Will the recent opening of the Kartarpura border corridor prove to be the corridor of peace between India and Pakistan? That is the hope in Pakistan, but signals from India are not very hopeful.
The opening of the K-corridor was a momentous event and for this all credit goes to the PTI government. It may be recalled here that Imran Khan had earlier remarked that we want civilised ties with India and took a big step in that direction. But, unfortunately, the initiative has been viewed with suspicion in India.
Subsequent statements and tweets from New Delhi have confirmed that India is not yet ready to come to the negotiating table. The negative response of the Indian foreign minister and the Punjab chief minister to Pakistan’s invitation to attend the opening ceremony was a clear rejection of the goodwill gesture from Islamabad.
As usual, the Indian media flew off at a tangent and painted Imran Khan’s move as a ruse to encourage separatist trends among Sikhs and undermine India’s national unity. This is clear proof of India’s ill intentions towards Pakistan. Further, India’s response also shows it is not interested in peace and wants to keep the embers of conflict burning in the sub-continent.
It is notable that India has become more belligerent since the Modi government came to power. According to some analysts, India does not want to move towards reconciliation with Pakistan because it fears that it will strengthen the Muslim minority of India, and indirectly other minorities too. It is no secret how in the last four years the Modi government has tried to ensure total Hindu dominance of the Indian polity and suppress the religious identity of Muslims and other minorities. An endless stream of hate speeches by Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath and other BJP leaders has had the effect of inciting extremist attacks on the mosques and other holy places of the Muslims.
Pakistan-China growing ties is another red flag to the bull for India whose growing hegemonic ambitions pose a serious threat to regional security and peace. New Delhi has become particularly truculent and aggressive since the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project which promises to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity not only for all in the region but beyond. India is especially fearful of the rise of China as an economic power which stands as the biggest roadblock to its hegemonic ambitions.
Another reason why India seems reluctant to resolve its differences with Islamabad is that it is playing a dirty game in Afghanistan by aligning with forces which are hostile to Pakistan. To counter the growing Indian influence in Kabul, Pakistan supports the Afghan Taliban who are anathema to the Americans.
It is in Pakistan’s interest that peace prevails in Afghanistan and towards this end it has made persistent efforts. Recently, General Bajwa made serious attempts for reconciliation with the Afghan leadership but could not succeed due to India’s wheeling and dealing behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, India in its role as a spoiler has enjoyed full support from Washington which, too, is afraid of China in the perspective of its One Belt One Road initiative. The United States has also been putting pressure on Pakistan to “do more” and bring the Haqqani Network and Afghan Shura to the negotiating table. However, US President Trump has now written a letter to Prime Minister Khan, saying that dialogue is the only route to end the conflict and emphasised that Pakistan should play its role in bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. One would add here that if Washington is sincere in its professions of peace in Afghanistan, it should stop India from playing the role of trouble-maker in Kabul
From a long term perspective, the Kartarpura corridor can prove to be the beginning of a new process of peace building in South Asia. A reduction in tensions in the region will bring the peoples of the two countries closer and open up new opportunities for tourism, trade and commerce. This would attract foreign investment and boost the economy which will help in fighting rampant poverty that blights the lives of millions in the two countries. Needless to say, problems relating to security, strategy, economy and ecology can only be undertaken through a cooperative approach and normalisation between the two countries.
To move towards the desired goal, it is India which will have to play a major role. It will have to rise above its narrow-minded, revanchist policy of Hindutva and dreams of regional dominance. A policy change would also help India to normalise and stabilise its internal polity whose peace and harmony has been rent asunder by the rising tide of Hindu extremism. In a milieu of growing normalisation between the two countries and increased trade and tourism, it will also become possible to reach a negotiated, peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.