The Hindu – Kartarpur corridor hits roadblock as consensus eludes India, Pakistan: report

India wants the construction of a km-long bridge on the Ravi river while Pakistan suggested the need to construct a road, it said.

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 28 May 2019. The ambitious Kartarpur corridor linking Pakistan’s Gurudwara Darbar Sahib with India’s Dera Baba Nanak shrine has hit a roadblock after the technical experts from both the countries could not find a consensus on building a bridge over the Ravi’s floodplain, a media report said on Tuesday.

The experts from Pakistan and India on Monday held a meeting to discuss the modalities for the corridor at the Kartarpur Zero Point.

The Express Tribune reported that the meeting lasted only one hour during which the representatives of both the sides exchanged details of the construction work.

India wants the construction of a km-long bridge on the Ravi river while Pakistan suggested the need to construct a road, it said.

The Indian officials objected to the road, citing the possibility of floods in the river. However, the Pakistani officials said that a dam could be built around the road and the inclination of the road could be kept high to avoid flood waters, the report said.

The two countries also could not agree on the date for the next meeting.

The group from the Indian side had officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Land Ports Authority of India, National Highways Authority of India, among others.

The Pakistani side was represented by the officials of Federal Investigation Agency, customs, construction, Pakistan Rangers Punjab and Survey of Pakistan. Earlier in April, technical experts and foreign ministry officials from both the sides participated in the talks held at the same venue.

In the March meeting, the two sides decided to present surveys and maps for border fencing and developmental work on the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib Corridor to their respective governments.

In November 2018, India and Pakistan agreed to set up a border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur – the final resting place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

Pakistan has said that the work on the corridor will be completed before the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November this year.

The Kartarpur corridor is expected to provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib, a small town in Narowal, four kilometres from the Pakistan-India border, where Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.

Pakistan will build the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur up to the border will be constructed by India.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/kartarpur-corridor-hits-roadblock-as-consensus-eludes-india-pakistan-report/article27271738.ece?homepage=true

Dawn – Pakistan regrets India’s decision to postpone upcoming Kartarpur meeting

Naveed Siddiqui

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 29 March 2019. Pakistan regrets India’s decision to postpone the upcoming Kartarpur meeting [on April 2] “jointly agreed by both sides” on March 14, said Dr Mohammad Faisal, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, following a statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday.

“The meeting was to discuss and find consensus on outstanding issues,” he said on Twitter.

“Last minute postponement without seeking views from Pakistan and especially after the productive technical meeting on March 19 is incomprehensible.”

Dr Faisal’s response comes shortly after New Delhi said it had “sought clarifications from Pakistan on key proposals put forward by India at the last meeting held in Attari to discuss the modalities of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor”.

The statement by the Indian ministry had added that “the next meeting on the modalities can be scheduled at an appropriate time after receiving Pakistan’s response”.

According to the statement by MEA, “India has shared concerns and sought clarifications on reports that controversial elements have been appointed by Pakistan to a committee to be associated with the Kartarpur Corridor.” However, it did not elaborate on what ‘controversial elements’ it was referring to.

On Wednesday, Radio Pakistan reported that the Federal Cabinet had constituted a ten-member Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of Kartarpur Corridor.

Meanwhile, India has also proposed in its statement that the infrastructure development for the corridor should go forward and “in an expeditious manner”.

“India has proposed to hold another meeting of technical experts in mid-April to resolve outstanding issues at the zero point agreed to at the last meeting,” the statement further clarified.

According to the MEA, the Indian government “remains committed to realise the long pending demand of the Indian pilgrims to visit the holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib using the corridor in a safe, secure, smooth and easy manner.”

Earlier in the day, the FO had invited Indian media to apply for visas to cover the April 2 meeting at Wagha.

“Pakistan welcomes Indian media for the Kartarpur Corridor meeting at Wagah on April 2, 2019. They may apply to Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi for visas #PakKartarpurSpirit,” tweeted Dr Faisal.

This was in contrast to India’s refusal to allow Pakistani journalists to cover the last meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor held at Attari.

Kartarpur Corridor negotiations

The Kartarpur Corridor is expected to provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib, a small town in Narowal, 4 kilometres from the Pakistan-India border, where Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.

The corridor is planned to be opened for Sikh pilgrims this year in commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak. The groundbreaking of the project on the Pakistani side was performed by Prime Minister Imran Khan at Kartarpur Sahib on 28 November 2018.

In January, Pakistan had shared its draft of Kartarpur Corridor Accord with India and invited its delegation for a visit for negotiating the document

India, however, instead of accepting the proposal on that occasion, insisted on hosting the meeting and asked Pakistani officials to visit Delhi either on Feb 26 or March 7. Although the counter-proposals from Islamabad and Delhi had given the impression of a sort of standoff on the issue, Islamabad had, instead of reacting to the position taken by India in response to its original suggestion, vowed to “take the process forward”.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed its commitment to continuing negotiations on proposed Kartarpur Corridor agreement and announced that the two neighbouring countries would exchange visits by their respective delegations.

The announcement came amidst an escalation of tension between the two sides with the Indian Air Force (IAF) violated Pakistani airspace following the 14 February attack targeting Indian security forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area.

Two intruding IAF jets were later downed by Pakistan and a pilot was captured only to be released as a unilateral goodwill gesture.

On 14 March, officials from Pakistan and India agreed to expedite work to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor after talks on the matter concluded on a cordial note in Attari, India.

Delegations of Pakistani and Indian technical experts met on March 19 at the the proposed zero points to discuss and finalise the development of the Kartarpur Corridor.

It was decided after this meeting that both sides will present surveys and maps for border fencing and developmental work on the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor to their respective governments.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1472628/pakistan-regrets-indias-decision-to-postpone-upcoming-kartarpur-meeting

Dawn – Pakistani, Indian officials agree to present survey reports to governments for Kartarpur corridor development

Naveed Siddiqui

Kartarpur/Dera Baba Nanak – Panjab – Pakistan/India, 19 March 2019. Technical experts from India and Pakistan met on Tuesday at the proposed zero points to discuss and finalise the development of the Kartarpur Corridor, which is to be opened to Sikh pilgrims this year to commemorate Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, a statement by the Foreign Office said.

During talks held in Attari on 14 March, it had been decided that technical experts from both sides would hold further discussions on 19 March. In connection with the same, a meeting was held today in Indian Punjab’s Dera Baba Nanak town which was attended by engineers and various technical experts from both sides.

According to the statement, the meeting was held “in a positive and constructive environment” during which both countries agreed upon presenting surveys and maps for border fencing and developmental work on the Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor to their respective governments.

“Both sides jointly surveyed the coordinates of the Zero Point and discussed the technical details, including Finished Road Level, High Flood level etc.

The two sides agreed on some technical aspects/details and expressed the hope to finalise the other modalities at the earliest,” read the statement.

After a review of the survey reports, crossing points for the corridor will be decided and the next round of discussions will then take place at Wagah on 02 April.

On the Indian side, Dera Baba Nanak has been declared the zero point which will be considered an international border. Work is underway for the construction of the zero point on 50 acres of land.

The groundbreaking of the project on the Pakistani side was performed by Prime Minister Imran Khan at Kartarpur Sahib on 28 November 2018.

After a bit of wrangling over the venue of talks on the Kartarpur Corridor Accord, Pakistan and India had agreed in principle in February on reciprocal visits of officials for negotiating and finalising the agreement, with a Pakistani delegation travelling to Delhi on March 14 for initiating the process, and India reciprocating with a visit to Pakistan at Wagah border on 02 April 2.

In January, Pakistan had shared its draft of Kartarpur Corridor Accord with India and invited its delegation for a visit for negotiating the document, which would govern operations of the corridor meant to provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to the gurdwara.

India, however, instead of accepting the proposal on that occasion, insisted on hosting the meeting and asked Pakistani officials to visit Delhi either on 26 February or 07 March.

Although the counter-proposals from Islamabad and Delhi had given the impression of a sort of standoff on the issue, Islamabad had, instead of reacting to the position taken by India in response to its original suggestion, vowed to “take the process forward”.

In addition to the official-level talks, India had also proposed technical discussions on the corridor.

On 14 March 14, a Pakistani delegation crossed over to India at Wagah to negotiate the mechanisms that will govern the operations of the Kartarpur Corridor.

At the meeting held between Pakistan and India at Amritsar’s Attari Complex, the two sides had agreed to speed up work towards the opening of Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims in visiting their holy sites on both sides of the border.

The hope is to provide visa-free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib, a small town in Narowal, 4 kilometres from the Pakistan-India border, where Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.

China welcomes Kartarpur meeting

China has welcomed the meeting between Pakistani and Indian officials to finalise modalities for the Kartarpur Corridor, Radio Pakistan reported.

During a press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang expressed hope that progress on the matter would help to further ease tensions between India and Pakistan and improve the regional situation.

Geng urged both sides to continue to demonstrate goodwill to settle differences through dialogue and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1470574/pakistani-indian-officials-agree-to-present-survey-reports-to-governments-for-kartarpur-corridor-development

The Hindu – Two Punjabs, one South Asia

India-Pakistan rapprochement and the South Asian future require sub-national engagement, starting with Punjab

Kanak Mani Dixit

Op/Ed, 04 December 2018. For a flickering moment in the last week of November, it seemed as if Congress provocateur and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu might set the geopolitical agenda, when he unabashedly spoke of the need for India and Pakistan to mend fences.

He was in Lahore on the occasion of the start of work on the Kartarpur Corridor, meant to ease the travel of Sikh pilgrims to the resting place of Guru Nanak.

Unfazed by ridicule on Indian television, the cricketer-turned-politician spoke of peace, trade and people-to-people contact, all of them lost causes of the ‘track two’ dialogues of past decades.

His confidence seemed to emanate from being a Sikh and Punjabi reaching out to Pakistani Punjab, and in his wordy sermons one actually detected the formula for India-Pakistan cohabitation, which would also catalyse cooperation in the larger South Asian region.

Ultra-nationalist fog

Peace in the Subcontinent presupposes amity between India and Pakistan, and more than 40 years of efforts at regionalism has been held hostage by hostility of the two, with the other countries watching askance.

The abuse hurled by the state establishments of each side is a populist political tool that distracts the public from pressing matters of growth, equity, democracy and accountability. That the cost of maintaining massive militaries in each country drags down efforts at social justice is lost in the fog of ultra-nationalism.

India, as the more stable democracy, should inculcate empathy for the neighbour, but the New Delhi commentariat tends not to recognise the difference between the Pakistani state and its people, the latter struggling against extremism, military supremacy and state-centralism all at one go.

Indian media by and large is not bothered by the travails of Pakistanis, as right-wing trolls rule the airwaves and social media. Similar to how dissent is sought to be silenced with the ‘Urban Naxal’ tag, since long those seeking India-Pakistan amity and South Asian regionalism are rejected as romantic peaceniks lighting meaningless candles at Wagah-Atari.

The trolling and abuse on all matters related to Pakistan can be expected to peak as India’s general election of 2019 draws near, which will only help Islamabad’s military-intelligence complex tighten its grip on the society. It is high time to try once again for a plan for South Asian regionalism.

Opportunity costs

The potential of South Asia for sustained high growth has been blocked by the tightened national borders, with India playing its part by building barbed wire fences on the Pakistan and Bangladesh frontiers.

In all of seven decades, the economic history of the Subcontinent has been forgotten, with the ultra-nationalist narrative having us believe that this separate living is how it has always been.

Until Cyril Radcliffe drew the map of Partition, the economic synergy across the different parts of the Subcontinent was an unquestioned historical reality.

There is no one to remember or remind that this reality of sealed borders was set only in 1947 for most parts of the Subcontinent, or that the door actually slammed shut only after the India-Pakistan war of 1965.

As the historical ‘connectivity’ of the Subcontinent crumbled, it created massive dysfunction as economies of scale and production chains were disrupted.

The opportunity costs have been incalculable in terms of infrastructure, production and commerce, and the loss in livelihoods would be heart-rending if only we cared to calculate.

The present-day failure of South Asian academia is its unwillingness to theorise on the promise of economic growth and social justice that regionalism holds, through soft/open borders.

Of the Indian intelligentsia, the failure is also in seeing economic geography through the New Delhi lens rather than those of the ‘peripheral’ regions, from Rajasthan to the Northeast.

‘South Asia’ must be understood as a project for social justice, to be achieved through economic rationalisation, sub-regional interactions and reduced military budgets, and open borders such as exists between Nepal and India.

Counter-populism

The goal of the future should be to learn to compartmentalise one’s perceptions of the ‘other’, that Pakistan is made up of its state and its people just as India too is made up of its state and its people. The mutual demonisation has to do with conflating the two, state apparatus and citizenry, as one.

While the Pakistani state is rightfully critiqued for the way the military/intelligence calls the shots, from the Kargil misadventure to cross-border militancy, to even denying Punjab province the right to import energy from India, the self-perception of India as ‘good’ and Pakistan as ‘bad’ should have been abandoned long ago.

In Pakistan, the space of the public intellectual is circumscribed by the jihadists, the army and the military intelligence. In India, a much freer country no doubt, there is the rise of pernicious ultra-populism that keeps public figures from speaking up.

In the age of Narendra Modi, proposing South Asian solidarity is frowned upon to such an extent that academics and opinion makers, not to mention bureaucracy and even international funding agencies, all think it is better to keep aloof of the concept.

Since 2016, the Prime Minister has been consistent in his refusal to attend the 19th SAARC Summit slated for Islamabad, which has rendered the regional organisation comatose. His vision of South Asian regionalism is where the neighbours dance to India’s tune.

The fear that South Asia as a concept heralds some kind of supra-sovereignty is misplaced, for there is no plan afoot for supplanting of the nation-state and associated group privileges. No, the capitals are not being asked to relinquish their powers to a Subcontinental centre.

Instead, a realistic formula for South Asian regionalism lies in allowing the federal units of the two largest countries, the provinces of Pakistan and the states of India, autonomy, which today exists only on paper. This is where the Punjab-Punjab formula comes in.

Even as television sought to lampoon Mr Sidhu, we saw what was required to push for peace in South Asia, chutzpah. The Yiddish word implies the gall or audacity of a showman, and the gift of repartee to challenge the harshest of televangelist anchors.

It does seem that ultranationalist populism can only be cut by counter-populist hyperbole.

Responding to the Pakistan Foreign Minister’s invitation to the Kartarpur Corridor ground-breaking, the Punjab Minister replied in a letter: “As our nations take this first step, the Kartarpur Spirit can make pilgrims of us all, venturing out on a journey that breaks the barriers of history and opens the borders of hearts and the mind, a journey that our people can walk together towards a future of shared peace and prosperity for India and Pakistan.”

If you read the words and not the perception some have of the gentleman, the future of Punjab-Punjab, India-Pakistan and South Asia as a whole can be found in the paragraph.

Punjabiyat

Nothing has been left untried in the effort to ease India-Pakistan tensions, Atal Bihari Vajpayee visiting Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore; Mr Modi flying in for Nawaz Sharif’s birthday; secret emissaries rushing hither and yon; and ‘track two’ and ‘track three’ events of every kind.

Nothing has worked, and we are today in suspended animation between Mr Modi’s India-centric vision of the region and the Pakistani military’s control of the geopolitical discourse in Islamabad. At such a time comes the possibility held out by the Kartarpur Corridor.

Punjab province is by far the most powerful sub-national unit of Pakistan. The Indian Punjab may not be as powerful within India in relative terms, but it is no pushover either.

The two Punjabs have one history, as the stepping stone for invaders, battlegrounds that go back millennia, the shared tragedy of Partition, and the shared culture and language of Punjabiyat.

Given that South Asian regionalism can only come from a turn towards genuine federalism in India and Pakistan, Punjab Province and Punjab State are the places to start anew. It may just be Punjabiyat is the concept which will help bring India and Pakistan closer to peace, and make South Asia a safer and more prosperous place.

Kanak Mani Dixit, a writer and journalist based in Kathmandu, is the founding editor of the magazine, ‘Himal Southasian’

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/two-punjabs-one-south-asia/article25657528.ece

Dawn – Government ‘proposes’ Kartarpur border opening to India

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 08 September 2018. The government on Friday said it had proposed to open the Kartarpur border crossing with India for Sikh pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib without visa.

“There is a proposal to open Kartarpur border and after that the Indian Sikhs visiting the gurdwara will be required to have a ticket,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn.

The Kartarpur gurdwara is located in Narowal district near the Indian border.

Earlier, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had hinted at opening the Kartarpur border on the occasion of Baba Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary next year for Sikh pilgrims when he met cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu during his visit here in the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Last month Indian High Commissioner Ajay Basariya had also visited Kartarpur border.

A source told Dawn that the PTI government had not yet taken the Evacuee Trust Property Board (which looks after holy places of minorities) into confidence in this regard.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1431623/govt-proposes-kartarpur-border-opening-to-india