Cancellation of Kartarpur Corridor Talks
The second round of talks between India and Pakistan on Kartarpur corridor was cancelled as India called it off.
What is the corridor for?
- India and Pakistan agreed in 2018 to set up a border crossing.
- It was to link Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur to the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.
- Gurudwara Darbar Sahib is the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev.
- Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about 4 km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.
Why was the talk cancelled?
- Differences – The first round of talks took place in the shadow of the Pulwama terror attack.
- It had revealed divergences between the two sides on all aspects of the pilgrimage corridor, which included –
- number of pilgrims to be accommodated
- the security restrictions
- mode of transport to be used by pilgrims
- Moreover, Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s administration feels it should be given more credit for having cleared the Kartarpur proposal.
- 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.
- But New Delhi refuses to acknowledge this demand.
- India has made it clear the corridor will have no connection with furthering bilateral talks on other issues.
- Attacks – At the base of the differences is the deep distrust between the two governments.
- Especially, the gulf has deepened in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the Balakot strike.
- Security – Security agencies have cautioned of Pakistan’s military establishment using the corridor to fuel separatist Khalistani sentiment.
- [Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement seeking to create a separate country called Khalistan in Punjab, as a homeland for Sikhs.]
- Reportedly, the Pakistani Cabinet constituted a ten-member Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC).
- This is to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of Kartarpur Corridor.
- Worryingly, the team is said to be formed with some known pro-Khalistan leaders within the Sikh community.
- The Ministry of External Affairs summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner, seeking clarifications on the “controversial elements” on the committee.
- However, Pakistan did not name the members of the committee.
- Indian government’s decision now to postpone the next round of technical talks is driven mainly by these concerns.
- India said the next meeting would only be held after it receives Pakistan’s response.
What could have been 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.
- But alongside, 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.