Authorization of Indian wheat for Afghanistan, reopening of Kartarpur. Is Peace in the Mind of Pakistan?

Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara in Pakistan | Photo: Praveen Jain | The imprint

Text size:

Is Is there a risk of peace breaking out between India and Pakistan? The 4.7 km long Kartarpur Sahib corridor that connects Dera Baba Nanak in the Punjab to the Sikh shrine in the Narowal district of the Pakistani Punjab, where Guru Nanak lived and died in the 16e century is reopening today.

Union Home Secretary Amit Shah tweeted that the reopening of the corridor, in time for the Gurpurab celebrations on November 19, reflects the Narendra Modi government’s “immense respect” for Guru Nanak and the Sikh sangat.

Certainly, Shah is hoping that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gets the credit and earns its reward in the upcoming Punjab elections. It was not until Sunday that a BJP delegation from Punjab met Prime Minister Modi and demanded that the corridor be opened, but others Heads of State that cut the political spectrum were not left out.

Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who visited Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan in 2018 as a representative of the Modi government – her party Akali Dal was part of the BJP-led alliance at the time – for an informal inauguration, had recently written to the Prime Minister on this exact account, while the chairman of the Shiromani Committee Gurdwara Parbandhak (SGPC) Bibi Jagir Kaur and the head of the Congress Navjot Singh Sidhu made similar requests .

Significantly, Pakistan had said a fortnight ago he was ready to accept Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib and asked India to open the corridor on his side which had been closed when Covid struck last March.

So, is Pakistan signaling an opening of peace with this decision? Remember that just a week ago the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan had accepted that wheat shipments to Afghanistan would be permitted by land through Pakistani territory. This move, too, could not have happened without the involvement of the powerful Pakistani army.

And so, the big question: is the Pakistani military signaling that it is ready for a gradual overhaul of relations with India?

Of course, the jury is out on that question. First of all, even if the army does make such an opening, what is its motive? Some savvy political observers say the Pakistanis are overwhelmed on the Afghan front and in dire need of a break.

Read also : India wants to be a big player in Afghanistan, so why doesn’t it give Afghans visas?

India’s interest

But why are Indian politicians making such a big show of interest? Certainly every political party would like to take advantage of the true religious ardor associated with Sikh gurus. But when the religious dust settles and the political chaos associated with Amarinder Singh’s exit from the Congress party resurfaces, every politician worth his salt will look at how the other stacks up.

To be sure, in Punjab, Congress is considerably weakened, the BJP is not strong enough, the state’s Jat Sikh community is nowhere near forgiving Akali Dal in haste, and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is barely able to channel the confusion into a cohesive alternate narrative.

Each political party also knows that the BJP has an advantage in this area because it is in power in the Center; Moreover, a breakthrough is only possible if the Pakistani military establishment, which runs the country and manages all of its foreign policy decisions related to India, is on board.

It is more than likely that the leader of Congress, Navjot Singh Sidhu, thinks he has a chance to strengthen his own political base. He had visited Pakistan on the eve of the inauguration of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in November 2018 – a trip that culminated in a hug with Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. And since Bajwa remains the real power behind the Pakistani throne, the congressional leader may think he is higher in his pecking order of affection than other Indian rulers.

So back to the Pakistani military establishment, if it sends a message to India despite the bad blood of recent years and why.

Read also : India’s distance from Pakistan and Bangladesh is increasing. Cricket can help

A military show against Imran Khan

It is no longer a secret in Pakistan that Imran Khan, a protégé of the military establishment, clashes with his mentors, those who put him in the prime minister’s chair in 2018. The recent hubbub on the change of government head of ISI, Faiz Hameed to Nadeem Anjum, when Imran Khan latched onto the official announcement of the new man, was an indication of fraying confidence.

There are three reasons Imran Khan may no longer be the charmed army favorite he once was in 2018. The first is the deep crisis in the Pakistani economy. According to the World Bank, Pakistan is on the list of the ten most indebted economies abroad. Its gross external financing requirement is $ 23.6 billion for the current year and an additional $ 28 billion for the coming year. In June, as the Covid swept the region, the economy contracted for the first time in 68 years.

Second, as Pakistan’s assiduous cultivation of the Taliban has ensured it the primacy of the place in Kabul and the regime’s interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, negotiated an agreement between the terrorist group Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani government, the fact remains that Afghanistan is in the midst of its own economic disaster and Pakistan is unable to help it.

Third, the political scene in Pakistan is heating up, even though elections are not scheduled until 2023. Former Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Court of Appeal chief Rana Shamim said in an affidavit that he had witnessed the Pakistan case. former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar declaring to a High Court judge that he should under no circumstances release from prison then Prime Minister and PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on the eve of the 2018 elections.

Nisar has since detritus accusations, but Shamim is said to be holding on. Remember that the Pakistani army has arranged not only to oust Nawaz Sharif but sentenced him to 10 years in prison in 2018, based on allegations in the Panama Papers that Sharif purchased property in London from allegedly ill-gotten wealth; that Sharif was subsequently allowed into exile in London, from where he has since launched a series of scathing attacks on the military.

The big question now is, if the Pakistani military is angry with Imran Khan, what are their alternatives? He is not about to relinquish the sheer, unfettered power with which he has ruled Pakistan for most of its existence. Can the military swallow – no, allow – an untamed Nawaz Sharif to rule Pakistan? If not, then who?

For the moment, the dust on both sides of the Punjab refuses to settle. In India, the February elections will remove state officials, but in Pakistan it could be longer.

One thing is clear. When the people decide, then the elected leaders as well as the unelected military must line up. Peace may not yet be breaking out in the subcontinent, but the road to this goal is less and less blurred.

Jyoti Malhotra is a Senior Consulting Writer at ThePrint. She tweets @jomalhotra. Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

Subscribe to our channels on Youtube & Telegram

Why the news media is in crisis and how to fix it

India needs free, fair, uninhibited, interrogative journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media are in a crisis of their own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, giving in to crass spectacle in prime time.

ThePrint employs the best young reporters, columnists and editors. To maintain journalism of this quality, it takes smart, thoughtful people like you to pay the price. Whether you live in India or abroad, you can do it here.

Support our journalism

About Harold Hartman

Check Also

Congress divides Punjab on religious grounds: AAP

Congress divides Punjab on religious grounds: AAP Chandigarh, May 15 (UNI) The Aam Aadmi party …