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Culture South Asia

Build Peace and Friendship on the Foundation of Kartarpur

Sandeep and Arundhati Dhuru 22 Nov 2019

Kartarpur

It was heartening to hear NarendraModi praise Imran Khan, for facilitating the opening of the 4.7 km corridor so that Sikh pilgrims from India could visit the GurudwaraDarbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan, after a mostly anti-Pakistan narrative first during the general elections and then, after the decision related to Jammu and Kashmir was taken by his government. Full credit must go to Imran Khan for taking the initiative of opening the corridor and standing by his decision in spite of a relentlesslybelligerent Indian posture during his tenure. And although his own party has abandoned him on this issue, Navjot Singh Sidhu’s relationship with Imran Khan has also played a small role in this, and Sidhu too, like Imran, has stood by the decision, in spite of adverse criticism at home for having embraced Pakistani Army chief during Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony. In the history of India-Pakistan relationship, most of the times Pakistan has been the aggressor and India desirous of peace, but for a change Pakistan is making moves for peace and India is not reciprocating. Otherwise, in the usual tit-for-tat relationship between India and Pakistan, NarendraModi should have used the occasion of opening of Kartarpur corridor to announce a similar arrangement for Pakistani citizens, who desire to visit Ajmer Sharif dargah through a passage built across the border in Rajasthan.

It is also an irony that on the day when India was taking away the right of its minority Muslims to have a mosque at the place where it stood before 1992, which, as the recent Supreme Court judgement on Ayodhya case describes, was removed as a result of ‘unlawful destruction,’ Pakistan was offering another Indian minority, Sikhs, an opportunity to worship at a shrine, without the requirement of visa and with a warm welcome.

Going by the reactions of Sikh pilgrims, who have had a chance to go across the corridor to Kartarpur, it appears Pakistan has left no stone unturned to make it a pleasant experience for them. By this one gesture, Imran Khan has won the goodwill of Indians. However, it will be better if he also removes the requirement of Passport as an identity document because a vast number of poor Indian citizens do not possess it. As one of the ordinary visitors to the border on the Indian side suggested, they should allow Aadhar Card instead. From our experience during theDelhi to Multan peace march in 2005,onfoot in India and by vehicles in Pakistan, we can remember a number of common Indians, especially from rural areas, wanting to travel across the border whowere disappointed when they were told that they required a passport and visa to do so. The service fee of $20 is also quite high. Pakistan must make it free so that it does not hinder any Sikh citizen from fulfilling her dream of visiting the resting place of Guru Nanak. There are other ways of generating income from this project itself for the maintenance of the corridor and the shrine.

The 2005 Delhi-Multan peace march was undertaken with three objectives: (1) India and Pakistan must resolve all their disputes through dialogue, including the issue of J&K, which should be resolved  according to wishes of the people belonging there, (2) India and Pakistan must give up their nuclear weapons immediately and reduce their defence budgets so that resources could be freed up for developmental activities on both sides in the interest of the common people, and (3) the two countries should remove the requirement of passport-visa and allow free travel across the border. It was the third demand which attracted the most applause in the rural areas and concern among the urban educated. One TadiKirtan singer in a Gurudwara, as we were approaching Jallandhar, came to us and suggested that the above-mentioned third demand should be made the demand number One. His logic, and we were astonished at the soundness of it, was that once free travel across the border is allowed, it would be much easier to resolve the first two issues. We must admit, we felt humbled being educated by a common man on the street. He has left an indelible impression on us, more than any of the university professors who’ve taught us inside the four walls of a classroom.

The 2005 peace march was received by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the present Foreign Minister of Pakistan, who also happens to be the SajjadaNashin of the mazar of a Sufi saint,BahauddinZakariya in Multan, where the march terminated. That day, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was not yet a politician, said something in a crowded public meeting to welcome the Indian marchers, which is easier said in India than in Pakistan, ‘One day, Pakistan and India will reunite like the two Germanys.’ Such was the congeniality created due to the peace march.

Even if you look at the mood on the day when NarendraModi was flagging off 562 pilgrims from the Indian side and Imran Khan was receiving them on the other side, all the acrimony between the leaderships of two countries had disappeared like magic. Our experience from several visits to Pakistan is that the official enmitybetween the two governments, maintained artificially but easily gives way to bonhomie whenever the atmosphere is more conducive, doesn’t percolate down to the level of common people. After all, it is the same people who speak the same language.

If the two governments exhibited more benevolence and allowed citizens to meet freely, the animosity between the establishments would melt away. Indian side looks at the present initiative of the Pakistani government with suspicion. They think that the Pakistani Army or the Inter Services Intelligence might have some ulterior motives in encouragingKhalistani protagonists to create disturbances in India. That is something that the Indian security establishment should worry about. But it should definitely not come in the way of promoting peace and friendship on the foundations which have been laid in Kartarpur. If we are to be always suspicious of the other, then no relationship, based on trust, can take off. For peace between the twe countries, the stakes are so high, and it will make life of so many so much easier, that it is worth taking the risk.Punjab Chief Minister,Amarinder Singh, has said that he will talk to the Indian Prime Minister to persuade Pakistan to open access to more historical Gurudwaras there. Hence, in spite of the nature of official relationship of the two governments, easier travel across the border remains a popular demand, at least in the border areas on both the sides.

The Indian position - that unless Pakistani government has totally taken care of the problem of homegrown terrorism, it will not dialogue with it - is slightly untenable. It is like saying that unless Yogi Adityanath takes care of all criminals and rapists in the BhartiyaJanata Party’s state unit, it will not deal with the Uttar Pradesh government. With the recent demonstrations against the Imran Khan government in Pakistan, the possibility of more fundamentalists dominating the establishment are very real. Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi are probably the most friendly leaders that India can expect Pakistan to have and to deal with it. It should not fritter away the opportunity.

NarendraModi should also realize that his RashtriyaSwayamsewakSangh training has taught him only one way of mobilizing public opinion - by considering Muslims and Pakistan as enemies. If he were to change his nature of politics, by appealing to the better sense of people, to promote peace and friendship between the two countries and communities, he could mobilise public opinion in his favour equally successfully. The mood of the people and politicians, on both sides of the border, on Novermber 9 must have given him some idea of how much potential this alternative viewpoint holds.

 

RELATED ARTICLES

  1. Ganga-Jamunitehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
  2. Promoting inter-faith harmony: Pakistan to reopen, restore 400 Hindu temples
  3. Opinion: Chest thumping and war mongering must give way to trust, peace and friendship

Build Peace and Friendship on the Foundation of Kartarpur

Kartarpur

It was heartening to hear NarendraModi praise Imran Khan, for facilitating the opening of the 4.7 km corridor so that Sikh pilgrims from India could visit the GurudwaraDarbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan, after a mostly anti-Pakistan narrative first during the general elections and then, after the decision related to Jammu and Kashmir was taken by his government. Full credit must go to Imran Khan for taking the initiative of opening the corridor and standing by his decision in spite of a relentlesslybelligerent Indian posture during his tenure. And although his own party has abandoned him on this issue, Navjot Singh Sidhu’s relationship with Imran Khan has also played a small role in this, and Sidhu too, like Imran, has stood by the decision, in spite of adverse criticism at home for having embraced Pakistani Army chief during Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony. In the history of India-Pakistan relationship, most of the times Pakistan has been the aggressor and India desirous of peace, but for a change Pakistan is making moves for peace and India is not reciprocating. Otherwise, in the usual tit-for-tat relationship between India and Pakistan, NarendraModi should have used the occasion of opening of Kartarpur corridor to announce a similar arrangement for Pakistani citizens, who desire to visit Ajmer Sharif dargah through a passage built across the border in Rajasthan.

It is also an irony that on the day when India was taking away the right of its minority Muslims to have a mosque at the place where it stood before 1992, which, as the recent Supreme Court judgement on Ayodhya case describes, was removed as a result of ‘unlawful destruction,’ Pakistan was offering another Indian minority, Sikhs, an opportunity to worship at a shrine, without the requirement of visa and with a warm welcome.

Going by the reactions of Sikh pilgrims, who have had a chance to go across the corridor to Kartarpur, it appears Pakistan has left no stone unturned to make it a pleasant experience for them. By this one gesture, Imran Khan has won the goodwill of Indians. However, it will be better if he also removes the requirement of Passport as an identity document because a vast number of poor Indian citizens do not possess it. As one of the ordinary visitors to the border on the Indian side suggested, they should allow Aadhar Card instead. From our experience during theDelhi to Multan peace march in 2005,onfoot in India and by vehicles in Pakistan, we can remember a number of common Indians, especially from rural areas, wanting to travel across the border whowere disappointed when they were told that they required a passport and visa to do so. The service fee of $20 is also quite high. Pakistan must make it free so that it does not hinder any Sikh citizen from fulfilling her dream of visiting the resting place of Guru Nanak. There are other ways of generating income from this project itself for the maintenance of the corridor and the shrine.

The 2005 Delhi-Multan peace march was undertaken with three objectives: (1) India and Pakistan must resolve all their disputes through dialogue, including the issue of J&K, which should be resolved  according to wishes of the people belonging there, (2) India and Pakistan must give up their nuclear weapons immediately and reduce their defence budgets so that resources could be freed up for developmental activities on both sides in the interest of the common people, and (3) the two countries should remove the requirement of passport-visa and allow free travel across the border. It was the third demand which attracted the most applause in the rural areas and concern among the urban educated. One TadiKirtan singer in a Gurudwara, as we were approaching Jallandhar, came to us and suggested that the above-mentioned third demand should be made the demand number One. His logic, and we were astonished at the soundness of it, was that once free travel across the border is allowed, it would be much easier to resolve the first two issues. We must admit, we felt humbled being educated by a common man on the street. He has left an indelible impression on us, more than any of the university professors who’ve taught us inside the four walls of a classroom.

The 2005 peace march was received by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the present Foreign Minister of Pakistan, who also happens to be the SajjadaNashin of the mazar of a Sufi saint,BahauddinZakariya in Multan, where the march terminated. That day, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was not yet a politician, said something in a crowded public meeting to welcome the Indian marchers, which is easier said in India than in Pakistan, ‘One day, Pakistan and India will reunite like the two Germanys.’ Such was the congeniality created due to the peace march.

Even if you look at the mood on the day when NarendraModi was flagging off 562 pilgrims from the Indian side and Imran Khan was receiving them on the other side, all the acrimony between the leaderships of two countries had disappeared like magic. Our experience from several visits to Pakistan is that the official enmitybetween the two governments, maintained artificially but easily gives way to bonhomie whenever the atmosphere is more conducive, doesn’t percolate down to the level of common people. After all, it is the same people who speak the same language.

If the two governments exhibited more benevolence and allowed citizens to meet freely, the animosity between the establishments would melt away. Indian side looks at the present initiative of the Pakistani government with suspicion. They think that the Pakistani Army or the Inter Services Intelligence might have some ulterior motives in encouragingKhalistani protagonists to create disturbances in India. That is something that the Indian security establishment should worry about. But it should definitely not come in the way of promoting peace and friendship on the foundations which have been laid in Kartarpur. If we are to be always suspicious of the other, then no relationship, based on trust, can take off. For peace between the twe countries, the stakes are so high, and it will make life of so many so much easier, that it is worth taking the risk.Punjab Chief Minister,Amarinder Singh, has said that he will talk to the Indian Prime Minister to persuade Pakistan to open access to more historical Gurudwaras there. Hence, in spite of the nature of official relationship of the two governments, easier travel across the border remains a popular demand, at least in the border areas on both the sides.

The Indian position - that unless Pakistani government has totally taken care of the problem of homegrown terrorism, it will not dialogue with it - is slightly untenable. It is like saying that unless Yogi Adityanath takes care of all criminals and rapists in the BhartiyaJanata Party’s state unit, it will not deal with the Uttar Pradesh government. With the recent demonstrations against the Imran Khan government in Pakistan, the possibility of more fundamentalists dominating the establishment are very real. Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi are probably the most friendly leaders that India can expect Pakistan to have and to deal with it. It should not fritter away the opportunity.

NarendraModi should also realize that his RashtriyaSwayamsewakSangh training has taught him only one way of mobilizing public opinion - by considering Muslims and Pakistan as enemies. If he were to change his nature of politics, by appealing to the better sense of people, to promote peace and friendship between the two countries and communities, he could mobilise public opinion in his favour equally successfully. The mood of the people and politicians, on both sides of the border, on Novermber 9 must have given him some idea of how much potential this alternative viewpoint holds.

 

RELATED ARTICLES

  1. Ganga-Jamunitehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
  2. Promoting inter-faith harmony: Pakistan to reopen, restore 400 Hindu temples
  3. Opinion: Chest thumping and war mongering must give way to trust, peace and friendship

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