After Kartarpur opening

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  • Fresh attempts needed to resolve disputes

The unique agreement to open the Kartarpur Corridor has been signed at a time when the relations between Pakistan and India are extremely tense, particularly after the revocation by India of Articles 35A and 370 and the subsequent wave of repression in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Earlier India had refused to hold talks with Pakistan till the alleged terrorist activity for which it holds Islamabad responsible was stopped. Prime Minister Imran Khan had also ruled out any talks with the neighbouring country before it revived Article 370, ended the restrictions in IOK imposed after August 5 and released thousands of Kashmiri political activists taken into custody. Meanwhile both countries recalled their respective High Commissioners.

The formal inauguration of the Corridor will be held on November 9 ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, who like Muslim Sufis preferred spirituality over religiosity. The Guru denounced the caste system and maintained that all human beings can have direct access to God without the help of rituals or priests. He underlined the universal brotherhood, humility, simplicity, equality and tolerance.

The Foreign Office spokesman presented the Kartarpur agreement as an example of the decency with which the Pakistan government treats the minorities. While Sikhs are treated somewhat better than other smaller religious groups in the country, Pakistan has yet to do much to convince the world about its tolerance of the minorities. Despite Mr Khan’s visit to the USA being billed as highly successful, a top US State Department official criticized early this week the ‘overt discrimination against members of minority groups’ in Pakistan. The situation in India is even worse where dissidents, non-conformists and minorities are under attack from the followers of Hindutva. Muslims are particularly being subjected to violence.

There is much the two countries need to do to eradicate fanaticism and religious hatred, improving their relations being a step towards the goal. The opening of Kartarpur corridor should be followed by attempts to restart talks between Pakistan and India to resolve their outstanding disputes including Kashmir. Business relations and people to people contacts also need to be revived. For this the PTI leadership needs first to reach a consensus with the opposition dropping its confrontational posture.