Sikhs as a group are present on both the sides of the Indo-pak border as it was created by dividing the erstwhile state of Punjab. The Sikhs in India are prospering and enjoying all the freedom. While, such a prosperous life is out of reach for the Sikhs living on the other side of the border as they struggle for survival amidst constant gaze of Pakistan army and the ISI in Pakistan. If you are a non-muslim in Pakistan, you live in constant fear because there is a constant pressure on you and your family to get converted to Islam.
The Sikh shrines have somehow survived the onslaught of Islamist fundamentalism in Pakistan while most of the Hindu and Buddhist shrines have been destroyed. Pakistan is notorious for sponsoring and marketing bigoted/wahhabist islamism. Hence, lost its face value in the international arena. As a result, no eminent MNC or corporate firm wants to invest in Pakistan. Foreign journalists and tourists do not want to risk their lives visiting one of the most dangerous countries on the Earth (refer latest global peace index and world press freedom index). Pakistan has lost its standing in the international organisations of repute like UN, SAARC etc. The only credible support Pakistan has got, is from China and that too for its own geopolitical benefits. (OBOR and using Pakistan as an anti India pawn). So, it’s quite evident that Pakistan has not received enough foreign investment from neutral countries and organisation. As a result, the country is on the verge of begging loans from Saudi Arabia, China and IMF.
So what is in the store for the development of Sikhs across the border in context of the above scenario?
The answer is Khalistan 2020 referendum which was Popularised by the London declaration just before India’s independence day. Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) had organised a pro-Khalistani “London Declaration for a Referendum 2020” which was attended by a handful of pro-khalistan supporters. To answer this a group of Indians had organised “We stand with India” and “Love my India” events.
During 1970s and ’80s, Khalistan movement plagued Punjab, receiving support from the All India Sikh Students’ Federation, which was led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The movement and its tussle with the nirankari’s eventually was eliminated from the minds of the people of Punjab.
After decades, the khalistani terrorists have targeted and killed nirankari sect followers in a grenade attack in Amritsar in the month of November this year. This attack and the london khalistan 2020 referendum declaration together failed to have grasped the attention of the sikh masses in india, leaving the Pakistan army and ISI in quandary.
26/11 Mumbai attacks sponsored by Pakistan was a major terrorist attack on India receiving world-wide attention. On the 10th Anniversary of 26/11, pakistan has accepted india’s decades old request to work on Kartarpur corridor that links India’s Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara where Sikh Nanak Dev ji spent his last days.
We need to analyse the steps taken by Pakistan in terms of pros and cons for india as well as Pakistan.
For Pakistan, this corridor will be beneficial. It has successfully diverted all the attention from the 10th anniversary of gruesome 26/11 Mumbai attacks which were carried out by the Lashkar-e-toiba. The conspirators (both state and non-state) are still roaming freely in Pakistan.
Pakistan is aiming for much-needed tourist income. The ISI and Pakistan’s army have already started using the Kartarpur Sahib as a marketing tool for the Khalistan 2020 referendum (posters have been plastered supporting the same). Pilgrims can be brain washed by the Pakistan trained khalistani agents, providing much-needed direct contact which was missing so far. China wants superficial peace between India and Pakistan to secure its CPEC passing through PoK, which has become a bone of contention. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s new PM has so far not been able to deliver anything he had promised to the people of Pakistan and has been nicknamed the U-turn PM for reverses on his poll promises. He desperately needs something to fall back on. This will provide much-needed goodwill and image orientation. Also, he wants to brag that he took the right steps to initiate peace with India. He has also utilised the opening ceremony to send a message to the Army General while stating that the Government and the Army are on the same page. And the cherry on the cake is that the ISI gets a new overland route to boost its finances through the presently dwindling opium smuggling into Punjab.
For india its a Mixed bag…
For the Sikh pilgrims, it is a feeling of oneness with their Guru which subsumes everything else.
For the politicians like PM Modi and CM Amarinder Singh it is a new opportunity to score brownie points among the Sikh community. But celebration aside they are fully aware of Pakistan’s backstabbing and true nature as experienced over the years. They know that any act of Pakistan has implicit security dimensions to it and has to be treated as such.
Legally speaking it would need a new agreement between the two nations as the present 1974 agreement on pilgrimages does not offer a visa free travel.
From the security point of view it entails added worries for our security agencies as the ISI and Pakistan army would utilise the corridor to further their ambition of encouraging secessionist tendencies in india. As summed up by our Army Chief Mr Bipin Rawat, this act should be seen as a one-off (Indian Army had to neutralise 24 terrorists in J&K this month).
The Khalistan 2020 referendum though is poised to fail next year as India is an indirect democracy, organised on the pattern of chosen representatives through elections thus leaving no scope for a direct secessionist referendum (having support only in Pakistan) in any state, but we need to effectively counter every move of ISI and Pakistan Army taking appropriate precautions while supporting the legitimate process of peace between the two nations if Pakistan mends its ways in the future.
Writer : ‘Subhash‘