Thursday, October 17, 2019

Posted at: Mar 15, 2019, 7:00 AM; last updated: Mar 15, 2019, 2:56 PM (IST)

Reducing space for aggressive disagreement

Reducing space for aggressive disagreement
The Kartarpur Sahib shrine in Pakistan. File photo

Sandeep Dikshit
Tribune News Service

The successful meeting between India and Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor today marks a rare chapter in bilateral ties when both countries are on the same page despite an atmosphere of unprecedented discord.

The two sides have remained undeterred in pursuing the project despite the recent backhistory of the Pulwama bombing, followed by the Balakot raid and the military clashes. So far, the project has been more of a commentary on the underlying sub-continental bonds of recognising spiritual needs rather than to leverage Kartarpur for an overall improvement in India-Pakistan ties.

Pakistan, as is to be expected, has portrayed the lead taken by PM Imran Khan as the harbinger of a turnaround in ties, but India remains mistrustful and apprehensive. That is the reason why India has sought to delink the corridor from the deep freeze in bilateral ties.

It fears the euphoria over the corridor has the potential to sweep away its insistence on staying away from dialogue till Pakistan agrees to frontload talks on terrorism. Its security managers also do not wish for the bonhomie generated from the opening of the corridor to sweep under the carpet its apprehensions about the misuse of the easy travel facility to incite communal disharmony and promote secessionist tendencies.

The month of November, however, when the first Sikh pilgrim will cross over, is distant. Pakistan has promised to crack down on anti-India jihadis despite a record of severely dented reliability. 

In case peace returns to Afghanistan and the Taliban manages to share power in Kabul, Pakistan may feel sufficiently assured about a friendly regime on the western border to walk its talk about corralling extremists who seek to expand Pakistan’s influence across its eastern border into India.

It is for the first time that a low hanging fruit has been successfully plucked, unlike the aborted initiatives of resolving Siachen or Sir Creek. The cordial environment at the first meeting today — that led to concurrence on two subsequent rounds of dialogue — is a straw in the bilateral wind which must be grasped to create a less aggressive space for disagreements.


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