By Mehmal Sarfraz
Dec 17, 2018
I have been to India many times. My last visit was in July 2016 for a friend’s wedding. Since my first trip in 2007, this is the longest stretch that I have gone without visiting India. And it is not for want of trying. Unfortunately, Pakistanis are not being given Indian visas, and may not till the 2019 Indian elections. Due to the tense relations between the two nuclear-armed states, the people of both countries suffer. With the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, I see a glimmer of hope.
In his victory speech after winning the 2018 elections, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed on good relations with India: “If you [India] take one step forward, we will take two steps forward.” Khan was not paying lip service; he meant what he said. So did the prime ministers before him.
It is our military establishment that usually acts as a spoiler but this time around, they too are on the same page as the civilians. Let’s be honest here. Navjot Singh Sidhu’s hug with Pakistan’s army chief at Khan’s swearing-in ceremony led to the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor at such a quick pace. Even if our civilians wanted to open the corridor, they could not have done so without the blessings of our establishment. At the Kartarpur ceremony, Khan talked about trade with India. He has reiterated that his government and the army are on the same page. Khan has said that resolving the Mumbai attack case is in our interest because it was an act of terrorism. Those who followed the Mumbai trial know that Pakistan’s Foreign Office has maintained that there is a need for more evidence from India. Khan has taken a distinctly different position from Pakistan’s official position on Mumbai trial. All this is quite significant. Khan has said it again and again that he will wait for the Indian elections as he knows India may not reciprocate during an election year.
All political parties in Pakistan maintain that good relations with its neighbouring countries will lead to stability in the region, which is equally good for Pakistan itself. Second, Pakistan is facing one of its worst economic crises in recent times. Pakistan would reap the benefits of opening up trade with India and in the long run, it will also rule out the possibility of extremely tense ties between the two states.
The Kartarpur Corridor is a step forward in the right direction. Now it all depends on the Indian side and how they respond to Pakistani overtures. I hope that the Indian side and the Pakistani side don’t hold the people of the two countries hostage to their games in the future. We need a soft visa regime. Let the people meet in order to overcome the baggage of history. War is not an option; peace, on the other hand, is the most viable option for all of us.
The views expressed are personal
Mehmal Sarfraz is a senior producer at a television channel and freelance journalist based in Pakistan