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SOURCE: Express News Service

Despite the escalation of tension with India following Balakot airstrikes and abrogation of Article 370 in J&K, Pakistan has kept the Kartarpur project alive. India, too, continued with the project even after the Pulwama attack, keeping in mind the sentiments of the Sikhs. While the corridor stirs hope of peace among people on both sides of the border, India fears that Pakistan may use it to export terror and reignite the secessionist movement in Punjab by brainwashing pilgrims.

The political contours of the project may be rooted in expediency and Pakistan may flash it as an example of good behaviour. But experts feel given Pakistan’s history of backstabbing, it would be best to tread with caution.

The view in India is that despite being a confidence-building measure, this corridor is a security risk for the country.

Sharat Sabharwal, who was India’s high commissioner to Pakistan from 2009 to 2013, says, “The corridor doesn’t represent a thaw in India-Pakistan relations… It’s driven by a different set of motivations: religious sentiment of a large section of people in India and the misperception in Pakistan that they can reach out to particular communities in India.”

TCA Raghavan, Director General of Indian Council of World Affairs, who has been India’s high commissioner to Pakistan, has a different view.

“The corridor is a major confidence-building measure as such a negotiation has been completed in a record time despite the bad patch of relations. This shows how much potential there is for the relation to improve in the future,” he says, but adds that for this potential to be realised “the fundamental issue of terrorism must be tackled”.

Former Army chief Gen VP Malik (retd) says, “While the government will like the pilgrims to go to Kartarpur, it is also important that we do not overlook or neglect security aspects keeping in view cross-border militancy being promoted by Pakistani army and jihadi groups and anti-national Sikh organisation, as the corridor could be used for anti-India propaganda, passing of weapons to militants and drug smuggling. We should ensure this facility is not misused and security of highest order is maintained.”

Former diplomat Paramjit Singh Sahai says, “The fact that the corridor is going ahead despite tense ties shows there is hope that Guru Nanak’s message of one humanity act a unifier.”

Defence analyst, Maj-Gen Amrit Pal Singh (retd) says it is a “welcome gesture”, but the security agencies should be abundantly cautious to the overtures made by the Pakistani deep state due to its propensity to nurture trouble in Punjab”.

Echoing his views defence analyst Mandeep Singh Bajwa says, “Pakistan is following a three-pronged strategy on the Kartarpur:  to try and end its international isolation, to increase trade with India and brighten its economic outlook and to influence the Sikhs.