New Delhi, Feb. 18: The Prime Minister may not be averse to shaking Pervez Musharraf’s hand if they happen to meet at the Non-Aligned Movement summit later this week in Kuala Lumpur, but he will not allow any attempt to introduce Kashmir or any “conflict resolution” into the summit agenda.
Foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said a categoric “no” to the likelihood of an exclusive meeting between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Pakistani President on the Nam sidelines.
Officials at South Block, however, said if Musharraf does walk up to Vajpayee to shake his hand, then the Prime Minister will not turn his head away.
Vajpayee will leave for the Malaysian capital on February 22. Musharraf as also the heads of governments of 115 member countries, too, will attend the summit, where the developments in Iraq and a likely US-led military action will be the focus of discussion.
According to indications, a strong statement with emphasis on multilateralism, as opposed to unilateralism, will come out at the summit. A war in Iraq will affect not only its immediate region but also the entire world as also oil prices, making the issue one of the main topics of discussion at the coming summit.
Vajpayee is scheduled to address on Saturday a Nam business summit, the first ever business meet of the movement. This indicates that economic issues and a stress on closer and stronger economic cooperation among Nam members will also be a key focus.
If Pakistan tries to raise Kashmir at the summit, it will not be a surprise for India. The Indian camp is more worried about a likely move by host Malaysia to initiate a discussion on the India-Pakistan dispute.
According to Nam tradition, the final document or “declaration” is adopted by consensus. So India can prevent an issue from being part of the final document if it does not want it included.
Pakistan and the others, however, can still embarrass India by raising the issue at the summit just as South Africa had raised the South Asian nuclear test in 1999.
Sibal said with 115 countries as members, there was bound be differences of opinion in the Nam on various issues. He emphasised that the focus of Nam should be on “global issues”.
“Any attempt to steer it away from them to ‘intra-Nam’ or ‘conflict resolution’ is not good for the movement,” Sibal said. Not just Kashmir, but a host of other territorial disputes and intra-Nam issues, especially in Africa, would seriously dilute the movement’s focus if discussed at the summit and detract from other important developments calling for a united Nam stand, he said.
It is likely that Pakistan may try to slip in the Kashmir issue when global terrorism is discussed. It may again try to use the “root cause” of terrorism to try and draw a distinction between “terrorists” and “freedom fighters”, in the Kashmir context.
“We feel this is an attempt to justify terrorism,” Sibal said in a clear reference to Pakistan, though he did not mention it by name. He said the argument of “root cause” was not acceptable as it would mean terrorism was permissible till issues such as poverty or territorial disputes remained.
“Moreover, can terrorist acts or violence force these issues (poverty, territorial disputes) to go away'” Sibal said.