During the heydays of Rana rule in Nepal, the present road from Bhadrakali temple to the Singha Durbar gate was a raised structure along which only the chosen few could set their feet or the wheels of their carriages. There was a large opening located under it towards the Singha Durbar end which was used by the commoners. This then was a passageway restricted exclusively for the rulers of the land.
A resolution of the current spat between India and Nepal would be to designate the road built by India going across the Nepali territory stretching to Limpiadhura to be utilized by pilgrims from India to traverse via Nepali territory to reach Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet as the Lipulekh Corridor. Such action would help, once again to make the goodwill between SAARC countries a reality
There has been a time for passageways/corridors at various times in the history of humankind. It is in these that the chosen few, by their erstwhile heritage or by the votes of the gullible usually walk with their coterie or chamchas and rub shoulders with them! Leaders of various nations who normally walked down these corridors of power tend to meet on and off at times to sort out problems!
Occasionally, it is at a time of conflict that such provisions are agreed upon as a sign of goodwill or a means to lessen the prevailing state of tension. Even in times of warfare, the guns go silent and people are allowed to move across the areas of conflict with confidence.
The first corridor that one hears about was possibly in Biblical times. We are told that when Moses led the Israelis in their attempt to escape from out of Egypt, he had to cross the Red Sea. As they reached the Red Sea, Moses held out his staff and the Red Sea was parted by God. The Israelis, being pursued by the Egyptians ran across the dry river bed to reach the other side. At that moment Moses then lifted up his staff and the separated mass of the water came together again, drowning the pursuing Egyptians.
Salman Rushdie in his biography Joseph Anton states that in Feb. 1983 a total of 38 Shia Muslim followers of Sayyad Willayat Hussein Shah, believing that God would separate the waters of the Arabian Sea for them to cross the seafloor on their pilgrimage to the city of Karbala in Iraq. The believers followed their leader into the water but as the prophesied event did not occur, many died.
So, permission to cross areas of danger, through temporarily or permanently designated corridors, for movement of ships, vehicles, planes and people from two areas located in regions where people do not see eye to eye is a practice that occurs from time to time.
The well-known Suez Canal, length 193 Kms. connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea by the isthmus of Suez. It was constructed over a period of ten years and was opened for shipping in 1869. Till 1956 it was run by a French and English company. It is now controlled by the Egyptian government and runs under the Convention of Constantinople that states that it may be used “in time of war as in the time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.”
Panama Canal (82Kms.). Work for the construction of the canal was started in 1881 but was slow and then stopped. It was restarted by the United States in 1904 and finally completed in 1914. Though initially run by a US-Panamanian company it is now run by Panama and ships of all nations sail through it.
Berlin corridor is an old example of the access given to visitors who needed to go to West Berlin when it was surrounded all around by East Germany. Occasional skirmishes took place at the ‘Wall’ but access was given and it took no less a person than JF Kennedy to go there on 26th June 1963 and give his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech for the East Germans to lessen their blockade of the city.
But corridors are created too to lessen tensions and bring about goodwill. This is the underlying reason why Pakistan, in spite of the tension at the line of control (LoC) is providing an access road to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak in their country. The Kartarpur Corridor is a visa-free border crossing connecting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to the border in India, along which Sikh pilgrims can travel without hindrance.
Nepal was fortunate that even from the time of British Rule imports from abroad came through Kolkata port. It was however during King Birendra’s reign that port facilities for land-locked countries became a prominent issue and was agreed upon universally. The use of the port at Kolkata by Nepal to conduct trade with other nations became official. Currently, this port facility is being increased to allowing similar facilities at Visakhapatnam also. Lately, a protocol has also been signed in Beijing so that similar access facilities are provided to Nepal at such Chinese seaports at Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang.
The implication of this is a very constructive suggestion for Nepal to be given free access across the narrow Indian Territory, colloquially known as ‘Chicken Neck’ and which lies between Nepal and Bangladesh. The road from Nepal to Bangladesh, the Siliguri Corridor would then be a major route of connectivity. This would all be in conformity with the proposal of PM Modi of India and be a perfect example of good neighborliness amongst countries of the SAARC region.
The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd