Editorial 1 / Step to reality
Editorial 2 / King and the reds
Cutting Corners / Rudderless on the ocean
Fifth Column / Cold winds and global warming
How the fiasco in Agra was put together
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / STEP TO REALITY 
 
 
 
 
The intense disappointment caused by the failure of the Agra summit should be tempered with an acceptance of the inevitable. The media hype, often reflected even in the audio-visual and print media controlled by the Indian government, had created the impression that the meeting between the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the Pakistan president, Mr Pervez Musharraf, would lead to a real breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations. This was an illusion: problems and hostilities going back 50 years cannot be made to disappear in one summit. The meeting in Agra was presaged by the hardline statements that had been released by Pakistan’s foreign office. Analysts and Pakistan-watchers sought to convey the impression that Islamabad’s absolutist stance was mere posturing before the summit. The celebratory attitude during Mr Musharraf’s first two days in India, and the extended “cordial, constructive and frank” talks that he held with Mr Vajpayee convinced even sceptics that a major shift in India-Pakistan relations was in the offing. And even hours before the end of Mr Musharraf’s visit, after it had become clear that there were major differences between the two sides, there was hope built up that, at the very least, a joint declaration or a statement would be issued.

In retrospect, the talks seemed to have followed a predictable course. According to India’s minister for external affairs, Mr Jaswant Singh, three issues seem to have created a deadlock. First, Pakistan’s unifocal emphasis on Kashmir. Second, differences between New Delhi and Islamabad over the importance and continued validity of the Shimla agreement and the Lahore declaration and the memorandum of understanding. Finally, deep differences over the question of cross-border terrorism, which is one of India’s core concerns. In other words, both sides reiterated their positions and Mr Vajpayee and Mr Musharraf played to their respective domestic constituencies. They could hardly be expected to do otherwise after the Kargil war that followed the bonhomie in Lahore. The ersatz friendship of Lahore was replaced in Agra by a healthy dose of realism. This may well pay dividends in the next round of talks. It is significant that despite the jubilation of the hawks on both sides, the possibilities of more talks and meetings have not been ruled out. Mr Vajpayee has accepted the invitation to go to Islamabad. The summit in Agra may appear to have failed but the peace process remains an ongoing exercise. The eradication of bitterness and hostilities must be viewed as a continuum. Agra may not have solved anything but it leads to Islamabad.

There are other obvious gains from the summit meeting. The unilateral confidence-building measures announced by New Delhi, a few days before the meeting, will be implemented. The easing of travel restrictions particularly should help divided families meet more frequently. There are reports that Pakistan is taking up the search for Indian prisoners of war seriously after Mr Musharraf gave a personal commitment on this score. Mr Vajpayee and Mr Musharraf could meet even on the fringes of the United Nations general assembly session in September. All this lends substance to India’s assertion that the summit was not a failure and that the threads from this visit will be picked up again. Given the history of India-Pakistan relations, it may well be that relations may get a lot worse but meeting and talking may be a better alternative to sullen silence. The lesson from Agra is that realism is a better basis for diplomacy and the establishment of peace than euphoria.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / KING AND THE REDS 
 
 
 
 
The government led by Mr Girija Prasad Koirala in Nepal has long been been accused of being indecisive and directionless on several issues vital to the country’s interests. In finally agreeing to use the army in the fight against Maoists, the government has taken a step which had been debated and delayed for several years, during which about 1,700 people, mostly policemen, were killed in violence sponsored by extremists. The belated move has come in the wake of the biggest ever Maoist operation in which over 70 policemen were taken hostage in a western district. This led to the resignation of the deputy prime minister, Mr Ram Chandra Poudyal, who also held the home portfolio, and to the army offensive that killed 160 of the militants. Mr Koirala was hamstrung by sharp divisions in political and other establishments over the consequences of army operations against the Maoists. The ruling Nepali Congress was known to have been divided on the issue, while the opposition Communist Party of Nepal (Unifed Marxist-Leninist) exploited it primarily to embarrass the government. The new king, Gyanendra, is known to advocate a tougher line and must have put his weight behind the government’s decision. After the royal massacres, Nepal cannot afford to have the Maoist shadow further darken its horizon.

A military solution to a law and order problem is a double-edged sword for any government. It is at best a temporary measure. Mr Koirala’s government has to simultaneously address the problems and issues that the Maoists exploit to spread their influence. They are no longer confined to the western districts where extreme conditions of poverty make villagers easy converts to militancy; large sections of urban youth in and around the Kathmandu valley are also increasingly being swayed by the Maoist utopia of a classless republic nestled in the Himalaya. To wage a successful war against the rebels, the government needs to open another battlefront; it must ensure that funds meant for development reach the people. Nepal cannot be a basket case and free from the Maoist menace at the same time.

   

 
 
CUTTING CORNERS / RUDDERLESS ON THE OCEAN 
 
 
BY ASHOK MITRA
 
 
The government in New Delhi, will it be unfair to suggest, has lost its bearings, of course on the assumption that it had some in the beginning. Consider the succession of occurrences that have taken place one after another, in recent weeks. The extension of the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) insurgents, and “without territorial limits”, was agreed to without consultation with any of the political entities in the Northeast, as if it was just a one-to-one problem. Only after Manipur exploded that New Delhi, in the manner of a nervous Nelly, has sat down to discuss the issue threadbare with those who, flying in from Manipur, laid siege on the nation’s capital.

But parties and groups from the other northeastern states are yet to be called in. It is without question a matter of overriding national concern; advice should therefore have been sought, a priori, from all recognized national parties as well. The insensitivity of the prime minister and his colleagues takes one’s breath away.

The point can be generalized to embrace the current week’s parleys with the top boss of Pakistan’s military regime. Kashmir and our relationship with Pakistan are not routine affairs. They affect the entire nation in the most crucial way. Since our government, either by volition or because of pressure, allowed itself to be influenced by the United States administration on the details of the agenda for the so-called summit, it should have gathered the minimum wisdom to consult, before the arrangements were finalized, with the major national parties. Instead, it has behaved as if it is a government by stealth.

Let us also mention the matter which has recently made the emergent middle class livid with rage. The ministry of finance now says that it is instituting an inquiry into the mess the Unit Trust of India has landed itself in. Was the minister sleeping all this while? It would be a travesty to claim that the UTI did not keep the government informed of the ongoing developments before the fearsome decision to freeze transactions of the US-64 units was taken.

The ministry had been told, never mind whether formally or informally, at least one full day in advance, of the decisions proposed to be taken at the meeting of the board of trustees scheduled for July 1. And should the authorities continue to mention that there was a gap in communications, where does the culpability for this deficiency lie? Roughly 20 million citizens are holders of US-64 units. Even assuming each unit-holder represents on the average four voters, the collapse of the scrip would affect more than 10 per cent of the electorate and a sizeable section of total urban voters. The underlying political implication is now compelling the government to indulge in what Americans call Monday-morning-quarterbacking. Does this however help the nation at all? In fact, the way the 1992-93 stock market scandal has been repeated, almost verbatim, this year cannot but induce the conclusion that the New Delhi regime has reached the pits the Bourbons had reached; it has learnt nothing and has forgotten everything.

Give the devil its due. This government has to be credited with an innovation unheard of in the annals of administration in any country at any time. It has set up a ministry, not of investment, but of disinvestment. The only purpose is to dispose of high-valued public assets at throwaway prices, and let capital formation for economic development go to the dogs. In the process, it has tied itself up in knots.

Sterlite is excluded henceforth from bidding for shares of government-owned enterprises up for disposal, on the ground that it has indulged in some major hankypanky in the share markets. Only a few months ago, the same company had been handed on a platter the Bharat Aluminium Company despite protest and resistance from several quarters. Now that it has been found out and barred from further participation in the disinvestment fanfare, should not the sale of Balco to it be revoked too? This is not an impossible proposition to carry out. The government in New Delhi is in the habit of issuing ordinances at the drop of a hat on the flimsiest of pretexts. Such an ordinance can be proclaimed straightaway to snatch back Balco from the grip of Sterlite, the subsequent judicial proceedings could be duly attended to. After all, the judiciary does involve itself in basic issues involving public interest, and none can question the public interest aspect of the Balco case. But the government has its pride; it is yet to admit that it had committed a bloomer which needs to be rectified posthaste.

Finally, we come to the ugly episode in Tamil Nadu. Atal Bihari Vajpayee is fully aware of his government’s limitations. He dares not invoke Article 356 to send J. Jayalalitha packing for her supposed misdemeanours. Nor has he the courage to take recourse to lesser measures such as are permitted by Articles 256, 257 and 355 to reprimand a state administration.

What does he do instead? The prime minister issues a warning to the state according to the manner suggested by the Sarkaria commission in its report submitted almost in a prehistoric period. Years have rolled by and the nation has not been told whether the government has accepted the recommendations of the commission or whether any or all of them have been rejected; stony silence has been the official response till now. Suddenly, a non-accepted, non-implemented set of recommendations is grasped as a drowning man grasps at straw even as he begins to sink in the abyss of an ocean.

Nothing could be more hilarious. Will this government accept the recommendation of the Sarkaria commission on the procedure for appointing a governor of a state or in regard to the code of conduct the latter ought to follow? Or, for the matter, will it accept the commission’s views with respect to the restructuring of Centre-state financial relations or regarding the intrusion of Central forces into the territories of a state? A coward can be condoned for his cowardice; what is nonetheless difficult to comprehend is the length of absurdity a coward is willing to travel while attempting to cover, ineptly, his cowardly acts.

Jayalalitha is much too formidable a person to be interfered with. Fathima Beevi, it was perhaps concluded, was more easy picking. But is there any article in the Constitution which hints that in the governor’s response to an inquiry from the Union government on a specific issue related to the state’s affair he or she should, as a matter of principle, disobey the advice of the lawfully established state government?

If anything, if the cue is taken from Article 74 of the Constitution, in terms of which the president, in his official functioning, has invariably to listen to the counsel and advice of the council of ministers, the governor, too, can with legitimacy choose to follow a similar course while interacting with the state administration; in other words, he or she has to be the mouthpiece of the state and not of the Centre. That is precisely where the problem has arisen.

A further suspicion rears its head. Was Fathima Beevi chosen for the gallows because not only is she a woman, she also belongs to a minority community? No benefit of doubt deserves to be accorded to a regime dominated by an assemblage of obscurantists and fundamentalists.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / COLD WINDS AND GLOBAL WARMING 
 
 
BY GWYNNE DYER
 
 
“If nothing moves forward in Bonn then we will lose momentum and the process will sink,” said Olivier Deleuze, the energy minister of Belgium, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency at the moment. Glug, glug, glug.

“The key question is...will the US let the other parties go ahead?” asked the EU’s environmental commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, as the countries that signed the Kyoto accord on climate change gathered for the meeting in the former German capital on July 16-27. “That is at least what President Bush promised.”

He was lying. Having paid his debt to the oil and gas industry (which put 78 per cent of its presidential campaign contributions into the Bush camp’s coffers) by abruptly cancelling the United States’s signature on the Kyoto treaty, George W. Bush’s highest priority was to ensure that the treaty didn’t go into effect anyway. Global warming is a long-term problem, but Bush’s priorities operate on a much shorter time-scale.

Bush’s real aim was to sabotage international action on climate change long enough for US-based energy companies to catch up with their foreign competition in the new energy technologies, not to kill a Kyoto-style treaty forever. Two or three years from now, when Exxon and its friends have caught up with the BPs and Shells of the world, we will see a different attitude to global warming in the Bush administration.

They’ve killed it

Meanwhile, however, the White House must avoid the embarrassment of looking isolated in its (entirely specious) reservations about the need to act rapidly on emission reductions.

Many Americans already feel uneasy about their government’s attempt to kill off the Kyoto treaty, and it would be a public relations disaster if the rest of the industrialized world decided to go ahead even without the US.

Apart from the political embarrassment it would cause, ratification of the Kyoto treaty without US participation would allow foreign energy companies to reap the benefits of the new markets that it created before their American rivals were ready. So it is not good enough to defect from the treaty; you have to kill it.

How do you do that? Just use the rules of the Kyoto treaty, which say that it can only go into effect if it is ratified by 55 countries that together account for 55 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. All the Europeans are still in, but they can’t make the 55 per cent threshold without the industrialized countries that are neither European nor American: Canada, Australia, and above all Japan.

Canada didn’t even put up a fight. The last time Canada openly defied the US was in 1812, and Canadian politicians know which side their bread is buttered on. Two weeks ago, Ottawa said that it would not ratify the Kyoto treaty until Washington got around to it, even though the Canadian government thought it was a good idea.

The spoilsports

Australia was equally heroic. “When I say (the Kyoto treaty) is dead, what I mean is without the United States it’s an ineffective global response and it won’t serve the purpose for which it was constructed,” said Australia’s environment minister, Robert Hill, neatly sliding past the fact that Australia, a major coal exporter, had a powerful domestic lobby that was opposed to the deal anyway.

Even without Australia, the Kyoto treaty could still have worked if the Japanese had honoured their signature, but the Japanese foreign ministry predictably panicked at the thought of confronting the US. The US embassy in Tokyo twisted the appropriate arms, and on July 9, Japan declared that while it shared the Kyoto targets and wanted the protocol enforced by 2002, it was “not willing to conclude the deal without the United States”.

End of story, really. The Bonn meeting will close with an anodyne declaration that there will be further discussions with the US, and a decade of effort to shape a global response to global warming will go down the drain.

Nobody knows the precise speed at which global warming will overturn the climatic norms on which we base all our assumptions about our lives and our economies. But the process was already moving a lot faster than the politics, and now the politics has fallen apart.

   

 
 
HOW THE FIASCO IN AGRA WAS PUT TOGETHER 
 
 
BY J.N. DIXIT
 
 
One is disappointed, yes. But one is not surprised at all at the abrupt conclusion and termination of the Pervez Musharraf-Atal Bihari Vajpayee summit at Agra. There was a brief period of about two or three hours on the evening of Sunday, July 15, when optimistic expectations surged high because of indications about a joint statement being issued at the end of the summit and remarks by President Musharraf that the talks were useful and were going “alright”.

The minutiae of events in the chronological sequence of discussions at various levels and the exchange of draft documents have all been covered in detail both by the print and audio-visual media. The media coverage in fact distorted the objective perspective in which the summit discussions were held. The dubious virtues of the coverage were political illiteracy and an inclination towards hyperbole. But that is not the purpose of this article. The purpose is to bring out in precise and objective terms, to the maximum extent possible, the fact that the summit failed because Pervez Musharraf had decided in advance that it should fail if India did not accept his demands in toto.

Lest one is accused of a jingoistic approach or of starting a “blame-game”, it is worthwhile recounting the pronouncements and also orientations of President Musharraf and the Pakistani government, particularly after he received the invitation of the Indian prime minister, Vajpayee, on May 24, 2001. In fact, it would be pertinent to go further back to Musharraf’s repeated announcements that he is willing to meet Vajpayee at any time, on any date, at any place, to discuss India-Pakistan relations and to bring them back on track. His lengthy interview to M.J. Akbar, published in the Asian Age, was the first detailed articulation by him of his India policies. The second instance is an equally lengthy interview given to Dileep Padgaonkar, the executive editor of the Times of India, just a week before he came to Delhi and Agra.

In both these interviews he clearly underlined the following points. His primary and overarching objective to have a meeting with Vajpayee was to discuss the Kashmir issue from his point of view. He clarified that while he is willing to discuss other issues affecting India-Pakistan relations, he will be willing to discuss these other issues in a substantive and meaningful manner only after a solution satisfactory to him is achieved on Kashmir. When queried about his views on terrorist violence and secessionism, his response was that he was opposed to violence and terrorism but that he did not consider the secessionist violence in Jammu and Kashmir as terrorism. In his view, it was a violent struggle for self-determination. That the jihad in Kashmir was justified. That it was a freedom struggle which Pakistan supports, politically, morally and diplomatically.

At the same time, he indulged in obfuscation stating that Pakistan was not playing any role in the violence in Jammu and Kashmir and that this was an entirely indigenous phenomenon. He flatly denied Pakistan’s sponsorship and support to various violent groups in terms of sanctuaries, supplies and training. When pressurized in these interviews to be specific about a solution which he may have in mind, he said that an acceptable solution can be based only on going back to holding a referendum or a plebiscite envisaged in the United Nations resolutions of 1947 and 1948. But he wanted these resolutions to be applied only selectively without implementing the provisions in these resolutions for vacation of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani raiders and regular Pakistani armed forces.

In an interview to Gulf News, just 48 hours before his arrival in Delhi, Musharraf stated that neither the Shimla agreement nor the Lahore declaration and accompanying documents have any relevance to the summit at Agra. These were the agreements which have not served any purpose, according to him. His foreign minister, and he himself of course, claimed that he was quoted out of context by the Indian media. That he was willing to take cognizance of the Shimla and Lahore agreements as benchmarks for the future of India-Pakistan relations.

Addressing a women’s delegation in Islamabad in the first week of July, he said that he desires a new status for the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir delinked from India. When his ladies’ delegation asked him what he thought of Kashmir valley being given to Pakistan and Jammu and Ladakh remaining in India, his reported response was that there must not be any ill-informed suggestions on these lines. He told these ladies’ delegates that there are Muslims in Ladakh and Kargil and in Jammu. They cannot be abandoned. So the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir has to be perhaps delinked from India to move towards a solution.

Responding to speculation whether the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir could be a basis for a solution, he said a week before arriving in Delhi that the line of control is the problem. How it can be a solution — implying that he does not accept the relevance or sanctity of the line of control. He also kept harping on the point that he was the first head of government and state of Pakistan who has persuaded India to invite him to come and discuss only the Kashmir question.

Under instructions from him his finance minister, Shaukat Aziz, and his commerce minister, Razzak Dawood, made public pronouncements in the second week of July that India-Pakistan cooperation can be structured only after the Kashmir problem is solved. Musharraf did not show any response to suggestions regarding nuclear risk reduction, in the context of nuclear weaponization of India and Pakistan. In fact, he re-affirmed the legitimacy of Pakistani nuclear weapons and missiles as a deterrence against India and linked it to the Kashmir issue. He also remained adamant about tripartite talks with Pakistan, the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference and India being participants to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Although he agreed at individual suggestions that the contacts with the Hurriyat should be separately undertaken by India and Pakistan, he insisted that the Hurriyat should be acknowledged by India as the sole representative of Jammu and Kashmir, which is politically and factually unjustified. He then announced just three days before the summit that he is not bringing his finance minister and commerce minister, but only his foreign minister, Abdul Sattar, for the talks with the foreign secretary in the delegation, consisting of his personal staff and foreign office officials.

These signals should have been sufficient for us to realize that he was coming for the summit with a narrow agenda and a single aim. That is either to proclaim to the world after the summit that India had accepted the Jammu and Kashmir issue as not just a very important item of discussion but the only and the most important item of discussion. And if he did not succeed, to proclaim to the world that despite the special effort that he had made to come to India, India remained obstinate and unreasonable.

Leaving aside the cosmetic hype which surrounded his engagements in Delhi and Agra, he pushed through the one-sided agenda without any concern about its consequences. After giving initial indications that his meeting with the Hurriyat will depend on the government of India’s views, not only was the Hurriyat invited to the tea party hosted by the Pakistan high commissioner, Asharaf Jehangir Qazi, but they had a 25-minute meeting with Musharraf in which he repeated the contents of the letter which he wrote them just before the summit, extending them full support and acknowledging them as the sole representatives of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In his banquet speech at the presidential banquet on the evening of July 14, he adopted an admonitory and hortatory tone urging India to solve the Kashmir problem. It should be mentioned in this con- text that he not only wanted Kashmir to be the sole item on the agenda but he also wanted a solution to the Kashmir problem within a definite time-frame (almost like an ultimatum).

Then came the calculated theatrics aimed at aborting the summit meeting. He addressed a breakfast meeting of senior Indian and foreign editors on the morning of Monday, July 16, without telling them in advance that his address to them in the discussions would be filmed and broadcast by the Pakistan TV. It was a highly aggressive performance in which he emphasized that Pakistan cannot give up the primacy of Kashmir in the discussion agenda with India. He stated that he considered confidence-building measures irrelevant unless the fundamental confidence-building measure of a solution of the Kashmir problem is not implemented, a solution which should be acceptable to Pakistan.

He went on to say that if India did not trust him, why did India invite him. He justified his aggression in Kargil as a response to India supporting the liberation struggle of Bangladesh and India occupying Siachen in 1984 (he ignored the fact that the Indian action in Siachen was a pre-emptive step against impending Pakistani moves in the area). No head of government or a senior government delegate holds an abrasive press conference justifying his negotiating stance in the middle of negotiations while they are still going on. Even if one agrees that Sushma Swaraj’s press briefing on July 15, was somewhat one-sided, there was no need for Musharraf to address the press after the Pakistani delegation had responded to Swaraj’s interview.

Parallel to this exercise, tactical moves were made to prepare the groundwork for a Pakistani publicity and diplomatic offensive against India. The Pakistan foreign minister, Sattar, told the media that there is likelihood of a joint press statement while it was clear by Sunday night that there was going to be a deadlock. Simultaneously, Musharraf undertook a lengthy one-to-one discussion with Vajpayee to give the impression that he was struggling to forge a compromise, which in fact was not the case according to the information which one has.

Musharraf’s response to Vajpayee’s invitation was predicated on wrong assumptions. He thought that India was vulnerable to external pressure; that the government and the security forces of India had reached levels of exhaustion where they would not be firm about responding to Pakistan-sponsored separatism and terrorism in India; he thought that the coalition led by Vajpayee is faction-ridden and that Vajpayee faces pressure from the opposition because of which he would not be able to take firm stand against Pakistani advocacies.

He felt that in this context, he would wrest a compromise from India within the frame-work of the Pakistani agenda on Kashmir. He also felt that Vajpayee could not afford to see a failure of the summit organized at his initiative. Discussions on July 15 and 16 have proved that he was completely wrong in these assumptions. His alternative gameplan that if the summit failed, he would tell the world about his reasonableness and India’s obstinacy has partially succeeded. This also suits the vested interests of his survival in power with the support of the armed forces and the Islam-pasand parties who do not wish peace or a realistic compromise on Kashmir.

Although one is disappointed at the failure of the summit, in overall terms it might be good for India. We have given a clear message about our firmness in protecting our interests in face of tentative and uncertain prospects of peace with Pakistan. There is no need for India to be downcast or desperate.

The author is former foreign secretary of India

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Doubting Thomases

Sir — It was disturbing to read that certain sections of the media have suggested that there could be more to Sachin Tendulkar’s non-availability in the one -day series against Sri Lanka than meets the eye (“Team’s healthy atmosphere should not be vitiated, says Sachin Tendulkar”, July 17). Given that rumours have a way of planting doubts even when there should be none, Tendulkar has done the right thing by clarifying that his injury is the only thing that is keeping him from participating in the current series and that he hopes to join the team as soon as possible. The matchfixing scandal seems to have worked wonders with the overactive imagination of some mediapersons who have been dreaming up conspiracy theories since then. The performance of the Indian team has improved in the last few months and it has even managed to win a test match on foreign soil after nearly 15 years. This is hardly the time to indulge in meaningless speculation that could lower the morale of the team.

Yours faithfully,
Suchandra Sen, via email

Peak confusion

Sir — On what grounds has Pervez Musharraf declared Kashmir as the “core issue” in the Agra summit? No matter how legitimate Pakistan declares its intentions to be, it did invade India, the first time soon after its formation and then three times after. Aksai Chin, one-third of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, has reportedly been traded to China, allegedly to acquire nuclear and other technologies. Where was Pakistan’s love for Jammu and Kashmir?

The Tashkent and Shimla agreements — in which India returned strategic points in Jammu and Kashmir won in the battlefield, accompanied by 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war — did not have Kashmir as the main issue since the issue had been settled in the battlefield. These agreements, on the contrary, spoke of peaceful negotiations. The Lahore declaration of 1999 reaffirmed and reiterated the Shimla agreement.

Independent states prior to independence accessed to India or Pakistan through peaceful negotiation. Instruments of accession signed by various princely states, including Hyderabad, and later, the maharaja of Kashmir, are living testimonies of Kashmir’s legitimacy as an Indian territory. Why should Kashmir then become the core issue of bilateral talks?

The Pakistan media is more specific, alleging maladministration by India in Jammu and Kashmir, as the core issue. Has Pakistan fared better in Pakistan occupied Kashmir or with regard to Mohajirs within the country?

Yours faithfully,
Samir Banerjee, New Delhi

Sir — Some questions arise with regard to the Pakistan position on Kashmir. Pervez Musharraf has indicated that he has no hand in the violence in the valley. Yet, he regards Kashmir as the core issue. Again, Musharraf seems to be overwhelmingly concerned about Kashmiris. Why isn’t the same concern shown for Sindhis and Mojahirs in Pakistan?

Yours faithfully,
Kaustav Sinha Ray, via email

Sir — It was interesting to read about the various aspects of Pervez Musharraf’s visit and to watch the various television channels cover the summit. I chanced upon a panel discussion on PTV and decided to see how they projected the event. It was amazing and a trifle frightening to see the anchor, the panelists and even the reporters on phone from Agra speak in one voice.

It is believed that while the Indian prime minister was a reasonable man, there were others who were trying to “sabotage” the talks. These “others” included the Indian electronic media (which was repeatedly questioning the real gains from the summit), other political parties (questioning the legitimacy of a non-democratically elected leader) and the “Advani-loyalists” (who talked of matters other than Kashmir). It is known that dissent is not encouraged in Pakistan, but what I saw on PTV looked like a well planned strategy to discourage any deviation from the official line, even in India.

Yours faithfully
S.K. Pitty, via email

Sir — Although Kashmir is being regarded as the “core issue” in the summit, there are issues, such as art, culture sports, free trade, easy visa facilities and so on, which should have been discussed. Pakistanis like Indian films and Indian film stars. I remember at the premier of Mughal-e-Azam in the Odeon theatre in Delhi, a number of our friends from Pakistan had come to watch the screening.

Leaders of both the countries should consider the following suggestions. All films made in both countries should be screened in both countries. Songs of both countries should be allowed to be broadcast both on the All India Radio and Pakistan Radio. Also, TV channels of both countries should telecast each others’ programmes. The same exchange should take place in theatre and the other arts.

On important festivals like Id, rakhi, Diwali and so on, postal rates and telephone call rates should be slashed in both countries so that greetings can be exchanged. Important magazines and newspapers of both the countries should be freely available.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi

Sir — Student exchange programmes between the two countries should have been discussed in the Agra summit. It may be mentioned that Darul-Uloom, Deoband which is the second largest seat of Islamic learning in the world after the famous Al-Azhar University of Egypt should be thrown open to all Muslim students of the world as was the practice till 1998, when 445 foreign Muslim students were sent home because of the hawkishness of the Union home ministry and the Uttar Pradesh government. Ironically the Uloom, which opposed the two-nation theory on Islamic grounds and supported the M.K. Gandhi-Maulana Abul Kalam Azad line during Partition is being looked at with suspicion today. The home ministry should put checks on the Inter-Services Intelligence, but stop disrupting a centre of education.

Yours faithfully,
Farhat Akhtar, via email

Sir — The report, “East left out of lunch table” (July 14), came as a great shock. Apparently, not a single chief minister was invited from eastern India by our prime minister to his rendezvous with the Pakistan president. Doesn’t Atal Bihari Vajpayee know that the east side of our country also shares its boundary with a Muslim country and the region is as vulnerable to cross-border terrorism as the North? At least the chief minister of West Bengal should have been invited because the state has a border with Bangladesh.

Yours faithfully,
Vikash Goenka, via email

Sir — In “Adversaries should talk even as they fight” (July 16), Mani Shankar Aiyer focusses on the so-called “disastrous track record” of our prime minister and what he calls “wonderful and awe-inspiring record” of the previous Congress governments. How does he know that India has embarked on a major diplomatic initiative with “no preparation whatsoever”? Aiyar sings praises for his mentor Rajiv Gandhi and his “breakthrough” with China. But can Aiyar answer why China still does not acknowledge that a part of Kashmir is under its control? And why is the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh is denied a Chinese visa?

Yours faithfully
Sumit Bathia, via email

Sir — A number of letters have appeared in these columns criticizing Mani Shankar Aiyar’s penchant for lambasting his political opponents. In “Adversaries should talk even as they fight”, he faults Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s enthusiasm for the Agra summit and calls Vajpayee “a Sun king, the last of Bourbons”. Isn’t Aiyar stretching his argument again?

Yours faithfully,
Ranjan Guha Majumder, Calcutta

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