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Analyzing the ‘Goodwill’ Behind Pakistan’s Unusually Warm Gesture Towards The Sikh Community

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The Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara is revered by the Sikh community around the world. The final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, is located in Pakistan, less than 5 kilometers from the Indian border.  

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Late in 2019, the Pakistani government granted visa-free access to Indians via the newly-constructed Kartarpur Corridor citing the approval as a special gesture towards the magnanimous Sikh community.

However, last week, as many parts of the newly constructed temple were damaged, the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara grabbed all the media attention with India and Pakistan punching ‘verbal’ blows at each other.

The Kartarpur Corridor was flagged off by Indian PM Narendra Modi on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The PM equated the opening of the Kartarpur corridor with the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that “on 9 November, the Berlin wall was broken down” and “today, on 9 November, the Kartarpur Sahib corridor has been opened” for which “India and Pakistan have both cooperated.”

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While India felt it contributed to healing the fissures in the cracked friendship, PM Imran Khan clearly had other ideas. He showed his true colors in the inauguration ceremony itself by highlighting the Kashmir issue.

Khan argued that Kashmiris were still living “like animals” with restrictions on their human rights. “Today what’s happening in Kashmir is beyond the territorial issue. This is about human rights now,” Pakistan PM emphasized.

The anti- India rhetoric is not a surprise but using the Sikh community to ferment trouble is a move that was last used 50 years ago by Pakistan.

Even before the inauguration ceremony, the intentions of Pakistan were quite clear. The Kartarpur Corridor is just a method to fan separatism in Punjab and drive a wedge between Sikhs and India. The official welcome video released by Pakistan showed just this.

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The now-deleted video, featured Sikh separatist leaders, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his military advisor Shabeg Singh, who were killed during Operation Blue Star in 1984.

Indian Punjab CM Amarinder Singh spoke about Pakistan’s “hidden agenda” during the opening of the Kartarpur corridor.

Earlier too, India had conveyed its objections to Pakistan over the presence of a leading Khalistani separatist in a committee appointed by Islamabad on the project. There are reasonable concerns in New Delhi that the Pakistani army would again try to revive the Khalistan movement and use the corridor to radicalize the Sikh community.

Inside the temple, a signboard claiming India’s intention to bomb the holy site during the 1971 war further showed Pakistan’s attempt to sow the seeds of animosity.

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Pakistani netizens themselves exposed the hidden agenda of the Pakistani army almost a week after the first batch of pilgrims visited the site. While speaking on a street talk show by Naya Pakistan, a YouTube channel, people said the opening of the Kartarpur corridor is a pre-planned strategy to woo Sikhs to fuel anti-India sentiments.

While speaking to a reporter, a local gave a scary insight into the reason behind the corridor. “Pakistan wants world peace and this is the significance of Islam. There are 14 crore Sikhs, one crore Kashmiris and 30 crore Muslims in India, he claimed erroneously.

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Sikhs will be with us as we have given them honor on this occasion. PM Imran Khan and the whole of Pakistan have given respect to them. General Bajwa and Pakistan Army have warmly welcomed them. God willing, they (the Sikhs) will be with us in the war against India.’’

He further added that time has come to teach Modi a lesson. God willing, 45 crore people in India and 20 crore people in Pakistan will teach Modi a lesson. This is a big achievement of General Bajwa and Imran Khan. No one thought about this. We have extended friendship with the Sikhs, and God willing, Sikhs are with us and they will stand with us during ‘Jihad’ or holy war”.

As the interview goes on another man offers his opinion and says that the decision has made Imran Khan immensely popular amongst the Sikh community in India. He said: “It has happened for the first time that Pakistani flags are being hoisted in India”.

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Apart from the ‘goodwill’, the opening of the Kartarpur corridor also generates income for the cash strapped Islamic republic. According to reports, Pakistan is expected to earn INR Rs 258 crore per annum from pilgrims visiting the shrine.

A $20 service fee per pilgrim will earn $100,000 every day and since the shrine is open 365 days a year, Pakistan will rake in $3,65,00,000 a year, bringing in much needed foreign exchange.

The absurdity of this plan is that after having religiously cleansed their areas of the Sikhs and Hindus, Islamabad now wants to benefit from the Sikhs and develop their economy, writes a critic.

Kartarpur alone will add at least $100 million every year to the Pakistani economy when you add the fees being charged from pilgrims, the offerings, and the other money that will be spent by those going on the pilgrimage.

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A bulk of this money will be whisked away by Islamabad to finance terrorism in Punjab. In other words, Indians will end up supporting the violence and devastation in Punjab that Pakistan has been scheming, writes Sushant Sareen.

Sareen’s statements does make sense. The Khalistan movement gained momentum in the 1970s and the state of Punjab was paralyzed for a decade. It received support from the All India Sikh Students’ Federation and was led most effectively by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Bhindrewala was later eliminated in Operation Blue Star, an incident that lives on in the memory of the Sikhs in India. Pakistan’s attempts to support the movement were no secret and with the opening up of the corridor, there is suspicion that it might try to do the same again.

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Intelligence reports have warned that organizations such as Pakistan-backed Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) plan to use the Kartarpur Corridor to further their agenda. Allowing supporters in Pakistan to raise posters and flags of Bhindrewala and shouting Pro Khalistan slogans is also another case in point.

New Delhi must keep a watchful eye or pay the price. With its troops in full action along the border in Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and the states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Mizoram in the east, India cannot afford to deal with a new problem in Punjab.

Analyzed By Armaan Srivastava. Edited By Nitin J Ticku

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Rafale jets dodge all radars, air defence systems; bombs Turkish facilities in Libya

The Dassault Rafale is a French multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions.

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Recently, the al-Watiya airbase in Libya was reportedly bombed by Rafale jets, which either belonged to France or Egypt, the two nations within the range of the base that possesses these (Rafale) aircraft, writes the Arab Weekly.  

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The report quoting its sources called the attack by Rafale jets as a response to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar’s visit to Libya.

The Turkish presence in Libya is highly undesirable to both Egypt and France and the former has even warned to intervene militarily in Libya if the Turkish-backed militias tried to head towards Sirte. France has also called the Turkish moves as “unacceptable,” emphasising that it would not permit this to continue.

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But this recent airstrike on al-Watiya airbase reportedly by 4++ generation Rafale jets displayed that the boundaries in airspace differ from the boundaries on land drawn by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Indeed, basing fighter jets and drones in al-Watiya pose a direct threat to any military deployed in the region.

Sisi has discussed the possibility of directly intervening in Libya, pointing out that Egypt “will not allow the conflict in Libya to cross the Sirte line.” He also emphasised that “with regard to Egypt’s security, al-Jufra is a red line that we will not allow any force to cross.”

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The Tripoli government accused “a foreign air force” of bombing al-Watiya base, without furnishing any information on the identity of the aircraft or the targets attacked. Even though Turkish and Qatari media rejected any casualties, the Libyan source, however, claimed that many Turkish soldiers were injured or dead in the airstrikes by Rafale jets.

A retired Libyan army officer revealed to Arab Weekly that a squadron of fighter planes launched a series of airstrikes on al-Watiya base, where Turkey had deployed F-16 aircraft, Bayraktar TB2 and Anka-S drones, backed by a MIM-23 Hawk air defence system with its radars.

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He further said that the air raids targeted the al-Nadab quarters at al-Watiya base, which the Turkish forces on the base had used as their headquarters since last May. Also targeted were Sungur air defence systems, fixed and mobile radar installations and Koral signal jamming system, which the Ankara had deployed at al-Watiya base.

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Libyan parliament member Ibrahim al-Darsi later acknowledged and “the airstrikes were launched by forces all too well-known to us,” and added that the targets of these attacks were “a clear message and constituted a strong and painful slap in the face of Turkish President Erdogan and his proxies in Libya, especially the militia government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.”

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Asia Pacific

India can ‘no longer’ choke China at the Strait Of Malacca as Beijing finds solution

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India. 

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Could the advantage that India enjoys over China due to the Strait of Malacca be coming to an end? Does China have a way to tackle the Indian plans of chocking Beijing at the Malacca Straits – the strategic waterway, in case of a war?

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India’s position at the mouth of the Malacca Strait has created panic amongst Chinese officials as they try to find an alternative route, writes the Forbes.

The Strait of Malacca is a strategic waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia through which the majority of Chinese imports pass. The narrow waterway also makes the perfect chokepoint from the perspective of India, and should tension between Beijing and New Delhi rise, the Malacca Strait can be blocked easily by India.

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India’s natural position in the Indian Ocean, with basing capabilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the mouth of the strait, would allow its navy to cut it off in the event of a crisis or war with China.

Keeping in mind the recent flare-up between India and China, Larry Bond, renowned naval author and creator of the Harpoon war game series, says that if India wanted to block trade with China, all it has to do is its park ships at the mouth of the Malacca Strait.

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The vast majority of China’s oil imports, from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Angola, pass by this route. Due to the strategic importance of the waterway, there is fear amongst Chinese officials that India could block the Malacca Strait in case of war.

Experts at EurAsian Times believe that the strategic importance of the Malacca Strait and the advantage it gives to India will likely reduce over time as Beijing find alternative routes.

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The fact India enjoys a strategic advantage over China because of the Malacca Strait has forced Beijing to explore other options and find ways around the waterway.

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One such option is Gwadar Port in Pakistan. As part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing has developed the port in Gwadar so that goods unloaded there will be shipped overland to China.

On June 8 the Pakistani government approved a $7.2bn upgrade to a railway which will connect Gwadar to Kashgar, China. The port is not yet operating at capacity, but the direction seems clear.

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While Gwadar is still susceptible to an attack by the Indian Air Force (IAF), it adds political and military risks as it is in a third country’s territory. The Indian Navy could try and block this port but it would require ships to move away from the Malacca Strait.

The other option Beijing is exploring is Northern Sea Route in the Arctic which could create a ‘Polar Silk Road.’ The importance of this is underlined by China’s 2018 Arctic policy. It asserts, “Geographically, China is a “Near-Arctic State”, one of the continental States that are closest to the Arctic Circle.”

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The policy statement goes on to say, “China hopes to work with all parties to build a “Polar Silk Road” through developing the Arctic shipping routes.”

Due to accelerated global warming, ice sheets are receding, thus making it possible for ships to travel via this route. Having sent its first ship through the region in 2013, Beijing is now investing in port infrastructure in the Arctic which connects to Europe.

China is also investing in designing ice breakers, vessels that would ease navigation through the Arctic. With help from Finnish Aker Arctic, China launched its first locally built ice breaker the Xue Long 2 in 2018.

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Apart from exploring new waterways and developing strategic ports, Beijing is developing a land route directly to Europe, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), mainly as a way to export goods.

Thousands of trains are transversing across Asia in recent times, the modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road. Land routes are one way China can reduce the criticality of Chinese sea routes.

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The strategic importance of the Strait of Malacca to China will lessen over a period of time. India will still be in a position to throttle Chinese supply lines there, but it will not have the same impact that it once had.

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Americas

India Bets Big On Nikki Haley To Emerge As Vice Presidential Candidate Under Trump

Nikki Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.  

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India has pinned hopes on Nikki Haley to become the US Vice President (VP) should Donald Trump get re-elected this November. Haley, a first-generation Indian American, is expected to strengthen Indo-American relation and also attract a lot of voters including women and minorities.

According to the reports, there is speculation that Trump might switch out Vice-President Mike Pence for Nikki Haley as his running mate in the hopes of boosting his lagging approval numbers among the broader electorate.

Despite resigning as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Haley has been active in politics. She has been fundraising for Republican congressional candidates as well as in the Senate and gubernatorial arena.

She has set up a non-profit organization to boost her policy priorities and has continued to pen editorials on foreign policy. And Hailey has retained a small, tightly knit orbit of advisers.

The former governor of South Carolina, Haley is one of the people who left the Trump Administration on good terms. She has even promised to campaign for the President for his re-election bid.

Haley has echoed some of the same arguments Donald Trump has made on national topics such as cancel culture, defunding police forces and statue removal, although the tone and frequency between Trump and Haley differ dramatically.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, Haley’s recent moves can be seen as a carefully executed plan to stay involved in key Republican policy circles and the national discourse. Haley has fundraised for almost a dozen Republican Senate candidates, many of them in tough re-election races, and has been a special guest at Republican Governors Association (RGA) events.

While Haley has dismissed reports about her running for VP, her being an influential person of colour could help Trump win constituencies he is currently losing.

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The US Presidential elections are a spectacle observed globally and India would be hoping Trump wins and Haley gets elected as the VP. Haley enjoys nationwide popularity amongst Indian-Americans and her election as VP could lead to stronger ties between Washington and New Delhi.

She has natural links to India with her parents having emigrated to the US in the 1960s from Punjab. Haley has often pointed out that India is an example of a free government and recently even applauded New Delhi’s decision to ban 59 Chinese applications and for standing up to China.

With an Indian-American at the helm of affairs, New Delhi would see it as an opportunity to get closer to Washington. It could lead to India benefitting in the areas of trade, defence and investment and would be a huge blow to neighbours China and Pakistan.

US Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in November and will be contested between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. While Biden’s re-election does not mean that India and the United States will have weak relations, having Trump in the White House and Haley as VP would definitely lead to stronger Indo-American ties.

Armaan Srivastava. Views Personal

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