Despite some initial shuffling on a seemingly futile endeavour, Pakistan and India have finally moved ahead on finalising the Kartarpur Corridor Accord with both sides agreeing to reciprocal visits by their respective teams.
A Pakistani team will now travel to New Delhi on March 13 for initiating the process and an Indian team will visit Islamabad on March 28 to finalise the accord.
The move came after Islamabad last month shared with New Delhi its draft of the Kartarpur Corridor Accord for building visa-free access for Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara in Kartarpur Sahib in Narowal district of Punjab. The document would govern operations of the corridor.
India insisted on hosting the Pakistani team for the first leg of the negotiations. It goes to Islamabad’s credit that a decision was made to take up the offer so that the momentum gained at the groundbreaking ceremony for the corridor in Narowal, attended by two Indian cabinet ministers, could be maintained.
Another short step forward has been in a different field — sports. India has thus far indicated that it will allow its tennis team to travel to Pakistan for a crucial Davis Cup tie in September.
If it goes through, it would mark the return of an Indian tennis team to Pakistan for the first time since March 1964. Failure to do so would see a severe reprimand from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), including fines and sanctions barring participation in certain ITF events.
While they may appear small, these are significant steps in building up tracks towards formal talks between Pakistan and India at much higher levels. Ever since the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor, Islamabad has been signalling its willingness to work towards a thaw in ties with India. Now the ball is in India’s court.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2019.