While the Sikh community is eagerly waiting for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor tomorrow, facilitating smooth passage of pilgrims to Guru Nanak’s final resting place in modern-day Pakistan, Islamabad has released a video on the initiative featuring posters of Khalistani separatists including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Islamabad may want to confront India with a Hobson’s choice, by using Kartarpur to promote the Khalistani separatist agenda. The fact that the Pakistani army has been pushing the project over the last year should put the Indian security establishment on high alert.
There is no denying that the corridor is a deep emotional issue for the Sikh community. In fact, India has been asking for it for the past 20 years. BJP may want to use Kartarpur to win back political popularity in Punjab, which it lost recently to Congress. But Islamabad (and Rawalpindi) could leverage that compulsion to promote its own agenda, especially in light of the so-called Referendum 2020 being promoted by separatist Sikhs for the creation of Khalistan. It is also telling that since the corridor was cleared last year, India and Pakistan have gone through several emergencies sending their relationship into a steep nosedive. That the Pakistani army has kept the corridor alive despite this, shows the strategic value it holds for that side.
Against this backdrop, there is a clear duality to the Kartarpur corridor. It can definitely be a corridor of peace should Pakistan be sincere in pursuing better ties with India and eschew terrorism. But if the Pakistani military-ISI complex is looking to use the corridor to resurrect Khalistani separatism, then India must stand firm and exercise all options necessary to thwart this design. Kartarpur cannot be a conduit to export the Khalistani virus to Indian Punjab. We have already paid a big price in the past.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.