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Strategic Importance of Kartarpur Corridor

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With Pakistan and India making history with groundbreaking Ceremony of kartarpur corridor on both sides of International Boundary to facilitate the people by giving access to Sikhs of India to Baba Guru Nanak Gurdwara- the founder and spiritual leader of Sikhism. Imran Khan conducted Groundbreaking Ceremony of Kartarpur on 28th November in a  huge gathering attended by a delegation from India including Navjot Sidhu.

As an agreement, Pakistan will build a corridor of 4 Kilometer up to International boundary and India will build the same from Gurdaspur to International Boundary of just 2 Kilometers.

Apart from a Religious point of view, the corridor will serve a vital role for Trade and Economic relations and improve ties between two hostile Nations for seven decades. The Kartarpur corridor has strategic Importance and can go a long way bringing two countries closer to Diplomatic Dialogue since both countries may turn over a new leaf to build the strong ties and bury the hatchet to spread love and bring peace in the region.

Ever Since Indian Former cricketer Navjot Sidhu Visited Pakistan on the Good Will gesture and bringing in the Message of Peace and Love from India in the Official Invitation from Imran Khan to participate in his oath-taking ceremony, he was warmly welcomed by all including Army Chief  General Qamar Jawed Bajwa. Sidhu appeared very optimistic about the Growing friendly ties between the two countries and bringing the message of love and Peace for the people of Pakistan.

The Army chief General Qamar Jawed had a big hug with Sidhu and offered to open the Kartarpur corridor for the Sikh devotees to visit their founder Baba Guru Nanak Gurdwara by giving visa-free access in order to honour the Guest of honour, Navjot Sidhu. Sidhu was very excited to know that an Army chief had offered such thing as it was really unbelievable for him that an army chief could offer such gesture.

 His immediately discussed the matter with the Indian government upon his return to his country. The BJP Government at first turned down the proposal and the so-called Indian Media criticized Navjot Sidhu of  Hugging Army chief as India consider him the murderer of His soldiers. There were debates over the television that whether Sidhu should have Gone to Pakistan or Not.

The Veteran cricketer turned politician Navjot was undeterred and kept pushing Indian Government to accept the Proposal of kartarpur corridor. At last, the Modi Government accepted the offer and the foundation Stone Ceremony took place on Indian side on 26th November 2018 by the Vice President of India m Venkaiah Naidu. The Distance from the Indian side is 4 Kilometers from Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur District to International Boundary to connect the same with the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

On the Other hand, The Prime  Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan laid the foundation Stone on 28th November 2018 at District Narowal attended by COAS Qamar jawed Bajwa, Navjot Sidhu and Other delegates from India.  PM offered Visa Free Access to the Holy site of   Durbar Kartarpur Sahib in order to facilitate the Sikh community pilgrims. 

  According to Vice President of India, “The corridor will become a symbol of love and peace between both countries,” Naidu was quoted as saying in Gurdaspur. He went on to say that this was very momentous and historic day and they are fulfilling the wish of Sikh Devotees who are  excited to visit the sacred place for Sikhs to celebrate 550th Birthday anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak next Year .

Indo-Pak Relations have always remained tense due to various Loc based firing, 26/11 Mumbai Attack and the core issue of Kashmir. There were frequent proposals and demands to have a corridor to facilitate Sikh Pilgrims of India to have access to Gurdwara Baba Guru Nanak so as to perform their religious rituals there.

The Immigration and Visa processes were very exhausting and complicated given the tough hostile relations of these neighbours having fought two deadly wars and frequent cold war that impeded the peace efforts and suspended the meaningful dialogue to discuss the grave issues of Terrorism and Kashmir dispute as per the wishes of Kashmiri People through a plebiscite.

The political leadership of both countries have never been engaged in a proper way that might have paved the way to the resolution of issues, Since there has been a great dearth of Confidence-building measures and trust that might have led both countries to ink an agreement.

Unfortunately, the dialogue process was marred and remained suspended given the growing extremist forces such as Shiv Sina and RSS. The Indian leadership failed to withstand the mounting pressure and consequently, succumbed to pressure and took a U-turn from the dialogue by giving any excuse to justify their distancing from the dialogue process.

However, ever since the PTI-led Government came into power, it reshaped and realigned their foreign policy to suit the interests of the country and defined new terms of engagement with the US and the Neighbours especially Iran, Afghanistan, India and close all-weather friend China.

To break the stalemate and diffuse the tensions between the two countries, the cricket diplomacy came into play when soon after winning the election, Imran Khan envisaged his foreign policy vision inviting India to forward one step and he would go by two steps to reach a lasting solution through dialogue. To display the friendly gesture and using his old cricket fellows of India to bridge the gap and reconnect to Pakistan’s intentions to reinitiate the dialogue process, PM Imran Khan invited Navjot Sidhu to attend his oath-taking ceremony.

Sidhu was given warm reception at the ceremony and the big hug from COAS Qamar Jawed Bajwa was the turning point that melted the ice when he(Bajwa) offered to open the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the Sikh Pilgrims to visit their Holy place of Guru Nanak Sahib owing to frequent demand. He said to Sidhu to discuss the issue with his Indian Government to make sure whether they were willing or not.

Sidhu was excited and returned home with the proposal but his Indian Government rejected the proposal by giving the traditional excuse of cross-border terrorism and afterwards when Sikh community pushed the Government to accept the proposal. They agreed to build a modern Corridor equipped with all modern facilities on the Indian side and urged Pakistan to build the same from their side.

Pakistan Government welcomed the move and announced groundbreaking ceremony on November 28th and invited Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu besides 17 Indian journalists to Kartarpur corridor.

Sushma Swaraj and Chief Minister Punjab Amarinder Singh apologized to come due to some commitments, whereas few Indian Ministers, Journalists and Navjot Sidhu were the part of Indian Delegation came to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony. They termed the development as historic since it would spread the message of love for both countries.

As per the plan, the Indian government will construct and develop the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border, while Pakistan will build the other part of the corridor connecting the border to the Gurdwara in the Kartarpur Sahib area of Narowal district as per  the official statement of both countries.

 Geographically,   the two sites – Dera Baba Nanak and Kartarpur Sahib – are barely separated by six kilometres but parted by an international borderline between India and Pakistan that is also toughened by a poisonous rhetoric and lack of Mutual trust.

It is high time that both countries should make serious efforts to ensure people to people contacts and melt the ice that hampered development in the regions. The Kartarpur Corridor may open vistas of opportunities between two countries and they may take the bilateral trade relations to next level if the same corridor is used for trade besides the purpose of Sikh pilgrims.

 It might be too early to predict , yet  to be optimistic , The corridor will play its role to diffuse tensions between two countries and  may bring the relations to normalization if the priorities and attitudes start changing as people set aside all the odds and need love since they are fed up from the warmongering from Indian Authorities . War would be disastrous for both Nuclear capacious neighbours and will bring misery by plunging country into an economic crisis that will never be fruitful for these countries and for South Asia as Whole. 

Pakistan may offer the CPEC partnership if positive and meaningful dialogue process restarts since we have to forward by burying our past differences as quoted by PM Imran Khan during the Groundbreaking ceremony regarding the two European powers France and Germany by saying that if these two can engage in an alliance then why not Pakistan and India  Since animosity and wars cannot stand longer if people Start pushing their Governments to maintain peace and live like peaceful neighbours.

China

What will the post-COVID world look like?

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Although virologists have been warning of the risks of a global pandemic since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the world was still mostly unprepared when confronted with the COVID-19 crisis. However, it was also unlucky.

It was unfortunate that the pandemic came in the run-up to a US presidential election that has created an environment as politically polarized as any the country has experienced. As a result, much of the US media coverage of, and debate about, the virus and the global policies needed to deal with its effects have been more about the presidential race rather than the pandemic.

This has obviously had a clear effect on international politics because of the importance of the role of the US and its global leadership.

It was also bad luck that the health crisis came at a time of high tensions between the US and the second largest global power, China, where the virus originated. This further complicated any potential global unified response.

As a result of the global uncertainty, it is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the crisis, which seems likely to continue for at least another 12 months, will play out in the Middle East, and also what a post-COVID world might look like.

One certainty is that most countries will be forced to shift their focus and resources to domestic matters rather than regional issues.

The virus and the resultant shutdowns imposed to “flatten the curve” of infections have had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences on economies and national budgets. It seems that despite the soft reopening of parts of economies around the world, the current health concerns will prevent a full restoration of business activities for some time, especially if the number of infections and deaths start to rise again after governments relax precautionary measures.

In our increasingly interconnected world, it is difficult to determine whether any country will come out on top economically, and consequently geopolitically, especially given mounting levels of debt.

Countries able to borrow in their own currency seem to be at an advantage; this applies mainly to the US and the EU (if the European countries can unify their policies), and indirectly also explains the current debate in the Gulf about the unpegging of currencies.

Another certainty is that with less money available, wars and proxy wars will become prohibitively expensive and all parties will be forced to scale down their ambitions. As a result, aggression will be reduced and consensus and agreement might be more readily reached. Countries and their allies or proxies who have refused to sit at the negotiation table might now change their minds and mellow, or perhaps even be forced to completely withdraw from conflict zones.

Take Iran, for instance, which has been targeted recently by a successful US policy of maximum pressure. The country is facing problems domestically and, with the added pressure of low oil prices, it will be less able to maintain its financial support to the Houthis in Yemen, the militias in Iraq, and Hezbollah.

Does that mean Tehran will cease its meddling? Nothing is certain but domestic turmoil might force it to do so.

As Iran’s problems have grown, the region has witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic the emergence of a more assertive Turkey. This has happened despite the fact the country is also suffering economically.

It has been a long time in the making. Turkish involvement has spread to many regional issues beyond its normal national security zone. Its involvement in neighboring Syria is understandable, given that the conflict there directly threatens Turkey’s security. More interesting is the Turkish interest in Libya, where Ankara is pushing for a continued presence with no apparent direct threat or rationale to explain this. This is happening while it also increases political rhetoric that promises continued interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries in the years to come.

A closer look at the issues reveals that Turkey is focusing its involvement on key points on Europe’s energy routes. This is not surprising, as Europe remains Ankara’s main and constant focus. So, Turkey is now directly competing with Russia — the biggest supplier of gas to Europe — in Syria, where Iran is also strongly entrenched as the country is a key Mediterranean access point for its gas and energy deliveries to Europe.

Turkey is challenging Russia for control of the tap that provides Europe with its energy stability, and this explains its involvement in Libya and other countries. The same logic explains Ankara’s negative reaction to the Israeli-Greek-Cypriot gas-pipeline project, EastMed. This motivates its strategy, as it hopes to leverage it to make more gains in the region.

Therefore, we can expect an increased Turkish focus on the Mediterranean and on supply-chain routes and access points for energy, as well as merchandise being shipped from the East to Europe.

On that point, the land routes of China’s Belt and Road Initiative include one that goes through Russia and another that passes through Turkey. This massive project is also something Turkey is well aware of, and Ankara is striving to ensure it has a presence on key points along the BRI’s Maritime Silk Road. Once again, it is being guided not by national security concerns but a desire to increase its regional clout.

It is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the corona crisis will play out in the Middle East. 

Khaled Abou Zahr

While Russia and Turkey face off on the ground over an increasing number of issues, it is interesting to note the apparent lack of any direct involvement by the US or China, the two biggest global powers, and, surprisingly, the total absence of European nations, which should be the most concerned about what is happening.

In weighing how global and regional powers will direct their foreign policies and manage existing conflict zones, their own domestic political, economic and social stability will play an important role.

Yet, apparent weaknesses might invite bold moves and dangerous power-grab attempts. This delicate balance will be the key driver for international policies in the coming years. One might say that uncertainty and volatility have spread from the stock-markets to the geopolitical arena.

  • Khaled Abou Zahr is the CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.

Courtesy : Arabnews.pk

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US warns of ‘consequences’ if China abandons trade deal

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US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday he expects China to uphold a trade deal reached with Washington this year, and warned of “consequences” if the country did not.

The comments come amid a sharp drop in global trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic as well as a dispute between the two powers over fault for the spread of the virus, which first broke out in Wuhan, China.

The US and China in January signed an agreement to end a nearly two year-long trade war, that included a commitment by Beijing to buy an additional $200 billion in American goods over the next two years.

“I’m expecting them to meet their obligations,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business Network.

“I have every reason to expect that they honour this agreement and if they don’t, there would be very significant consequences in the relationship and in the global economy as to how people would do business with them.”

Ties strained

However, relations between Washington and Beijing have soured in recent weeks, with US President Donald Trump blaming China for the pandemic, and threatening tariffs.

The US has been hit with tens of millions of layoffs as the virus has spread, significantly weakening the previously solid economy, which Trump was counting on to win re-election in November.

The trade agreement signed in January includes $77.7 billion in additional purchases from the manufacturing sector, $52.4 billion from the energy sector and $32 billion in agricultural products.

The US currently runs a trade deficit with China, and the objective is to realign the trade balance between the two countries.

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Pakistani doctors on forefronts against COVID-19 worldwide: PM

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Islamabad:Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday said Pakistani health professionals were on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.

On Twitter, the prime minister said Pakistani doctors working abroad also desired to help the government in Pakistan for what a dedicated portal www.yaranewatan.gov.pk has been launched.

The initiative would provide the willing overseas health professionals a platform to register for voluntary services.

According to official portal, Yaran-e-Watan is a joint initiative by the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora health communities.

The objective is to facilitate voluntary two-way engagement that addresses the gaps in the health needs of Pakistani people by coupling them with the expertise of Pakistani and foreign health professionals practising abroad.

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