Day’s smile turns into night’s snarl
Sushma gifts Pak Kashmir excuse
No pappi-jhappi but Shabnam
Adversaries should talk even as they fight
Divine hand over Musharraf
Delhi pushes for joint PoW probe
Exit plan for US-64 investors
Calcutta Weather

Agra, July 15: 
Yesterday’s fine drizzle in Delhi turned into a torrent of talk under the sunny skies of Agra today, watering the two-year sterile ground of India’s relations with Pakistan.

As the two camps sat well into the night searching for the right words to sum up the summit between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf, two things were clear: both sides will keep talking beyond Agra and that daybreak tomorrow will see the emergence of a please-all document. In the least, it will be a joint statement or even a declaration.

Both sides and a third, the Hurriyat, which is watching the progress of the talks from the sidelines as the Pakistan-recognised voice of Kashmir, were satisfied with the day’s developments, bar the hiccup caused by information minister Sushma Swaraj’s mistimed comment on cross-border terrorism.

The summit tasted its first success when Musharraf extended an invitation to Vajpayee to pay a return visit and the Prime Minister accepted.

Officials of the two sides were still talking at the time of going to press to iron out differences, raising hopes of a document being put in place to reflect the spirit and the gains of the summit. A joint news conference by the two leaders is also being talked about and the Indians, despite their reservations, may have to agree to it as otherwise Musharraf could decide to go ahead with one on his own.

Yesterday’s distance between the two leaders as they shook hands gingerly in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan was bridged today with Musharraf laying the first brick of the foundation by telling Vajpayee: “I am delighted to be in Agra. From every corner of Amar Vilas (the hotel where he is staying), I can see the Taj.”

Taj diplomacy was born. Closeted alone for one-and-a-half hours in their morning session, the leaders continued their talks way beyond the time anyone had expected. Simultaneously, the two foreign ministers, Jaswant Singh and Abdul Sattar, were huddled together, again without aides, on the sidelines of the summit.

The first sign that the talks were going according to script came with the news that the sides had gone into delegation-level dialogue. The message was that Musharraf had been assured of some accommodation on Kashmir for him to agree to broaden the base of the discussions.

In the constipated language of diplomacy, the talks were described by a statement read out by the Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, Nirupama Rao, as having been held “in a very cordial, frank and constructive manner”. It was more than just a statement. It was the first document coming out of the summit where the two sides had decided to speak in one voice. There was to be no separate version from the Pakistan side, as its official spokesman Rashid Quereshi insisted when pressed by journalists.

The attitude marked a dramatic change of spirits in both camps running in step with the weather here, which turned from murky in the morning to sunny after noon. Musharraf set the tone when he drove up to the gate of Jaypee Palace in dark trousers and a white Chinese collar shirt to be received by Vajpayee.

“The talks have been fruitful,” Musharraf said at the Taj, breaking out in a smile for the first time here, though he was late by hours for lunch and a working lunch it was, too — the two sides breaking bread and ice at the same time.

Picking up where they left off before the mandatory Agra sightseeing, Vajpayee and Musharraf sat down again with no one for company, followed by delegation-level talks that stretched into late evening before they had to break again for the Uttar Pradesh Governor’s banquet.

As the summiteers turned in for the night, they left behind three scenarios for the morrow: a statement simply recording the developments, a joint statement, or an Agra Declaration. The atmosphere at the end of the day suggests that the two sides have progressed beyond the first.

Before the final document is prepared, the two leaders are likely to have another sitting in the morning. The statement or declaration is expected to contain an architecture for future dialogue, detailing the various levels at which it would continue after Agra.

Some of the key elements of the Lahore Declaration could be recycled, the skill of the drafters coming under test in tackling the key word Kashmir. Musharraf will need a clear signal that there has been movement towards taking it out of the composite dialogue, in which Kashmir has thus far been only one of the items. The Indians will insist on a written commitment to crack down on cross-border terrorism.

One point on which there is no difference is on the establishment of a naval hotline. It appears Vajpayee proposed a moratorium on arresting Pakistani fishermen who stray into Indian waters until the hotline is established. But Musharraf was ambivalent about such a moratorium. Also, the foreign ministers are said to have discussed the possibility of two joint working groups — one on Kashmir and another on terrorism.


Agra, July 15: 
Promiscuous with words, information minister Sushma Swaraj brought forth a stinging midnight response from the Pakistani side to her careless comment that cross-border terrorism had been discussed during the summit-level talks today.

Breaking the day-long diplomatic secrecy, for which Swaraj set the stage, the unilateral statement by Pakistan’s spokesman claimed that “Kashmir had been the focus of discussion in the one-to-one meeting held between the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India”.

Pervez Musharraf is understood to have immediately sought a meeting with Atal Bihari Vajpayee after Swaraj’s remarks on television. Worried about the impact back home, Pakistani officials issued a denial on PTV for the consumption of the domestic audience.

Pakistan spokesman Rashid Quereshi’s late-night statement was a riposte to Swaraj’s claim in the afternoon that four subjects were discussed in the one-to-one talks between Vajpayee and Musharraf in their pre-lunch meeting, one of these being the touchy topic of alleged cross-border terrorism.

“However, in her statement to the media she had omitted to mention the extensive discussions between the two leaders on Kashmir,” the statement said.

“President Pervez Musharraf had made it plain to his host that no progress could be made towards normalisation of relations between the two countries unless the issue of Kashmir was resolved in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir,” the spokesman said.

Though the statement comes after Vajpayee and Musharraf have held two rounds of talks and there have been official and ministerial meetings, it cannot yet be construed as conclusive evidence that the talks are on the verge of breakdown.

Even if it is accepted that Musharraf made Kashmir the focus of discussions, the Pakistani spokesman indicated that Vajpayee had indeed sought to widen the ambit of the talks.

“However, the Prime Minister of India had referred to certain other issues in his opening remarks at the first plenary session. President Musharraf had responded that Pakistan was willing to discuss those issues as well but no other issue could be addressed unless the core issue was discussed and resolved. Progress on Kashmir had to be in tandem with progress on other issues,” the spokesman said.

Before the late-night statement, the mood in the Pakistani camp was euphoric. The impression was that history was being created in the shadow of the Taj.


Agra, July 15: 
If it mirrors the Indian strategy in the run-up to the summit — “kill with kindness” — it is because the food served to President Musharraf and his entourage here makes a subtle political statement, intended or unintended: Kashmir cannot be had for lunch or dinner.

But there is still enough in Indian cuisine to satisfy the gourmand. A whiff, just a whiff, of wazwan, Kashmiri cuisine, is all that chef Narinder Singh at the Jaypee Palace, the venue of the summit and today’s working lunch, has permitted. His consultants — Jiggs Kalra, Pushpesh Pant and Marut Sikka — who together helped prepare a luncheon menu they called “Ambrosia”, food for the gods, settled on a preparation called Dhingri Shabnam for the main course at lunch.

“Dhingri is a preparation of cream cottage cheese kofta stuffed with oyster mushroom, coconut, ginger, mint and dry fruits. It is a blend of north and south Indian flavours but the oyster mushroom is grown only in Kashmir,” chef Narinder explained.

For the record, there is nothing overtly political in the food being served to the general. Kalra & Co have concentrated their efforts on tonics and elixirs — mood enhancers — for lunch. After Vajpayee and Musharraf’s scheduled hour-long chat this morning extended to more than 90 minutes and the two sides decided to a have a working lunch, the mood in Agra was at its most upbeat. That was also the time information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj went on air with the pronouncement that the talks have gone “better than expected”.

At Jaypee Palace, however, there was still an air of quiet seriousness. “It was not pappi-jhappi,” said a hotel manager. Pappi and jhappi are Punjabi — a language spoken on both sides of the border — for hugs and kisses. “But we knew they were deeply into it after we were told that it was to be a working lunch. We were told that Vajpayee has been invited to Pakistan and he has agreed to go.”

Sushil Gupta, Jaypee’s food and beverages manager, decided on a “straight banquet”, where the guests would be served at tables instead of a buffet.

There were 28 for lunch and 12 hand-picked waiters to serve. They were given the menu and a longish note on its philosophy. The food they were about to be served, it said, was designed to “titillate the most jaded palate”, it was a blend of ayurveda and unani. It claimed to be subtle, sensible, sublime.

It was a late lunch in Jaypee, as also in Amar Vilas, where the general’s wife returned from Fatehpur Sikri “looking quite hungry”. Here, too, chef Dinesh Rawat, served north Indian cuisine. “Begum enjoyed it immensely,” he gushed. “She asked me for recipes of three of the dishes — Mulligatawny soup, Nalli Gosht and Murg Ke Parchey.” The menu included an assortment of whole wheat breads — naan, kaftan, khastaba and baizer.

“We did toy with the idea of serving gustaba — the dessert that completes a wazwan — but decided against it later because it could have turned out to be too heavy,” said chef Narinder, who barely had time before rushing off to supervise the dishes for dinner.

In the evening, the general sups with the Uttar Pradesh Governor who has thrown a banquet for 170 guests in his honour to the strains of Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s Mohan Veena.

Symbolism has triumphed over substance at the Agra Summit on Day I. The substance, too, has been a series of symbols.


Atal Bihari Vajpayee is hopelessly miscast as a twentieth century statesman.

He is a Sun King, the last of the Bourbons, of whom it was said that they learned nothing. It is, therefore, in the fitness of things that he should have received the Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, on July 14, the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, which marked the end of the reign of the Bourbons. For this encounter with the Pakistan CEO is undoubtedly Vajpayee’s last hurrah.

Let us not forget that Vajpayee’s track record in diplomacy has been disastrous. When he was external affairs minister in the Morarji Desai government, he scorned foreign office advice and scheduled a “path-breaking” visit for himself to China just to show his party that he was no Congress-wallah.

Hardly had he landed in the People’s Republic than the Beijing government invaded Vietnam, a move widely anticipated the world over and which the meanest section officer in the ministry of external affairs could have warned Vajpayee was likely to happen. With his tail between his legs, Vajpayee had to abort his visit and return to South Block.

Like the Bourbons who learned nothing, as Prime Minister he embarked on his Lahore yatra in a fit of forgetfulness. We now know from the 17 specific indictments in the report of the Kargil Review Committee (chairman: K. Subrahmanyam) — and if you do not know then please read my article in the forthcoming issue of the Kolkata journal, New Approach — that the Vajpayee government had received a mountain of evidence of Pakistani malfeasance in the Kargil sector.

So keen was Vajpayee, however, on proving that he could achieve with Pakistan what a succession of his Congress predecessors had failed to deliver that his government turned a blind eye to the warning signals flashing through our 13 different intelligence agencies. And set off to eat Pakistani kababs (delicious!) in the Lahore Fort. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now for a third time, Vajpayee is embarked on a major diplomatic initiative with no preparation whatsoever. The contrast with Rajiv Gandhi’s breakthrough journey to China is stark. Where Rajiv signalled his desire to effect a reconciliation with China virtually on the day he became Prime Minister, he waited a full four years, till December 1988, before embarking on his journey. Meanwhile, there was the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the Chinese armed forces at Sumdorongchu to show the Chinese that India was no longer the pushover it had been in 1962; then the visit to Bhutan to reassure the establishment there that the Kingdom was in no danger, and the grant of full statehood to Arunachal Pradesh notwithstanding Chinese hysteria over the move. There were also gestures to Pakistan, both under Zia and after his death to his successor, Benazir Bhutto, that Pakistan did not need China to find in India a trustworthy interlocutor for a viable relationship between these two distant neighbours.

Then - and only then - did Rajiv Gandhi set out for the People’s Republic.

Thirteen years later, we can say with pride and assurance that the breakthrough with China has endured, that not even the antics of George Fernandes have diminished the reverberations of the celebrated handshake between Deng Xiaoping and the Prime Minister of India in the Great Hall of the People.

That is what summits between adversaries should be about: the conclusion of a process or the commencement of a process. Vajpayee’s Lahore yatra was the disruption of a process - and, therefore, conceptually flawed.

It took place bang in the middle of a patient, long-term exercise in anguished diplomacy, initiated during the Gujral regime - and stalled during the Gujral regime because Gujral rushed to Male for his summit with Nawaz Sharif without waiting for talks about talks at lower levels to settle the framework for an uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue on all outstanding India-Pakistan issues, including “issues related to Jammu & Kashmir”, to use the felicitous expression drafted personally by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao (with no assistance, one must add, from his foreign office, fighting, as usual, yesterday’s battle instead of getting on with executing the orders of the day).

The Agra Summit is not the occasion for a substantive settlement of Jammu & Kashmir. And as Musharraf has insisted, in the absence of a substantive settlement on Jammu & Kashmir, he risks being overthrown if he returns to Islamabad with a substantive settlement on anything else (except Siachen, which was, in any case, settled if not signed when Rajiv met Benazir in Islamabad in July 1989). The only enduring settlement possible is an agreement to initiate a dialogue which nothing, not even war let alone the usual Indo-Pak tu-tu mai-mai, will disrupt.

The leaders should remember the precedent of the talks every Thursday at the Hotel Majestic in Paris between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, or their representatives, which were persisted in for all of four years before they delivered the accord of 1973, notwithstanding the Americans dropping more bombs on Vietnam during those four years than the entire global tonnage of bombs dropped through all of the Second World War.

Adversaries should talk even as they fight.

The leaders should also remember the precedent of Panmunjom, where the North and South Koreans have been monitoring their armistice for over half a century, sitting across a table laid precisely over the ceasefire line. We can make a similar arrangement at Attari-Wagah, so that no Pakistani will have to leave Pakistan, nor any Indian India, to undertake a sustained dialogue, thus depriving both foreign offices of their standard excuse for disrupting dialogue - the plea that it is “inconvenient” to receive the delegation of the other country. Wagah is only 60 km from Lahore and Attari a mere 30 km from Amritsar airport. If Vajpayee could take the bus from the airport to the border, so can the Indian delegation.

Moreover, the dialogue should not be compartmentalised, as in the flawed Gujral model, but integrated so that each trade-off is not intra-sectoral but could be inter-sectoral, what is lost, for example, on the roundabout of trade being made up for on the swing of, say, Sir Creek. This, in turn, would require a single politically-empowered interlocutor to ensure the integrity and holistic character of the dialogue.

That is the way forward. I have no expectation of its being adopted as Vajpayee has no head for detail. My fear is that since Vajpayee’s attention span is about two hours, no more, Musharraf might in the last 15 minutes slip him a paper through which he signs away not just Jammu & Kashmir but all of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as well.

Keep your fingers crossed. The least dangerous outcome might be failure.


Ajmer, July 15: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf may have been engaged in a protracted negotiations at Agra but devotees at the dargah of Gharib Nawaz here are convinced that the summit will succeed and that the spirit of talks and negotiations will continue due to the blessings of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Local traders planning to “wash” the holy shrine with Anna Sagar water have had a change of heart. The traders’ organisation has now planned to shut shops around the shrine and go for a “picnic” in protest against Pakistani fundamentalists’ move to “clean-up” minar-e-Pakistan after Vajpayee visited the site two years ago.

Traders’ reservations notwithstanding, about 1,100 descendants of the 11th century Sufi saint, who manage the shrine, see a divine hand in the “progress” made in the talks. “It could not have taken place unless the peer decided about it,” said Saleem Chishti, a Sajjadanashin, claiming that the spirit of Gharib Nawaz motivated Musharraf to visit India.

Musharraf arrives here tomorrow to seek that divine blessings. He would be given two chadars (sheets that were placed over the Gharib Nawaz shrine) to be taken to the dargah of Baba Farid at Pak Pattan in Lahore. Baba Farid, a champion of Hindu-Muslim unity, was a disciple of Gharib Nawaz. Two maroon colour chadars, full of golden zari work, have been picked from tosha khana (gift room) which stores items offered by devotees.

There was a controversy over the control of tosha khana among three factions who control the dargah. Musharraf will be greeted thrice as each of the three factions want to perform religious obligations in accordance with its own wishes. Begum Musharraf will be given a colourful chunree (dupatta), while Musharraf will have to don different head-gear at least thrice. He will offer a chadar at the shrine, recite Quranic invocation (fateha), seek blessings and tie a thread (mannat) to fulfil his wishes. It is mandatory for a devotee to return to the shrine once the wish comes true. “Musharraf has to visit the shrine again if his wish for a peaceful ties with India is fulfilled,” said a khadim (servant) of the shrine.


Agra, July 15: 
India has asked Pakistan to revive the agreement to form a joint ministerial group to probe whether Indian prisoners of war (PoW) are languishing in Pakistani jails.

The neighbours had agreed during the Lahore peace process in February 1999 to set up a ministerial group to crosscheck the facts of the PoW issue since it has become an emotional matter in India. But before it could be implemented, the Nawaz Sharif government was toppled by Pervez Musharraf.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh had recently said the PoW issue continued to cause concern and his government was aware how emotional it was for some families in India. Pakistan has not officially acknowledged their presence which, Singh said, made it difficult to seek help from international agencies in tracing them. “We can only ask for assistance from these agencies once Pakistan acknowledges that there are PoWs in their jails,” he said.

Pakistan interior minister Moinuddin Haidar has categorically denied their presence in his country. But, according to reports quoting a human rights body in Pakistan, there are at least 60 Indian PoWs in Pakistani jails. The truth about their existence can only be ascertained if Islamabad agrees to Delhi’s suggestion of reviving the ministerial team to carry out investigations.

In the run-up to the Agra Summit, the issue has again come centrestage. There have been demonstrations in different parts of the country demanding of the release of PoWs from Pakistani jails.

The issue also came up for discussion at the delegation- level talks between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today.

But Islamabad’s position on the issue is not yet clear. If it agrees to revive the idea of a ministerial team that will visit Pakistani jails to search for PoWs, it could well be counted as another confidence-building-measure.

Kashmir troops cutback

India will withdraw thousands of soldiers from Jammu and Kashmir but the cut is not related to the Agra Summit, reports Reuters.

About 600,000 security personnel — soldiers, paramilitary personnel and state policemen — are now battling militants in the state.

“This is a normal, organisational movement and is not linked to the talks,” a defence ministry spokesman said.

He refused to give details of the cut, though some reports had put it at 20,000 soldiers over the next two weeks.


Mumbai, July 15: 
Unit Trust of India today announced the much awaited exit plan for US-64 investors. The mutual fund major said investors in its flagship fund will be allowed to redeem units beginning August 1.

UTI said all investors owning units in US-64 as of June 30, 2001, will be allowed to redeem up to 3,000 units from August 1 to May 31, 2003, beginning with a price of Rs 10 or the prevailing net asset value (NAV) of the scheme, whichever is higher.

The repurchase price of Rs 10 for August 2001 will subsequently go up by 10 paise every month till May 2003, to finally touch Rs 12. But if the NAV happens to be higher, the units will then be repurchased at this value (NAV).

If there is any deficit between the NAV and the applicable purchase price for the month, it will be bridged to prevent a dilution of the scheme’s NAV. The scheme will commence sales and repurchases at NAV-based prices from January 1, 2002, UTI officials said.




Maximum: 33.5°C (+1)
Minimum: 26.1°C (+1)


3.3 mm;

Relative Humidity

Max: 95%
Min: 64%


A few spells of light to moderate rain.
Sunrise: 5.03 am
Sunset: 6.22 pm

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