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Ominous Beginning

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Navjot Singh Sidhu’s politics is as subtle as the brand of humour in the comedy shows he presides over. It is an indication of the desperation in the Pakistani Establishment that it has responded to his cross-border blundering with the initiative on the Kartarpur Corridor. However, the Pakistani edition of the event was replete with political posturing and ominous foreboding, given the composition of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s entourage. Clearly, eager as Pakistan is for normalisation of relations with India in its present economic and diplomatic troubles, it is unwilling to give up on its long-standing affair with terrorism as an ‘extra-conventional’ strategic weapon (phrase coined by General Musharraf).

There was much to be read in the speeches delivered by various worthies on the occasion. It may be recalled that while giving the green signal for the setting up of the corridor, Prime Minister Modi had described it as akin to coming down of the Berlin Wall. Whether the implication of this statement was understood by Imran Khan or not, he came up with a different analogy – that of the long term enmity between France and Germany ending in the modern era. The smashing of the Berlin Wall led to the reunification of Germany, which was originally one nation – as were pre-Partition India and Pakistan. On the other hand, the French and Germans are historically different nations and remain so.

While Sidhu celebrates his achievement, this is about as far as his maverick ways will go. By becoming part of the Pakistani narrative on the occasion that denigrated the Indian Prime Minister, he will discover that he has painted himself further into a corner. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the generation that faced the brunt of Khalistani terrorism, is far more wary of putting trust in Pakistan’s declared love for the Sikhs, and has properly distanced himself from the hugging and mutual back-patting. The Congress establishment will also have taken note of Sidhu being Imran’s pick as future Prime Minister of India.

Particularly ominous is the mainstreaming by Pakistan of terrorist groups and their being part of formal events, along with the Army General who runs the real show. It shows a disregard for international opinion and a dangerous arrogance that could lead to foolhardy decisions. Ghouls and demons can be managed as part of Shiva’s ‘baraat’, what Imran has to be careful of is they do not become his ‘Bhasmasur’.