Murky or mature, the conversation must never cease
To tea with three-month timetable
Pervez, Atal draw starting lines
East left out of lunch table
Calcutta Weather

 
 
MURKY OR MATURE, THE CONVERSATION MUST NEVER CEASE 
 
 
BY I.K. GUJRAL
 
 
The Agra Summit is assembling in the midst of hope and despair. It is unfortunate that the initial euphoria has evaporated so quickly, yielding ground to sadness. One still hopes that the atmosphere will register a change by the time the President lands in Delhi.

It is symbolic that his first engagement in India would take him to Gandhiji’s samadhi. That, I hope, will inspire him to discover the merits of peace. Of course, the atmosphere has been murkied by his making meeting with the Hurriyat in the way that he has chosen to. This has cast some doubts regarding the purpose of the General’s visit. India has shown remarkable maturity in putting behind the agonies of Kargil and expressed its wish to explore the possibilities of building friendly relationships with the neighbour even when the worthy guest is distancing himself from the historic Lahore and Simla agreements.

My proclivity for good neighbourly relations is known. All the same, I cannot help wondering if President Musharraf’s perceptions of Indo-Pak relations are widely different than that of his predecessor in office. In each of the seven summits between Nawaz Sharif and me at first, and later between him and Prime Minister Vajpayee, we looked at the Kashmir issue as a part of the several complex issues that needed attention. But Gen. Musharraf is not tired of telling his people that he has ‘bravely’ reversed the priorities. Of course, he has, but to what purpose? Along with Nawaz Sharif, we had shared the belief that the core issue was the Indo-Pak relations and much needed to be done to repair them. Obviously, the Army chief does not appreciate that the convoluted relationship between India and Pakistan is knotted by a long history that cannot be unravelled overnight nor in one meeting. Only trust and patient perusal might help. The coup in Pakistan has changed the internal power parities wherein the centre of power has shifted from the elected legislatures to the doctrinaire madarsas where such Talibani doctrines are used to shape the attitudes of young trainees, which project the philosophy of a permanent war with India. Some responsible persons in Pakistan had unabashedly told the Indian visitors that animosity with India would not end even when the Kashmir issue is settled. Unfortunately, the General has not yet cultivated the constituency of the liberal civil society in his own country, which hopes that one day — as per order of the Supreme Court — democracy will be restored, both in form and in spirit.

The main reason for even partial success of the seven summits had emanated from the fact that it was for the first time the two democracies were negotiating with each other. The elected leaders were sensitive to the aspirations of their respective people. They were also conscious of world history wherein no two democracies have ever gone to war and even contentious issues are resolved by negotiations.

At this point of time, it may be difficult to comprehend if the dismal economic situation afflicting Pakistan will make its military rulers choose the path of amity. They have placed faith in the low intensity war with cheap cannon fodder made available by Afghanistan. It may cost much lesser in money terms but its internal fallouts are devastating its stability. The Kalashnikov culture; the Shia-Sunni killings; weakening of the inner cohesion can be traced to the Jihadism that is eating into the nation’s vitals.

India continues to believe that a ‘failed’ Pakistani state is not in its interest. I had personally conveyed this to American policy makers. We wish Pakistan to flourish as a sovereign and prosperous country. We will be happy if it is democratic but it is for the people of Pakistan to decide. India is not in the business of exporting or importing ideologies.

Whatever be the fate of Agra Summit, it is important for us to realise that even in the recent past we have missed opportunities to reduce, if not end, the alienations of our compatriots in Jammu and Kashmir. Amazingly, the Prime Minister did not coincide the ceasefire with the initiative for internal dialogue with diverse people of the state. Six valuable months were lost when Mr. K.C. Pant was deputed to undertake his mission. The vacuum was utilised by the Hurriyatis and their collaborators to damage the otherwise well-perceived step.

Rightly, we spare no effort in telling the world that the state is governed by a democratically elected government that in turn derives its mandate from the elected legislature, and yet, when it came to it, Delhi disdainly rejected its resolution recommending autonomy for the state within the orbit of our Constitution. It is no one’s case that the clock of history can be or need be turned back to 1953 but it would be unwise to assume that the status quo is sustainable. The Assembly resolution had provided a platform and opportunity to engage all segments of state in a debate and discussions that, in the end, would help in evolving a consensus regarding governance of the state. Of course, in all circumstances this must remain democratic and secular. Here I would like to say a word of caution. It would be dangerous to reorganise the state in any manner that may smack of a communal divide. Preservation of its unity-in-diversity is as important as it is in rest of the country.

On the summit’s eve, the Prime Minister has announced some measures that would go a long way to further facilitate the people-to-people relations in the two countries. This is consistent with the paradigms that were spelt out in the Gujral Doctrine.

Successive governments in Delhi have never hesitated in unilaterally offering such concessions and facilities as would help the cause of good neighbourliness and the people-to-people bonhomie. Of course, the cause of an amiable future will be well served if neighbours would not interfere in the internal affairs of each other nor let their lands be used for any inimical action against the other. This is common sense but it is equally valid in diplomatic relations if we seek peace and co-existence, particularly in the nuclear era.

I had once told Parliament what may be useful for the ears of our visitors, too: “Improvement of Indo-Pak relations would be a slow process and never an event” since these carry a heavy burden of history. In the meantime let me repeat what I had said at Male : “Guftgu bund na ho, baat se baat chalai, subha tak sham-i-mulakat chalai.” (Conversation must never stop. One point will lead to another). Nawaz Sharif had agreed with it. I do hope that the Agra Summit will endorse it.

I.K. Gujral is former Prime Minister of India

   

 
 
TO TEA WITH THREE-MONTH TIMETABLE 
 
 
BY MIRWAIZ UMAR FAROOQ
 
 
When the six of us from the executive council of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference — chairman Abdul Gani Lone (Muslim Conference), Syed Ali Shah Geelani (Jamaat-e-Islami), Abdul Gani Lone (People’s Conference), Maulana Abbas Ansari (Ittehadul Muslimeen), Sheikh Abdul Aziz (People’s League) and myself (Awami Action Committee) (the JKLF has decided not to participate in the meeting) — go to meet Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf over tea tomorrow, it will be with the hope that he will carry with him our expectations when he meets Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee hours later.

Our immediate concern, we will tell the General, is that India and Pakistan should chalk out a time-bound strategy — we would look at a period of about three months from the summit — and evolve a mechanism to involve us. Our chairman, Abdul Gani Lone, will speak on our behalf. The others present will, if needed, emphasise the point.

Today, General Musharraf has said he is willing to extend his stay in India, if required, to discuss Kashmir. If he gets more time to talk to people here, that is a very good sign and we welcome it.

As Kashmiris we believe that if India and Pakistan were to come close to each other, it is in our interest. We will support any initiative that brightens the prospect of closer ties. But Kashmir is the bone of contention, it is the core issue.

Although we are not a participant in the talks, we would like to put forward our point of view. Without the involvement of Kashmiris, Kashmir cannot be settled. We are the primary party and both India and Pakistan have to involve us.

Kashmir is not a territorial dispute. It is a political issue concerning 13 million people. This fundamental thing has to be kept in mind — that it is an issue concerning people and not a line on a map. This is also why the people of Kashmir have to be taken into confidence. And the Hurriyat is their representative.

Bilateralism has failed over Kashmir. We have seen Tashkent, Simla and Lahore. All these agreements have failed because the people of Kashmir were never a part of them. That is the reason we call for a tripartite dialogue.

It is unfortunate that the NDA partners have decided to stay away from the tea meeting. It is sad that they are ignoring the realities. The Hurriyat Conference is a reality in Kashmir. We were looking forward to an interaction with the Indian leadership.

We have invested so much into the movement. More than 80,000 people have lost their lives. All of it for a cause. It is important that people on the ground feel that the summit has made a difference.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is a member of the Hurriyat executive council

   

 
 
PERVEZ, ATAL DRAW STARTING LINES 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, July 13: 
Hours before his touchdown in Delhi, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf hardened his stand further, rubbishing the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration and describing the Line of Control as “a problem and not the solution”.

In Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asserted that Jammu and Kashmir was at the core of Indian nationhood and described the two agreements as “a cornerstone between India and Pakistan” to settle all outstanding issues through bilateral negotiation.

“I hope President Musharraf will bring to the summit meeting a desire to bury the conflicts of the past and to build a new relationship of trust,” he added, during an interview with PTI.

The Pakistani President said he was willing to extend his three-day stay in India by another 48 hours if the Vajpayee government discussed the Kashmir problem seriously. In an interview with Gulf News, he said: “LoC is the problem. What is the freedom struggle going on about? It is about the LoC. It is the problem, not the solution. How can the problem be the solution?”

The Pakistan President’s comments are seen as a reaction to the Indian confidence-building measures which, some analysts feel, have pushed the general on the backfoot.

The visit of the Indian director-general of military operations to Pakistan was proposed to strengthen the LoC. India’s offer to open check-points along the border also includes the LoC. Many in Islamabad view this as an attempt by Delhi to solve the Kashmir problem by converting the LoC into an international border.

Musharraf indicated that nobody can stay in power in Pakistan by accepting the permanence of the LoC. But he added that maintaining peace along the Line of Control was a different matter.

Though both Vajpayee and Musharraf reaffirmed their known positions on Kashmir, their remarks indicated that the leaders were looking for an opportunity to make the summit meaningful. “We stand on the threshold of a new opportunity,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said.

Vajpayee said in his interview that it was important for India and Pakistan to work towards dispelling the climate of mistrust and suspicion. On how he felt about Musharraf, a man widely held responsible for Kargil, Vajpayee said: “No one can forget the bravery and sacrifice of our armed forces who successfully vacated Pakistani armed aggression and intrusion in Kargil. But we have to move ahead to the future.”

Musharraf wife hostess

Malini Nambiar, wife of India’s high commissioner in Islamabad Vijay Nambiar, will be the lady-in-waiting for Begum Sehba Musharraf. She will escort the Pakistani first lady around when her husband is busy with the talks.

Begum Musharraf, for most part of her programme, follows her husband. But, in between, she plans to meet representatives of Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia at the Habitat Centre and handicrafts workers.

   

 
 
EAST LEFT OUT OF LUNCH TABLE 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, July 13: 
Ten chief ministers have been invited by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the lunch he will host for President Pervez Musharraf at the Darbar Hall of Taj Palace Hotel.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is not one of them. Nor is Rabri Devi of Bihar or any of the other chief ministers from the east. Wittingly or not, Vajpayee appears to have removed the country Bihar eastwards from the unity in diversity he is going to present before his guest tomorrow.

In contrast, the chief ministers of all western states, barring Maharashtra, and those of the south, the exception being Tamil Nadu, are expected to be present in the luncheon meeting at 1 pm tomorrow. The north will be represented by the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers.

Bhattacharjee was not available for comment. However, Jyoti Basu said in Calcutta: “I am surprised. This should not have happened. I am going to ask my colleagues in Delhi to find out from the Centre why the eastern region was left out.”

Government sources maintained that the choice of chief ministers was entirely Vajpayee’s and nobody’s advice was solicited. Sources said no criteria was followed. “There was no criteria and neither was the Prime Minister governed by any consideration. He did not go by any precedent either,” they said. However, a Cabinet minister said the exercise was not ad hoc. Vajpayee was initially “advised” to invite only the chief ministers of the four states which shared a border with Pakistan — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

But it appeared as if only Gujarat’s Keshubhai Patel and Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot would turn up as Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is in the US and there was a “debate” on whether Farooq Abdullah’s presence would be “in order politically and diplomatically”. Abdullah has always been critical of the Hurriyat Conference and with Musharraf deciding to meet the group, it was thought that the chief minister’s known stand may be an “embarrassment” for the host country.

It was also felt that having a pre-set agenda in a luncheon meeting — in which the two leaders are expected to break ice — was not quite “appropriate”.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.3°C (-1)
Minimum:26.3°C (0)

Rainfall:

1.3 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 94%,
Minimum: 71%

Today

One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some areas.
Sunrise: 5.03 am
Sunset: 6.22 pm
   
 

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