganda directed towards the Sikh community within India and International needs to be identified, exposed and countered.
(f) Security aspects need to be implemented and monitored in a fool proof manner.
(g) The government needs to remain sensitive to the position of Punjab as a frontline state being influenced by a neighbour with inimical intentions.
- The government needs to progress on the project with utmost sensitivity while keeping the interests of the Nations and the sentiments of the people in mind.