Pakistan - India summit
Agra talks have not failed but remained inconclusive
From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi
July 23 - 29, 2001
Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and India in their
post-summit press conferences in Islamabad and New Delhi respectively
have tried to salvage the damage caused by some hawks in the Indian
Cabinet at the last moment. Reportedly the two Ministers of the Vajpayee
cabinet threatened to resign if the joint communique, the draft of which
had been earlier approved both by President Musharraf and Indian Prime
Minister was signed and released to the press.
While some Pakistan counterparts of Indian hawks may
also be happy over the last minute set back to the summit, it has caused
a gloom and a shock to the majority of the people of both the countries
who had pinned lot of hopes with the historic summit to bring an end to
54 years old bitterness and hostility between the two countries.
Watching TV one could not help noticing President Musharraf leaving
India as a dissatisfied person.
The deadlock at Agra on the wording of an
Indo-Pakistan joint statement came as a shocking anti-climax to summit
that began on such an upbeat note. Expectations had been raised to
euphoric proportions by the media hype, there being too much of it which
must have hampered the work of the negotiators. But even a bland
statement, rather than no statement at all, would have been a facesaver.
So the disappointment has been all the more intense.
Perhaps a better sense prevailed later on the Indian
leadership when Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, at a press conference at
Agra on Tuesday morning, told newsmen "No I don't term Agra talks
as failed talks and I am very hopeful that the two countries will be
able to maintain the process of dialogue in future. Indian Prime
Minister has accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan. He will
undertake this visit in the near future besides meeting Gen. Musharraf
in New York in Sep. on the sidelines of U.N. General Assembly session.
Same afternoon Pakistani Foreign Minister at a press
conference in Islamabad said that "Agra talks have not failed but
remained inconclusive". The leaders of the two countries have
agreed to continue their dialogues. They will next meet in New York in
September this year.
If Abdul Sattar said that "in their inconclusive
talks Musharraf and Vajpayee succeeded in covering a broad area of
common ground which would provide a valuable foundation for them to
reach full agreement at their next meeting", Jaswant, too, seemed
optimistic saying that "New Delhi would like to pick up threads
from the Agra Summit for future negotiations with Pakistan. I am very
hopeful that the two neighbours will be able to maintain the process of
dialogue in future. In fact the Agra parleys have helped the two sides
to have better understanding of the each other's point of view".
Sattar minced no words in elaborating Pakistan's
principled stand on Kashmir and said that President Musharraf repeatedly
emphasised on the Indian leader that "realism requires a focus and
that progress on settlement of Jammu and Kashmir issue would be
conducive to normalization of bilateral relationship between the two
States". Although Jaswant admitted the Kashmir is the main dispute
between India and Pakistan, he drummed a new terminology of "unifocal
approach" which according to him, became the reason for not signing
of a joint declaration. It is plain that the breakdown of the talks has
been a victory for the hawks on both sides. They were the ones who
opposed tooth and nail any negotiations between India and Pakistan. It
goes to the credit of President Pervez Musharraf that he proceeded to
New Delhi and Agra in spite of strong reservations expressed by the
hardliners and militant parties and factions which are in some way
involved in the fighting in Kashmir. They found obliging allies among
the Indian hawks led by the hardliners in the BJP, namely the L.K.
Advani faction, which finally scuppered the draft of the joint statement
which had been agreed upon by the foreign ministers of the two
countries. So strong was the hold of this faction that it overruled its
own Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh thrice to make changes in the agreed
draft. This goes to prove how the BJP government in New Delhi has become
hostage to the hardliners who now constitute the core of the ruling
party. Given their strength, it appears that Pakistan was being
over-confident about the prospects of a breakthrough on Kashmir, which
President Musharraf believed he could count on.
All said and done, Foreign Ministers of both the
countries have once again raised the hopes for the continuation of a
peace dialogue and, as per Jaswant's announcement, Vajpayee would be
visiting Pakistan at a mutually agreed date, it is hoped that better
sense would prevail on the Indian Prime Minister to part ways with his
government's rigid stance on Kashmir issue which is the core issue. Once
it is solved, it will lead to automatic resolution of all other problems
and irritants between the two countries.