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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Kartarpur: A glimmer of hope in bilateral ties? | HT editorial

The pact on the corridor is positive. Pakistan must not use it for political ends

editorials Updated: Oct 23, 2019 18:54 IST

Hindustan Times
The Kartarpur corridor will link Dera Baba Nanak at Gurdaspur in India to the gurdwara in Pakistan’s Punjab where Guru Nanak spent the last years of his life
The Kartarpur corridor will link Dera Baba Nanak at Gurdaspur in India to the gurdwara in Pakistan’s Punjab where Guru Nanak spent the last years of his life(Sameer Sehgal/ Hindustan Times)
         

After several twists and turns, India and Pakistan have agreed to sign an agreement on the opening of a cross-border corridor. This will allow Indian pilgrims to visit Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Kartarpur to coincide with the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The corridor will link Dera Baba Nanak at Gurdaspur in India to the gurdwara in Pakistan’s Punjab where Guru Nanak spent the last years of his life. Given the poor state of bilateral ties, the fact that the two sides agreed on the pact is positive and must be welcomed.

This is a unique pact as it will allow pilgrims to travel across the border without a visa. India has strongly opposed Pakistan’s move to charge a service fee of $20 from every pilgrim, which is currently the main point of difference between the two sides. Islamabad has argued this levy is necessary to cover its expenditure on infrastructure and various services to be provided to the pilgrims. While this is true, the service fee is substantially higher than the current visa fee of about $2.

Indian security officials, however, continue to have genuine concerns about the pilgrims being exposed to the propaganda of pro-Khalistan elements. There is enough evidence in the public domain about the activities of these elements in Pakistan, which also roped them in for recent protests in Western capitals against the change of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. It will be unfortunate if Pakistan uses the Kartarpur Corridor to fish in troubled waters and cause instability for its political ends. On the other hand, if the corridor offers even the faintest glimmer of hope for taking the troubled bilateral relationship in a positive direction, that will be welcomed by many in both countries.