UPSC MAINS 2019 : Why second round of India-Pakistan Kartarpur talks were cancelled

Topic : Why second round of India-Pakistan Kartarpur talks were cancelled

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: International Affairs

 

Context:

The cancellation of the second round of talks between India and Pakistan on Kartarpur corridor reflects the distrust between the two countries.

 

Why second round of India-Pakistan Kartarpur talks were cancelled?

  • The first round of talks on March 14, which took place in the shadow of the Pulwama terror attack, had revealed divergences between the two sides on all aspects of the pilgrimage corridor.
  • There are several points of divergence,
    • Including the number of pilgrims that each side aims to accommodate.
    • The number of days the corridor would remain open in a week.
    • The documents that could be used for travel.
  • This ranged from the number of pilgrims to the visiting days to the identity documents required and had displayed the complete divergence between the two sides.
  • It’s because Indian Sikh pilgrims have demanded it ever since the Radcliffe Line left the sacred shrine on the other side of the border.
  • India has made it clear the corridor will have no connection with furthering bilateral talks on other issues.
  • Now, with Pakistan forming a team with known pro-Khalistan leaders within the Sikh community, Delhi has made its displeasure known.
  • According to state-run Radio Pakistan, the Pakistani Cabinet constituted a ten-member Pakistan Sikh GurdwaraPrabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of Kartarpur Corridor.
  • As election season is in full swing in India, it is unlikely that the Indian side will retreat and make conciliatory gestures towards Pakistan.
  • This, in effect, means it will be for the next government to decide how talks between the countries continues on the Kartarpur corridor.
  • According to state-run Radio Pakistan, the Pakistani Cabinet constituted a ten-member Pakistan Sikh GurdwaraPrabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of Kartarpur Corridor.

 

Gurdwara in Kartarpur:

  • The gurdwara in Kartarpur is located on the bank of river Ravi in Pakistan
  • It is about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine, and about 120 km northeast of Lahore
  • It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539
  • The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view
  • Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at GurdwaraDera Baba Nanak
  • The gurdwara was opened to pilgrims after repairs and restoration in 1999, and Sikh jathas have been visiting the shrine regularly ever since
  • Sikh jathas from India travel to Pakistan on four occasions every year- for Baishakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru ArjanDev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev.

 

 

Kartarpur Sahib Corridor:

  • There had been demands from the ShiromanniGurdwaraParbandhak Committee and political leaders to build a corridor that would allow the pilgrims to cross over into Pakistan from the Indian side to visit the Kartarpur Sahib shrine and return the same day
  • The corridor, once built, will give Indian pilgrims an easy access to the shrine in Kartarpur
  • A bridge will need to be constructed over the Ravi and there shall be no need for passports or visas
  • India will build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border, as informed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh
  • Singh also informed that a high-level committee chaired by him will regularly review, monitor and oversee the implementation of activities to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak
  • India had first proposed the Kartarpur Sahib corridor in 1999 when the then Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore.

 

Kartarpur corridor: A timeline

The following is the chronology of events leading up to the foundation laying for the corridor linking GurdwaraDarbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district to facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims:

  • 1522: The first Gurdwara, GurdwaraKartarpur Sahib, was established by the first Sikh Guru where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.
  • February 1999: The Kartarpur Sahib corridor was proposed by the then Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee when he took a bus ride to Lahore during a peace initiative with Pakistan.
  • 2000: Pakistan agrees to allow Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the shrine visa-free (and without a passport) by constructing a bridge from the India side of the border to the shrine.
  • August 2018: Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu attends Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony.
  • August 2018: Upon his return from Islamabad, Sidhu says that Pakistan Army chief General QamarJavedBajwa informed him that the Pakistan government would open the Dera Baba Nanak (Kartarpur) corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
  • November 22: Indian Cabinet approves the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the Pakistan border.
  • November 26: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu lays the foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak – Kartarpur Sahib Corridor (up to the International Border) at an event at Mann village of Gurdaspur district of Punjab.
  • November 28: Prime Minister Imran Khan lays the foundation stone of the 4-km corridor which is expected to be completed by next year.

 

Significance:

  • Kartarpur corridor not only connects the two holiest sikh shrines, Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, it connects the millions of sikhs across the two countries as well as across the globe.
  • Sikhs in India has been long demanding an easy access to visit the resting place of the first guru and founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak DevJi.
  • Finally both the government of Pakistan and India agreed upon to provide a visa and passport free corridor from the international border at Gurdaspur, Punjab, India in one side and Kartarpur, Narowal, Pakistan on the other side.
  • This will allow the Sikhs from the Indian border to visit the GurdwaraDarbar Sahib without the hassle of travelling all the way to and again back to just three kilometer of the border, instead it will be just a stretch of three kilometers.

 

How India and Pakistan came on board?

  • The visa-free corridor for Sikhs from India to Pakistan’s Kartarpur Sahib, revered as the place where Guru Nanak is said to have spent his final days and where he breathed his last, seems to have become possible not through an agreement between India and Pakistan, but with one side deciding not to oppose what the other had decided.
  • India’s announcement that it would develop a corridor up to the international border was timed with the start of 550th birth anniversary year of Guru Nanak.
  • The government also asked Pakistan “to recognize the sentiments of the Sikh community and to develop a corridor with suitable facilities in its territory from the International Border to GurudwaraKartapur Sahib to facilitate easier access and smooth passage of India pilgrims through the year”.
  • Indian side came the announcement that President Ram NathKovind and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will lay the foundation stone for the proposed corridor two days earlier, on November 26.
  • That the announcement should follow a day after Amarinder blamed Pakistan and the ISI for the grenade attack on a Nirankari gathering near Amritsar is telling of the dynamics, domestic and foreign.
  • The Kartarpur Corridor, which will provide visa-free access from India to the shrine located 2 km inside Pakistan in Narowal when it becomes ready on both sides within a few months, may need a separate treaty.
  • It is too early to say if the Kartarpur Corridor will lead to an all-round thaw in relations for the two countries to take up other issues through a dialogue, especially in an election year for India.

 

Concerns with the corridor:

  • The corridor would bring Pakistan infrastructure right up to the Indian border.
  • Over the past year, gurdwaras in Pakistan have been used for a pro-Khalistan campaign.
  • Earlier this year, a gurdwara displayed posters and distributed pamphlets for the so-called “Sikh Referendum 2020”, and Pakistan denied permission to the Indian envoy and diplomats to visit it.
  • Pakistan’s intent also remains suspect, and Indian officials are wary of the corridor being misused by both state and non-state actors in that country.

 

What should be done?

  • The cancellation of the talks reflects the distrust between the two countries.
  • Pakistan’s support to separatist Sikh groups goes back several decades, for which India must work to secure its border from the threat.
  • India should have opened the gates for thousands of pilgrims to travel to Pakistan.
  • Modalities and technical issues, such as on the numbers, eligibility and identity proof required, should be resolved by both governments.
  • Putting off meetings is hardly a constructive solution, given the proposed opening of the corridor by November to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

 

Sample Question:

Why second round of India-Pakistan Kartarpur talks were cancelled?  Discuss how this cancellation of the talks reflects the distrust between the two countries?