by Vinay Kaura

This is the most appropriate time to walk out of the Kartarpur corridor. For the simple reason that it has been designed as a Trojan horse by Pakistan’s security establishment. Those who have been advocating caution on this project were vindicated when Pakistan’s Railways Minister, Sheikh Rashid, claimed that the corridor was the brainchild of Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who has been controversially granted three-year service extension amid much judicial and political drama.

Rashid has asserted that “India will remember forever the kind of wound inflicted on it by Gen. Bajwa by opening Kartarpur corridor…Gen. Bajwa strongly hit India by opening the corridor.” This cannot be termed as just a churlish statement from a verbose politician; it lays bare a sinister revisionist plot. Generals in Rawalpindi are always thinking of a hundred ways to out think and defeat India.

Optimists may argue that when virtually every avenue of people-to-people contact between the two hostile nuclear neighbours has been closed, the opening of the Kartarpur corridor must be seen as the most positive development. But realists would counter this misplaced optimism by arguing that trust between the two key political actors must exist prior to the institutionalisation of the process of building trust. Rashid’s candid admission proves beyond doubt that Pakistan has always viewed this project as a Geo-Srategic tool against India.

After all, we should not forget that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s so-called offer of olive branch of peace to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also accompanied with reiteration of Pakistan’s long-held position on Kashmir. Modi did the right thing when he inaugurated the Indian side of the corridor at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur and sent Indian delegation — including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — to attend the main ceremony at Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Kartarpur in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s real agenda on opening the Kartarpur corridor has never been in doubt. Though Pakistan is still busy in projecting the corridor as a historic confidence-building measure, the real intentions have been revealed by Rashid, who is also known for his closeness to Imran Khan.

For proud Indian Sikhs, the very suggestion that they can fall for Pakistan’s divisive propaganda will be offensive. But the concerns among India’s security and intelligence agencies cannot be completely brushed aside regarding the exploitation of Kartarpur’s opening by Rawalpindi to revive the Khalistan movement. The seizure of several drones along the western border in recent months is cited as a testimony to this strategy.

Those in Pakistani establishment who entertain the hope that Bajwa’s masterstroke would compel Modi to relax his uncompromising posture on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism are living in a fool’s paradise. New Delhi cannot afford to reverse its decision either on Kashmir or on terrorism. In a recent public address, India’s external affairs minister has already ruled out the possibility of a dialogue with Pakistan, which “has built an industry of terror.”

The last thing New Delhi needs as the Pakistan Army increases its grip on the civilian government is revival of secessionist turmoil in Punjab. This is the best time for India to demand the joint management of the Kartarpur corridor and the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib across the Redcliff Line or simply walk out of the project if Pakistan does not agree. Not many people in India would blame the Modi government for this decision as much as they are criticising it for the Maharashtra fiasco.

Dr. Vinay Kaura, is an Assistant Professor at the Department of International Affairs and Security Studies, Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice, Rajasthan