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India Pakistan Kartarpur Corridor Talks

India Pakistan Kartarpur Corridor Talks

Relevance:

  • GS 2 || International Relations || India & it’s neighbors || Pakistan

Why in news?

  • The second round of India-Pakistan talks on the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor to decide the modalities has been cancelled.

Kartarpur corridor

  • Kartarpur Sahib: 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 gurwara 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 Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev.
  • Corridor: There had been demands from the Shiromanni Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) 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.
    • India had first proposed the Kartarpur Sahib corridor in 1999 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore.

Why were the talks cancelled?

  • Differences: 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. This ranged from –
    • the number of pilgrims to be accommodated,
    • to the security restrictions,
    • to the documentation and
    • mode of transport to be used by pilgrims.
  • Moreover, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration feels it should be given more credit for having cleared the Kartarpur proposal, something Indian Sikh pilgrims have demanded for decades, ever since the Radcliffe Line left their sacred shrine on the other side of the border in 1947.
  • For its part, New Delhi refuses to acknowledge Pakistan’s overture, and 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, a chasm that has deepened in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the Balakot strike.
  • Security: Meanwhile, security agencies have voiced concerns about a possible attempt by Pakistan’s military establishment to use the corridor to fuel separatist Khalistani sentiment.
    • The government’s decision now to postpone the next round of technical talks, which were scheduled for April 2, is driven mainly by those concerns, in particular the inclusion of some known Khalistan activists in a gurdwara committee that would interact with pilgrims from India.
      • According to state-run Radio Pakistan, the Pakistani Cabinet constituted a ten-member Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of Kartarpur Corridor. However, it did not name the members of the committee.
    • Last week, the Ministry of External Affairs summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner and sought clarifications on the “controversial elements” on the committee, and said the next meeting would only be held after it receives Pakistan’s response.

What could have been done?

  • While none of the government’s concerns is unwarranted, it could not have been unprepared when it embarked on the corridor proposal.
    • Pakistan’s support to separatist Sikh groups goes back several decades, and India must work to secure its border from the threat even as it opens the gates for thousands of pilgrims to travel to Pakistan.
  • National security must get priority.
    • But for this, there must be an effort by all stakeholders in India — the Centre, the State government and the leadership of the BJP, the Akalis and the Congress — to resist scoring political points against one another.
    • Modalities and technical issues, such as on the numbers, eligibility and identity proof required for the trip to Kartarpur Sahib, should be ironed out by both governments.
  • Putting off meetings is hardly a constructive solution, given the proposed opening by November to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Additional info

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)

  • The SGPC is an organization in India responsible for the management of gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship in three states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh and union territory of Chandigarh.
    • SGPC also administers Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.
  • The SGPC is governed by the chief minister of Punjab.
  • The SGPC manages the security, financial, facility maintenance and religious aspects of Gurdwaras as well as keeping archaeologically rare and sacred artifacts, including weapons, clothes, books and writings of the Sikh Gurus.

Mains question

  • Critically examine the differences between the two sides – India & Pakistan – that led to the cancellation of the Kartarpur Corridor talks.