Pakistan has offered its hand on faith, India should not slap it back
- There is no plausible scenario in which not talking at all will address the issues on both sides
On November 28, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor, which will allow Sikh pilgrims from India to visit one of their religion’s holiest places without a visa. The Gurdwara of Kartarpur Sahib is the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
This place holds the same value for Sikhs as the city of Medina does for Muslims or the city of Jerusalem for the Jewish faith.
The decision was received very well by Sikhs worldwide, as they have been requesting the opening of the corridor for the last 70 years.
While speaking at the event, Khan made no mention of the unfortunate diplomatic flap in September, when the Indian government harshly rejected Khan’s offer to restart bilateral dialogue.
Khan instead chose to focus on the theme of common responsibility and said that there have been mistakes on both sides and that both nations should not live in the past but use it to learn lessons.
While people on both sides of the border were happily watching the news, glued to their TV screens to see something positive after such a long time, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s immediate reaction was very disappointing. She brushed aside the development and said there will be no dialogue with Pakistan, and India will not participate in the regional Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit. Her comments leave no doubt that the hawks in the Indian ruling party and establishment continue to control Indian policy towards Pakistan.
What is less clear is what Swaraj is hoping to achieve with her fierce rhetoric against Pakistan, when her boss, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has compared the opening of the Kartarpur corridor with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
While both India and Pakistan may have some legitimate complaints against each other, there is no plausible scenario in which not talking at all will address the issues on both sides. With the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, Pakistan has extended an olive branch. Now, Modi and his government should pause and reflect on what it is they hope to achieve by repeatedly slapping back a hand offered in peace.
Naseer Ahmed, Tung Chung