Pakistan connect: Why Kartarpur corridor launch is a VVIP event and richly deserves all the attention

Pratim Ranjan Bose Guwahati. October 29 | Updated on October 29, 2019

In sharp contrast, the opening of first such corridor, Tin Bigha, was a low-key affair

On November 9, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurate either side of the Kartarpur Corridor, it will be the second such corridor to be operationalised in the subcontinent, after Tin Bigha, between India and Bangladesh.

However, when compared to the low-key inauguration of the Tin Bigha Corridor (after a two-decade wait) by some officials and less important politicians from either side, on June 26, 1992 due to prevailing political compulsions, Kartarpur will be a VVIP affair, probably once again due to political compulsions of the day.

On the Indian side, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the huge passenger facility at Dera Baba Nanak and send off 550 VVIP delegates, including the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh to the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Punjab through the 4.2-km-long corridor in Pakistan.

The number of delegates is chosen to signify the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.

Mood in Pakistan

The same Pakistan that is in the mood of snapping every chord since Balakot airstrike and particularly after the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir will lay down a red carpet to the Indian delegates.

Professor Ashok Behuria of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) prefers to ignore the political aspects, if any, and reminds that the proposal for Kartarpur Corridor was initiated by India in 1999, during the Delhi-Lahore Bus diplomacy by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

According to him, if Pakistan finally responds to the proposal on “humanitarian ground” for a community that is spread on either side of the border, it should be welcomed. He had also pointed out that by putting up due passenger facilities at short notice, India exhibited its strong commitment to the proposal.

Fast work

India actually did a remarkable job in setting up a world-class facility at the sleepy village of Dera Baba Nanak in barely six months. The two countries entered into an MoU in October 2018 and the foundation stone was laid in November 2018. The next four-five months went into acquiring the land and awarding the tender to Shapoorji & Pallonji Pvt Ltd.

Initially, the project was estimated to cost ₹200 crore. However, by July this year, the estimates were revised to ₹500 crore for phase-I. As per latest assessment, the construction is 90 per cent complete. It will have 54 immigration counters, the largest facility anywhere in India. As per the bilateral agreement, the terminal will accommodate a maximum of 5,000 pilgrims a day who will visit Pakistan on Day Permit.

Apart from the terminal and the allied facilities, the Land Ports Authority (LPAI) operated complex will have a watch tower for the tourists to take a view of the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara. In the second phase, the LPAI will add hotels, shopping plaza in the complex to make it a full-fledged tourist destination.

Tin Bigha that grants Bangladesh access to Dahagram-Angrapota enclave in Indian territory – missed this attention. It was opened in 1992 as part of the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s attempt to change the course of India-Bangladesh relations. But the politics in Bangladesh and West Bengal was not ready to capitalise on it. Rao also lost hope on the then BNP leadership soon after.

Published on October 29, 2019

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