| Vajpayee addresses the Indian gathering in Bangkok. (PTI)
Bangkok, Oct. 10: Two years on, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has conceded in public that he had made a mistake by inviting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, “the mastermind of Kargil”, to the Agra summit.
“If you tell me today that I had made a mistake by calling Musharraf to Agra, then I am ready to accept it,” the Prime Minister said, addressing a huge gathering of the Indian community at the Grand Ballroom of Shangri La Hotel this evening. “But we want to live in peace.”
Vajpayee laid bare details of the initiative he took by riding the peace bus to Lahore. “I got (a) very warm welcome there. Musharraf was among those who saluted me. But I did not know it then that a big conspiracy was being hatched against me,” he said, referring to the Kargil armed intrusion in the summer of 1999 — barely three months after his peace gesture.
Unlike his address to the Asean a few days ago, when he had delivered his speech sitting in a chair, Vajpayee stood at the lectern and spoke to the “pravasi Bharatiyas” for more than 30 minutes.
At ease and lacing the speech with occasional doses of wry humour, Vajpayee gave the impression that he was not addressing Indians outside the country but preparing the domestic audience for the forthcoming elections.
Vajpayee made it clear that though India wants peace, it will give a befitting reply to any attack or threat posed to the country’s territorial sovereignty. “In all other wars that India has been involved (in), it has ended up conceding territories to others,” he said. “But we proved during Kargil that we will not rest in peace till every inch of our land was given back.”
Expressing disappointment over Pakistan’s continuing hostile policies against India, Vajpayee said: “I want to ask those who want a referendum on Kashmir, are the people of Pakistan happy with the dictatorship in their country'”
The Prime Minister said that despite setbacks, India still wanted peace which is why he had once again extended the hand of friendship to Pakistan.
Vajpayee waxed eloquent on the virtues of Indian democracy. Referring to the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, he said: “Soon after it was withdrawn, she lost the elections. But shortly after that, again she was re-elected. That is the great strength of our democracy.”
“But there are some people who do not want to leave even after they have lost the people’s mandate,” the Prime Minister added in a veiled reference to Mayavati who has been accusing her political detractors of framing false charges against her.
Commenting on the Gujarat riots, he said even those in the government are having to answer before courts. “I cannot think of people burning one another. What happened in Godhra was wrong and what happened thereafter was even worse,” Vajpayee told the gathering.