Two Punjabs, one South Asia

India-Pakistan rapprochement and the South Asian future require subnational engagement, starting with Punjab
For a flickering moment in the last week of November, it seemed as if Congress provocateur and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu might set the geopolitical agenda, when he unabashedly spoke of the need for India and Pakistan to mend fences. He was in Lahore on the occasion of the start of work on the Kartarpur Corridor, meant to ease the travel of Sikh pilgrims to the resting place of Guru Nanak ( picture ).
Unfazed by ridicule on Indian television, the cricketer-turned-politician spoke of peace, trade and people-to-people contact, all of them lost causes of the ‘track two’ dialogues of past decades. His confidence seemed to emanate from being a Sikh and Punjabi reaching out to Pakistani Punjab, and in his wordy sermons one actually detected the formula for India-Pakistan cohabitation, which would also catalyse cooperation in the larger South Asian region. Nothing has been left untried in the effort to ease India-Pakistan tensions — Atal Bihari Vajpayee visiting Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore; Mr. Modi flying in for Nawaz Sharif’s birthday; secret emissaries rushing hither and yon; and ‘track two’ and ‘track three’ events of every kind. Nothing has worked, and we are today in suspended animation between Mr. Modi’s India-centric vision of the region and the Pakistani military’s control of the geopolitical discourse in Islamabad. At such a time comes the possibility held out by the Kartarpur Corridor. Punjab province is by far the most powerful sub-national unit of Pakistan. The Indian Punjab may not be as powerful within India in relative terms, but it is no pushover either. The two Punjabs have one history, as the stepping stone for invaders, battlegrounds that go back millennia, the shared tragedy of Partition, and the shared culture and language of Punjabiyat. Given that South Asian regionalism can only come from a turn towards genuine federalism in India and Pakistan, Punjab Province and Punjab State are the places to start anew. It may just be Punjabiyat is the concept which will help bring India and Pakistan closer to peace, and make South Asia a safer and more prosperous place. Kanak Mani Dixit, a writer and journalist based in Kathmandu, is the founding editor of the magazine, ‘Himal Southasian’
Source :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/two-punjabs-one-south-asia/article25658711.ece

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