While visiting Pakistan on the eve of Kartarpur corridor’s foundation laying ceremony this week, the Indian Punjab’s Tourism minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, hardly exaggerated when he likened Pakistani Punjab as the Mecca and Madina for the Sikhs world over. Certainly, it was in the Pakistani side of Punjab where Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was born in a village now part of district Nankhana and died and buried in Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in district Narowal. Partition of India in 1947, and the following bitter animosity between India and Pakistan wasn’t perhaps as costlier in religious and emotional terms for any community than it was for the Sikhs. In view of Sikhs’ religious desires and for Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur virtually located at the stone-throw distance from the Indo-Pak border, the Indian government has always wanted Pakistan to allow Sikhs visit the Darbar Sahib through a specially built direct corridor. First such a serious proposal was presented to Pakistan when Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpai took a ‘Dosti Bus’ from across Wagha to sign the historic Lahore Declaration in February 1999, which inter alia explicitly talked about resolving the Jammu and Kashmir issue. The proposal included to construct a bridge over the Ravi river to make the corridor to Kartarpur. However, the military establishment in Pakistan refused to let a civilian leader, prime minister Nawaz Sharif, takes such an initiative. While pro-military groups such as Jamat Islami unleashed protests on the eve of Mr Vajpai’s visit, the military leadership virtually boycotted this visit. Only three months later incursions into Kargil inside Indian held Kashmir led to a limited war between India and Pakistan. Whatever was hoped from Lahore Declaration came to naught. Later, in 2009, India offered Pakistan an equal expanse of land in lieu of India acquiring the land on the Pakistani side leading to the Darbar Sahib shrine. That too couldn’t materialize. In the last ten years diplomatic relations between the two countries have only got bitter for incidents such as terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Pathankot, and Uri, claims of Indian military’s surgical strikes inside Azad Kashmir, and the arrest of an in-service Naval staff, Kulbhushan Jadhav, spying and fomenting terrorist acts inside Pakistan. Since 2016’s Pathankot incident the Indian government has worked on isolating Pakistan diplomatically and showed no interest in engaging with Pakistan. Painful memories of a military operation by Indian army against Sikh nationalists in Indian Punjab in 1980’s still haunt the Sikh community in general. India always saw Pakistan’s military intelligence behind Sikhs separatists. A sudden announcement and that too by the chief of Pakistan army while meeting informally with a provincial minister from Indian Punjab created quite an awkward situation for the union government in Delhi In all this backdrop, on August 18 at the inauguration of Imran Khan as the new prime minister, Pakistan army chief surprised the Indian guest Sidhu with Pakistan’s willingness to open the Kartarpur. Such a spectacular diplomatic step required a prior thaw between the two countries before Pakistan announced this. Besides, this is not at all a job of the army chief in any democracy to make this announcement, that too, on the very day a new prime minister was swearing in. Not only did this throw an insult to the already-belied democratic façade in Pakistan but it was an act of underselling the most wanted access. To bring another perspective to light, it’s a fact that flashes of painful memories of a military operation by Indian army against Sikh nationalists in Indian Punjab in 1980’s still haunt the Sikh community in general. India always saw Pakistan’s military intelligence behind Sikhs separatists. A sudden announcement and that too by the chief of Pakistan army while meeting informally with a provincial minister from Indian Punjab created quite an awkward situation for the union government in Delhi. Many in Indian establishment saw this abrupt announcement as a move to create fissures between Sikhs and the Indian state. Following the formal announcement of the corridor by the new government in Pakistan, Indian government had to haphazardly announce the building of a 3km-road from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian side up to the border. However, the foundation laying ceremony on the Indian side was diode of any euphoria at official level, which was otherwise overdue in the light of longstanding demand from India for the Kartarpur Corridor. Instead, the CM of Indian Punjab criticized Pakistan army and General Bajwa personally in his most scathing statements on the very eve of foundation laying ceremony. Without mincing any word, he plainly accused Pakistan’s military of attempting to re-ignite the Sikh separatists’ movement and terrorist attacks inside Indian Punjab. What could be more humiliating for a country to bear a disgusting tirade from a recipient of its favour? It’s deplorable to see that Pakistan not getting due accolades and reciprocity from the Indian side for an otherwise historic decision. It’s because this one-off decision lacks any coherence with Pakistan’s overall policy towards India. Besides, with India going to general election mode in few months, the choice of time to offer this favour couldn’t have been worse than now. The writer is a sociologist with interest in history and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, November 30th 2018.