Reason merges with rhetoric
Flapping sherwani, unflinching salute
Legitimate emissary stamp on Hurriyat
Day I core issue: pick real amma
Calcutta Weather

 
 
REASON MERGES WITH RHETORIC 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, July 14: 
President Pervez Musharraf received a lecture on democracy and gave one back on Kashmir.

At the banquet held in Musharraf’s honour, capping the first day of his visit, President K.R. Narayanan said: “We in India hold fast to the fundamentals of tolerance and secular democratic principles.” These were the principles on which the two can build a relationship of “genuine peace, friendship and cooperation”.

The general’s reply to this was a reminder that though he was keen on opening a new chapter of “fruitful” relations, the Kashmir dispute stood in the way. There is no “military solution” to the dispute, he said, asserting that the two countries must break the “impasse of the past”.

Musharraf gave a broad enough hint of his bargaining position at the summit: that if India accepted Kashmir as the core issue, he was prepared to widen the discussions. At the same time, if that does not happen, Pakistan would at least wish the Agra meeting to lead to a framework for the two nations to keep talking.

Musharraf tried to sound reasonable, in a departure from the past few days’ heated rhetoric that had clouded the prospects for the summit. At every interaction with Indian leaders, Musharraf made the point that he appreciated Vajpayee’s limitations and hoped that his constraints, too, will be understood. And that both will have to work within these parameters to work out a solution.

At his talks with home minister L.K. Advani, he even appeared willing to discuss an extradition treaty. Advani, making the proposal, cited the instance of Turkey — a friend of Pakistan — with which India recently signed one. The home minister was pleasantly surprised that though he had raised unpalatable issues, Musharraf did not flinch.

The one thing that rankled the Indian side was the meeting with Hurriyat leaders where Musharraf recognised the secessionist outfit as the voice of Kashmir.

His statements through the day, repeating on every occasion that Kashmir has to be the main topic of discussion, held no surprises for the Indians, who, too, reaffirmed their own position. They said the Pakistani leader must not hold the entire bilateral relationship hostage to Kashmir. During their first meeting, Vajpayee told Musharraf: “We should avoid the narrow approach of the past.” Musharraf agreed. But the fundamental difference in their approach — symbolised in the morning by the distance between the two as they met for the first time and shook hands — remained.

“The Jammu and Kashmir dispute continues to block progress towards normalisation of our relations,” Musharraf said at the banquet. “Our capabilities and responsibilities in the new century no longer offer us the option of continuing on the path of a sterile impasse, continued hostility and mistrust.”

If the white sherwani in which he set foot on Indian soil amid a fine morning drizzle was meant to send out a signal that he was coming here as a messenger of peace, in his evening dress of black Musharraf seemed to suggest that he was serious about his purpose. He told the gathering at Rashtrapati Bhavan that he was committed to finding a path towards normal relations. “As neighbouring countries, we need to bridge the gulf that divides us. I come to India with this purpose.”

Musharraf said the nuclear status imposed new responsibilities on the two countries. “We must overcome the burden of history. Other nations have done it.”

Before leaving for India, the Pakistan President had said he would be looking to make history. Whether or not that dream is fulfilled, the first day of his visit was full of references to history on either side. Recalling Jinnah’s wish to see good relations, Musharraf said: “This vision is not beyond our grasp.”

“I have come to India because I would like to do everything possible to realise the dream of the Quaid-e-Azam,” said Musharraf, who became the first Pakistani head to visit Gandhi’s samadhi.

Jinnah was on the lips of Narayanan, too. “Now that the division of India has been brought about by a solemn agreement between the two Dominions, we should bury the past and resolve that...we shall remain friends,” he said quoting Jinnah.

With Musharraf’s pre-visit rhetoric rubbishing the two previous statements of intent — subsequently denied by the Pakistanis — in mind, Narayanan said India and Pakistan should “build upon” the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

The Indian President hoped there would be a “structured dialogue” at Agra which would lead to the “removal of all obstacles and misunderstandings”.

Musharraf agreed. “The children of Pakistan and India must not be made to live under the constant shadow of conflict,” he said.

   

 
 
FLAPPING SHERWANI, UNFLINCHING SALUTE 
 
 
BY BENAZIR BHUTTO
 
 
Pakistan’s military dictator General Musharraf flew into the Indian capital to a resplendent red-carpet welcome. He tried not to smile. I remembered my Father’s words when we flew into Chandigarh to begin the Simla Summit in 1972.

“Do not smile,” my Father said. “Remember our soldiers who died and are imprisoned. And do not look grim, otherwise the press will say the talks are doomed.”

Yet, it was difficult to look unhappy as our Indian hosts smilingly and happily met us. The warmth of their reception was infectious, even if Indian Premier Indira Gandhi was more aloof.

My Father wore a suit. General Musharraf, who often wears suits in Pakistan, chose to wear a sherwani. The sherwani flapped in the wind as the General tried to inspect the guard and meet the VIPs standing in line. The awkwardness of the flapping sherwani summed up the awkward arrival. There was the Indian military presenting a guard to the man

who started a war in which so many of their colleagues died. In turn, the General saluting those who fought back in Kargil killing men he led in the Pakistan army.

Simla was different. Islamabad’s rulers, who presided over the fighting in Dacca, had gone. A new leadership with new hopes came to India to build a new relationship. Its arrival was not an insult to the memory of the slain nor was it burdened with complexes over operations gone wrong. The Simla Agreement, child of the seventies’ summit, gave birth to the longest lasting peace between the two countries, even when conflict came perilously close.

The Simla Agreement’s strength lay in that it was an agreement between two democratically elected leaders. They had a mandate and they used it effectively.

Musharraf’s lack of mandate is the major impediment in the Agra summit providing an understanding of the strength and durability of Simla.

And Premier Vajpayee is a leader already bitten once. Can he take a risk, and be bitten twice?

Even as the General arrived in New Delhi, the drums of death echoed in the disputed Kashmir Valley. Five Indian soldiers and seven Kashmiri militants died in a grim reminder of the violence that shadows the summit.

Much is at stake in this summit between two leaders who meet in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, a monument of love and a symbol of Muslim power.

South Asia is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Two nuclear equipped powers stare each other eyeball to eyeball. Their leaders meet after a gap of two years and with much behind the scenes prodding.

The Indian Foreign Office plans well. American President Clinton was bowled over by the reception he received on his visit to the world’s largest democracy.

General Musharraf’s itinerary is one that can make the hardest hearts melt. On Indian soil he was received as the undisputed President of Pakistan, an honour his own people are yet to grant him.

The Indian Foreign Office route took Musharraf to the Mahatma Gandhi shrine. There he threw roses in tribute to the ascetic who preached non-violence. He was feted at a lunch where a galaxy of Indian stars turned out to bedazzle him.

Next he visited his old home, receiving the gift of the original sale deeds with his Father’s signature. At night, he feasted on a sumptuous banquet while the Naval Band played, Meri awaz suno (Listen to My Voice).

The Taj Mahal, the Gandhi Memorial, the old home and the star-studded lunch give a clear message of “love, peace, welcome back home and you can be a star too”. The first day was the day the diplomats dedicated to creating a warm ambience for the two leaders to meet.

Simla was different. It was business from beginning to end. Ninety thousand prisoners of war were in the camps and the Bengali leader was threatening war crimes for the genocide perpetuated in Bengal.

As a teenager, I was the light relief for the international press. Taken to a convent, to the bookshops, to a tinned fruit cottage industry, I was surprised by the number of Indians who turned out to greet me. The huge crowds and smiling faces showed a people-to-people desire to improve relations as their leaders holed up for serious dialogue.

For the Musharraf visit, gun-toting commandos replaced the crowds that lined the main streets. Fear of hardliners taking extreme measures forced police vigil at key points.

The Black Cat elite commandos and the deserted streets sent a message of their own.

Even if the diplomats did their best to create warmth, the talks could be tough. The Indian Air Chief refused to salute Musharraf.

Much depends on the chemistry the summit leaders build up when they meet in the Retreat without aides. As a trained commando versed in the game of camouflage, Musharraf walks a tight rope between peaceniks and warmongers. The Indian politician and the Pakistani commando meet alone as the whole world watches.

At Simla, with subcontinental prejudice, the bureaucrats decided on a code word to determine the success or failure of the talks. “If it’s a success, we will say a boy is born and if a failure, we will say it’s a girl.”

South Asia, and the larger world community, waits with bated breath to see the offspring of the Musharraf-Vajpayee talks at Agra, the city of love.

Benazir Bhutto is former Prime Minister of Pakistan

   

 
 
LEGITIMATE EMISSARY STAMP ON HURRIYAT 
 
 
BY MIRWAIZ UMAR FAROOQ
 
 
We talked to General Pervez Musharraf for 25 to 30 minutes. He heard our chairman Abdul Ghani Lone first and then, we heard him. He told us that Pakistanis and the Government of Pakistan believe the Hurriyat is the legitimate representative of the Kashmiri people.

We do not have reason yet to be over-enthusiastic, and events over the next three to six months will show which way we are headed. There will have to be measures that will enable the people of Kashmir to feel the difference.

We did not really discuss in detail — since this was a first, preliminary meeting — what kind of signals we would like to see. But there are three things that we will definitely want to see happen. The release of political prisoners, permission to human rights organisations to visit the Kashmir Valley and travel documents for Hurriyat leaders.

“I have come with sincerity and with an open mind,” the President told us. “Kashmir ek aham issue hai.”

He said he will be talking to Vajpayeeji only tomorrow and the agenda was not known yet.

Our talks with the President were very general in nature. He wanted to ascertain our point of view. We said that agreements in the last 50 years have come to nought because the people of Kashmir have not been involved.

The General was not wishy washy. He was very clear. “I will do my level best,” he told us. I think General Musharraf will try and impress upon Vajpayeeji the importance of involving the people of Kashmir to reach any lasting agreement on peace.

The overall impression that we have come back with is that Pakistan will continue to support us politically and diplomatically.

The General stressed the importance of cooperation and coordination. There was a rumour that the General had made us a proposal on Kashmir that he had discussed with groups in Pakistan. No such thing happened.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is a member of the Hurriyat executive council

   

 
 
DAY I CORE ISSUE: PICK REAL AMMA 
 
 
FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH
 
New Delhi, July 14: 
Pervez Musharraf returned to the home he had left when he was two-and-a-half years old and to his “amma”. But soon after his visit to Neharwali Haveli, another woman turned up to lay claim to the term of endearment the general had used to greet Anaro, the sweeper who says she took care of him as a child.

Musharraf was then too young to remember and is possibly now old enough to forget but he sealed his tie with Anaro with a gift of $200 and a salwar suit piece. Anaro touched the general’s shoulder in affection and he called her “amma”.

Moments after Musharraf left and Anaro had melted away, in jumped 75-year-old Begum Asghari. “I never saw Anaro cleaning the haveli. I would regularly visit the ancestral house.”

As verbose as Anaro, who of course did all the talking in the runup to the visit, Asghari said: “I was known all over the locality for looking after women during delivery and the post-delivery period. I would go to look after Musharraf’s mother. Although I do not remember her name but she was a nice woman.”

Asghari thinks it was the greed to be in the limelight and the money that prompted Anaro to lie. Whenever Anaro’s name is mentioned, Asghari raises her hand in the form of a snake.

Yeh anaar Kandahari kahan se paeda ho gaya?” she asked, questioning Anaro’s credibility.

Like Asghari, many of the residents claiming a piece of the Musharraf family’s ancestral home were not happy. The President did not enter the house and only stood on the courtyard, shaking hands with Raj Kumar alone. He is one of the Jain brothers who occupy a portion of the house.

Wearing a blue shirt and grey trousers, Musharraf arrived late by about a quarter of an hour, his huge limousine snaking into the narrow lane of Kucha Sadaullah Khan. Begum Sehba in white salwar-kameez accompanied him. In attendance was Independent MLA Shoaib Iqbal and on offer was vegetarian food.

“The President refused to eat anything as he had just come after lunch. He drank sherbet-e-khus. Though the security official tried to stop the President from drinking the sherbet, he continued drinking,” said Iqbal. He promised to send the President a book handwritten by Musharraf’s grandfather on unani medicines.

The general confessed to an escort, Makhanlal, that he was feeling “nostalgic”. He walked into the narrow passage of the haveli and enquired about a “chabutra”, a structure with four pillars — possibly a gate — that he remembered had existed there. He was told that a part of it was still standing but did not venture forth to have a look.

Vijay Goel, MP of Chandni Chowk, sneaked in a few words with the President and this piece of information: “Chandni chowk mein Bharatiya Janata Party hi elections jeeti hain.” To that, he claims, Musharraf just smiled.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.3°C (-1)
Minimum: 26.1°C (0)

Rainfall:

3.1 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 90%,
Minimum: 71%

Today

One or two spells of light to moderate rains in some parts
Sunrise: 5.03 am
Sunset: 6.22 pm
   
 

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