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Misusing Kartarpur

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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, like anybody who has endured the terrorism ridden years in his state, has expressed concern at the likelihood of Pakistan using the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as another way of furthering the Khalistan cause. India’s intelligence agencies are also of the same opinion. It may be pointed out that the only remaining supporters of the Khalistan delusion live in Pakistan under the ISI’s patronage, or are associated with some Gurudwaras in the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. They are nurtured by intelligence agencies as what are generally described as ‘useful idiots’, who would help in any future conflict with India. Amarinder Singh’s doubts have already been confirmed by a video released by Pakistan that shows posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. At India’s objections, there are now two versions of the video – one for general display and the other for a particular audience. Having experienced how a radical ideology like Bhindranwale’s can seem attractive to some, costing enormously in terms of human lives and damage to the Sikh psyche, it behoves India to remain extremely careful. The fear is that, once travel to Kartarpur becomes an everyday affair, the alertness may go down and the ISI’s work on recruiting supporters will go up. How this is done can be seen in the manner that an otherwise well- meaning person like Navjot Singh Sidhu has been appropriated by the Pakistanis as their standard bearer. Sidhu may seem himself as a ‘peacenik’, but he is being used to depict Sikhs as ‘Pakistan friendly’ and ill-used by the Indian Establishment. The more he ‘cooperates’ with his ‘friend’ Imran Khan, the more this narrative is promoted. Those who lived through the trauma filled years in Punjab remember what occurred and are most unlikely to be taken in. However, the new generation has no memory of that experience and is vulnerable to propaganda unless it is countered effectively. Fortunately, many of Pakistan’s tricks that worked in the past are quickly exposed in the present day owing largely to social media. The ubiquitous smartphone in the unnoticed commoner’s hands captures activities that would otherwise have been location specific and kept under wraps. Fundamentally, the Pakistan strategy to remove the ‘nail from the flesh’ is bound to fail. There will be a backlash from many quarters. In the short term, however, India’s interest is to ensure the sufferings of the past are not repeated even on a minor scale.