Haris Walid Yousafzai
Kartarpur corridor was a great success – a win-win for Pakistan and the entire Sikh community within and around the world. By opening Kartarpur, Pakistan gained the trust of Sikhs from all over the world, but especially that of the Indian Sikh community. Prominent representatives of Sikhs in India, Navjut Singh Sidhu praised Pakistan during his speech on 9 November,2019 at the Kartarpur opening ceremony. It was pleasantly surprising for the Pakistani nation to also see Bollywood actor, Sunny Deol, at the Kartarpur opening ceremony given that his movies are mostly anti-Pakistan. Overall, Kartarpur is regarded as a strategic success for Pakistan and a great blow for India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had been trying to isolate Pakistan internationally.
2019 was a tough year for Pakistan with respect to its foreign policy challenges but it saw several successes, Kartarpur being one. The second one was Pakistan’s central role in the entire Afghan-U.S. peace deal process which culminated in a deal signed between the U.S. and the Taliban on February 29, 2020. Pakistan brought the Taliban to the negotiating table, helped the U.S. understand their concerns and position and pushed for an intra-Afghan negotiating process to begin championing the cause of peace, sidelining India from the U.S.-Afghan equation.
During this current global crisis perpetrated by the public health pandemic, PM Imran Khan ordered the Chaman border to remain open for supplies and cargo to be transported to Afghanistan. Pakistan aims to rebuild trust lost in years of wars fought on its border with Afghanistan. But the challenges for Pakistan are far from over.
The recent attack on a gurdwara in Kabul killing 25 people – has been one of the deadliest against the minority community in Afghanistan. The attack was claimed by ISIS-Khorasan Province (IS-K), and investigation is ongoing on one suspect, Mohammed Muhsin, who belonged to Kerala, India. IS-K later issued a statement saying the “Kabul attack was revenge for India’s treatment of Muslims in Kashmir and threatened more attacks.” IS-K is a threat for not only Afghanistan but also has the potential to destabilize the region when it is trying to find the elusive peace and making strides towards it. Pakistan based Sikh community and now with the opening of border at Kartarpur, Pakistan needs to be extra cautious in ensuring the safety and security of the pilgrims that visit Kartarpur. While the success of Kartarpur should be celebrated, the recent attack by IS-K against Sikhs has revealed structural vulnerabilities for all three countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India especially in the absence of any trilateral counter-terrorism trialogue. Maybe an opportunity can be explored for such a discussion where all three countries have an equal stake in peace.
Haris Walid Yousafzai is a seventh semester student of BS Politics and International Relations at the School of Integrated Social Sciences, University of Lahore.