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'A positive step' — What major Indian publications are saying about the Kartarpur corridor opening

Updated Nov 29, 2018 01:14pm
Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Indian ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hardeep Singh Puri and Navjot Singh Sidhu pictured at the groundbreaking of the Kartarpur corridor on Wednesday.—M. Arif / White Star
Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Indian ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hardeep Singh Puri and Navjot Singh Sidhu pictured at the groundbreaking of the Kartarpur corridor on Wednesday.—M. Arif / White Star

The historic groundbreaking of the Kartarpur corridor opening has led to great speculation about the event's significance for turbulent Pakistan-India relations.

In an editorial today, Dawn said the ceremony had "the ingredients for what a normalised relationship between Pakistan and India could look like" but also noted how the Indian government once again doused hopes that bilateral dialogue may be restarted soon.

But while many on this side of the border are hailing the step as a positive development for relations, here is a look at what major Indian publications are saying:

'Conflicting messages show Delhi in unflattering light' — Indian Express

Sikh children shout slogans in front of the Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib after a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor. — AFP
Sikh children shout slogans in front of the Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib after a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor. — AFP

"The conflicting voices and messages from government and politicians on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor have shown India in an unflattering light...."

"Reading between the lines of the Indian leadership’s strategic incoherence on Kartarpur, it seems that despite claiming that it was originally an Indian proposal, Delhi was caught unprepared by Pakistan’s readiness to open the corridor. The contradictory statements recall the flip flop India did two months ago on the foreign ministers’ meeting in New York, first announcing that it would be held, then abruptly calling it off. The Kartarpur corridor presented the greatest opportunity in a decade to break the impasse with Pakistan. India should have signalled its assent to the holding of the SAARC summit. But in election mode, the Modi government, trapped by its own rhetoric, seems inadequate to the task of rising above itself."

Read full editorial here.

'Number of factors explain India's non-exuberance' — Times of India

Sikh Pilgrims gather in front of Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib before the groundbreaking ceremony. — AFP
Sikh Pilgrims gather in front of Kartarpur Gurdwara Sahib before the groundbreaking ceremony. — AFP

"A number of factors both domestic and bilateral can help explain the Indian government’s measured and non-exuberant presence at yesterday’s event. While Navjot Sidhu and Harsimrat Kaur Badal both made deeply emotional speeches, the non-exuberant presence here translates more towards the lack of representation from the Indian Union Cabinet or from the senior advisory pool within the PMO."

"Firstly, in the recent past too often has India been left stranded while extending a hand of friendship, there are a plethora of examples with the latest being the Pathankot attack shortly after Prime Minister Modi’s unannounced visit to Nawaz Sharif on Christmas in 2015.

"Secondly, political compulsions of an impending general election have also shaped the government’s response to this event, most will agree that peace with Pakistan and the BJP’s bid to win re-election on the back of a call to build the Mandir in Ayodhya certainly make for strange bed-fellows.

However, the third consideration, which could possibly explain the BJP led government opting to engage with Imran Khan’s government at such a politically inopportune moment for itself, is a possible thought within the Indian security establishment that the incumbent government is one they can do business with.... And it is only now that, prima facie, there is a sense that all government institutions in Pakistan, the military, executive, legislature and judiciary are on the same page. Therefore while this third assessment doesn’t have backing, in fact, it certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility. This is all on the premise that the Indian government aspires to uphold Vajpayee’s legacy and wishes for a peaceful subcontinent in the future."

Read the full blog here.

'Dialogue only way forward' — The Hindu

Sikh pilgrims wait for food at the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur. — AP
Sikh pilgrims wait for food at the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur. — AP

"Given the bilateral freeze, the Kartarpur project will compel India and Pakistan to engage in a positive and purposeful manner, at a time when few other avenues for engagement exist. It is a reminder that dialogue and search for areas of concord are the only way forward for both countries."

Read the full editorial, published before the Kartarpur groundbreaking, here.

'Why did the Modi govt change tack?' — Scroll.in

"Why did the Modi government change tack? Usually matters relating to Pakistan are a convenient way of whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment in the Hindu heartland, a staple BJP electoral tactic."

"The reason is that anti-Pakistani sentiments no longer resonate in Punjab. Muslims on the Indian side and Sikhs on the Pakistani part of Punjab were, so to speak, “cleansed” during Partition. Today, the horrific events have receded from memory, and been replaced somewhat by nostalgia for the days of united Punjab. This was evident from the fact that Sidhu did not face criticism within Punjab itself. Indeed, given the Pakistani offer, it appeared that New Delhi was scoring a self-goal among the Sikh community by not taking it up immediately."

"Hence the quick about-turn. Even so, New Delhi ensured that the Kartarpur corridor will not be the basis of normalisation of ties, especially since its groundbreaking ceremony in Pakistan was scheduled for November 28, the week India was commemorating the 10th anniversary of the horrific terror attack in Mumbai. Sushma Swaraj politely declined the invitation to attend, noting however, that India would be represented by Union Ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri."

Read full article here.

'Opening of Kartarpur corridor a positive step' — Hindustan Times

"Instances of promises made and delivered are rare in the mostly fraught India-Pakistan relations. Much of the last seven decades since Partition has been a story of zero-sum games that have kept us apart. In that limited sense, the agreement to have a corridor linking Gurdaspur’s Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib is a welcome augury. The 16th century shrine in what is now Pakistan’s Narowal district was where the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, breathed his last."

"...The Centre’s response to Mr Khan’s invitation hasn’t been any different. External affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj opted out, citing prior engagements. But two junior central ministers will travel to Pakistan: the Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur and the BJP’s Hardeep Puri. They’re both Sikhs, the latter a former diplomat. As the one who first pushed the corridor proposal, Mr Sidhu won’t be on the official delegation. He will travel to Pakistan as Mr Khan’s friend."

"If it was offended by the scaled-down participation, Pakistan did not show; it welcomed India’s response. As Guru Nanak said: Everything happens by God’s grace."

Read the full editorial, published before the ceremony, here.