Beware Pak’s intentions over Kartarpur

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Kamal Davar                                                                            Apr 18, 2019/Commentary

During his celebrated cricketing career, Pakistan’s skipper Imran Khan was renowned primarily for his yorkers and inswingers. That in his new avatar as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, on prodding, in all likelihood from the supreme power centre in his nation — the Pakistan Army — Mr Khan recently bowled a “googly” successfully at the unsuspecting Indian establishment is a distinct possibility!

Pakistan’s offer to accede to a long-standing Indian request to link up Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in its Narowal district across the Ravi river with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district clearly has overtones — far beyond what appears on the surface as a non-political, supposedly friendly gesture from Pakistan.

Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib has a unique place in the consciousness of Sikhs all over the world as it was here that the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, spent the last years of his life till merging into eternity in September 1539. The revered Guru’s 550th birth anniversary falls in November 2019 and the proposed corridor is expected to be built and connected by both nations before this date to enable the proper conduct of celebrations as planned.

Both India and Pakistan had the foundation stones for the proposed corridor laid in their respective areas in November 2018. This was followed up by a detailed meeting of their technical experts at the Attari-Wagah border on March 14, 2019. However, Pakistan did muddy the waters by mischievously including in their delegation for the next level of talks a few known “Khalistani” supporters based in Pakistan. India strongly objected and called off the proposed April 2, 2019 talks. However, India soon, somewhat surprisingly, agreed to Pakistan’s proposal for a technical meeting on 16 April, 2019, to iron out aspects on the exact alignment, coordinates, crossing points, etc in the proposed corridor. That all technical problems must be sorted out, requisite infrastructure and construction work should commence speedily and completed well in time brooks no emphasis. Equally, the rationale and, consequently, the long-term security ramifications of Pakistan’s acquiescence of India’s request to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor has to be borne in mind.

Pakistan’s sinister Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has, over the years, been assiduously pursuing its nation’s cunningly crafted strategy of “bleeding India by a thousand cuts” in tandem with its infamous K2 strategy (Kashmir and Khalistan). In some parts of Jammu & Kashmir, the ISI has succeeded, to an extent, in keeping the pot boiling and sustaining insurgency-like conditions, especially in the last few years. However, its devious stratagem for whipping up discontent in Punjab over the years had failed miserably except briefly during the early Eighties. Nevertheless, the ISI has over the decades endeavoured to keep the Khalistani issue alive, setting up offices in the US, Canada, the UK and Germany to brainwash sections of the Sikh diaspora settled in these nations.

The ISI’s latest malevolence has been to re-energise a Florida-based marginal Sikh separatist group called the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and made them establish their office in Lahore. The SFJ, flushed with liberal ISI resources, have had the temerity to publicly announce that that the Kartarpur Corridor would be a “bridge to Khalistan”. The SFJ is concurrently leading the “Khalistan Referendum Campaign — 2020” and will be recruiting, from all over the world, members of the Sikh community to participate in this nefarious separatist exercise. Their earlier effort in London, last year, proved to be a damp squib. Nevertheless, the ISI’s determined machinations to influence the Sikh community, both in India and abroad, must not be taken lightly by India’s security agencies.

The ISI’s impious activities to destabilise Punjab in the future behind the veil of the Kartarpur Corridor must be seriously factored in by the Indian government. Notwithstanding the fact that India is currently in election mode, India’s security establishment in concert with the Punjab government, currently under an able soldier-politician Capt. Amarinder Singh, our foreign missions abroad and leaders of the Indian Sikh community must nip in the bud any future intrigues of Pakistan’s deep state to re-ignite trouble in Punjab.

Our own innocent pilgrims to the Kartarpur shrine will have to be sensitised prior to embarking on their pilgrimage and feedback will have to be taken from them on their return. It will be in order for the Indian government to caution beforehand the Pakistan government to rein in its intelligence agencies and the Pakistan Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee to desist from any anti-India activities.

As all out efforts are made to ensure that the Kartarpur Corridor comes up well in time to celebrate the great Guru’s birthday, India and Pakistan must strive towards the proposed Kartarpur Corridor becoming a bridge for peace between the two nations.

The writer, Lt Gen Kamal Davar (Retd), was founder of the Defence Intelligence Agency and deputy chief of the Integrated Defence Staff. He is a Distinguished Fellow and Trustee of TPF.

This article was published earlier in Asian Age.

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