The Kartarpur Corridor: A Step Forward?

Last week, seventy-two years after the 1947 Partition of India into India and Pakistan, Pakistan reopened the Gurdwaras Chowa Sahib to facilitate the upcoming Sikh celebration of the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith. As many as 500 Indian Sikhs made their way to Pakistan to participate in the celebration, a number confirmed by the Pakistan Foreign Office. The ceremonial reopening of the Gurdwara Chowa Sahib stands in stark contrast to the previous state of neglect in which it remained for a while.  

The Kartarpur corridor is a 4.2 kilometer-long belt of land which will connect India and Pakistan with the purpose of allowing Indian Sikh pilgrims to freely visit religious sites. The construction of the corridor is expected to end by September of 2019. In November, an anticipated thousands of Indian Sikhs are expected to visit the Kartarpur gurdwara, a landmark for the Sikh faith, in honor of Guru Nanak Dev.  According to the Indian wire service Press Trust of India, sources have indicated the Indian pilgrims arrived via Wagah border as opposed to the Kartarpur corridor which remains under construction.  

The Pakistani government has viewed the construction of the Kartarpur corridor as a form of progress. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi suggested that the corridor would improve the relationship between Pakistan and India. On the other hand, India’s Foreign Minister clearly stated that the Kartarpur project will not play a role in kick-starting the “bilateral dialogue.” Rather, India has consistently held the position that Pakistan must first and foremost address and stop the terrorism occurring in India in order for talks to begin.  Some have considered Imran Khan and the Pakistani administration’s “hopeful” language to be a gambit designed to fabricate the appearance of a diplomatic relationship without the genuine intent to take concrete actions. The construction of the Kartarpur corridor does not indicate any change in Pakistani policy when it comes to the root cause of the tension between Pakistan and India, which is state-sponsored terrorism.

The Pakistan-India conflict over the past several decades has become cyclical in nature. In the face of Pakistani state-sponsored attacks in Kashmir, Pakistan is given a scolding by the international community, while India is commended for withholding a military retaliation. Meanwhile, The Indian government’s tolerance for Pakistan’s state-sponsored terror attacks has diminished and the people have grown impatient.

It is up to the international community to take stronger stances when it comes to pressure and consequences for Pakistan’s actions, despite the diplomatic challenge this poses. Until the promotion of terrorist activities is addressed by Pakistan, it is difficult to see an improved relationship between the two states.