India, Pakistan wait for each other to make first move on Kartarpur border opening


India, Pakistan wait for each other to make first move on Kartarpur border openingNEW DELHI: After the initial expectations over a Pakistan outreach with Imran Khan becoming Prime Minister, New Delhi and Islamabad are again finding it difficult to break the rut of hostility since their abortive attempt to restart the dialogue process in 2015.

While the

opening of the Kartarpur border

could have been an important confidence-building measure, both countries seem to want the other to make the first move officially for its opening. The opening of the Kartarpur corridor is important for Indian Sikh pilgrims as it will allow them to visit Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.

While Khan had earlier spoken to taking two steps to India’s one, New Delhi’s response was cordial, expressing hope for better relations. In a recent interview to TOI, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, reiterated that India expects progress on terrorism for any progress in ties.

Pakistan information minister Fawad Chaudhry had announced earlier this month that Pakistan was going to open the border and allow visa-free travel for Indian pilgrims. Official sources here said they were still waiting to hear from the Pakistani government. Islamabad though is saying that it is India which hasn’t responded to its offer.

Sources here said India had been requesting Pakistan to open the border for quite some time. For India, it would be an important step suggesting that the new Pakistani government is indeed serious about improving relations.

“We can’t though go purely by statements in the media and respond to an offer which has actually not been made to us,’’ said a source familiar with the issue.

Pakistan though sees as “logical’’ that India approach Islamabad over the issue. The opening of the border would have been perfectly in line with attempts by both sides since the 2015 Ufa (Russia) meeting of PM Narendra Modi with his then counterpart Nawaz Sharif to provide an impetus to religious tourism.

There is uncertainty also over what sort of meeting, if at all, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will have with her counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the side-lines of UNGA later this month. Both countries are faced with the same Kartarpur problem as no side apparently wants to be seen as proposing a meeting first. Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson said Thursday that Pakistan was waiting to hear from India on how it wanted to proceed further on the issue of dialogue. Both ministers will be present at two meetings— Saarc and Commonwealth— on the UNGA side-lines.

Mentioning Chaudhry’s announcement on Kartarpur, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu had written to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj earlier this week saying that India needed to take “a positive step on this highly emotional issue’’.

Pakistan also seems to be smarting under the

India-US “2+2” joint statement

though it is not clear if it will have any bearing on its position on the Kartarpur issue. Denouncing any use of terrorist proxies in the region, India and the US had called on Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control was not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. Rejecting what it described as unwarranted references to Pakistan, Islamabad said on Thursday it had conveyed its position to the US.