The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak ties get bullet-proof clothing
- Stray incidents not to cast shadow on progress

New Delhi, Jan. 7: India will not let the normalisation of ties with Pakistan be derailed by stray terrorist incidents. It is convinced that President Pervez Musharraf now understands Indian concerns on terrorism, a senior official said.

“If we peg this (dialogue process) to any (terrorist) incident, we will not get very far,” the official added.

He felt such incidents could not be ruled out as militants were already holed up in Jammu and Kashmir and some had even expressed opposition to the new developments.

“Everything depends on how the process moves and our assessment of Pakistan’s sincerity,” the official said.

The change in the Indian perception about Musharraf’s thinking, the official explained, came after his “crucial meeting” with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on January 5. There, the Pakistan President seems to have come to the conclusion that a dialogue would not begin unless he gave clear assurances on curbing terrorism directed against India.

“His assurance on terrorism implies a change in his mindset. This was evident in the (Vajpayee-Musharraf) meeting and in the joint press statement,” the official said.

The official ascribed the change in the “mindset” from Agra to Islamabad to several events, including 9/11, the attack on the Indian Parliament, mobilisation of Indian forces on the border in 2002 and the attempts on Musharraf’s life.

Delhi, he said, believed that Musharraf “needed something in hand’’ — a dialogue process with India — before proceeding against jihadis.

When Vajpayee’s visit to Islamabad was being planned, the maximum that India was willing to do was for him to make a courtesy call on Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the host of the Saarc summit.

“We had thought that we would meet him only in the multilateral context of Saarc,” the official said.

Before explaining how the meeting with Musharraf took place, the official said he was not attempting to show how one side lost or the other side won. “We are not claiming victory here.”

Delhi found that there was no reference to Kashmir or any bilateral issues in Jamali’s inaugural address at the summit. Encouraged by this, the official said, Vajpayee decided to make a courtesy call on Musharraf.

The Pakistani side not only wanted a Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting but also a joint statement. “We did not want the courtesy call to be conditioned on a statement. Separately, however, some negotiations were going on about a draft statement but they did not look good,” he said.

The meeting with Musharraf was intended to last 25 minutes but went on for an hour. “President Musharraf said every effort should be made to have a joint statement,” the official said.

“We found that there was a clear understanding on the part of President Musharraf that unless there was an assurance on terrorism, nothing would move. That meeting was crucial. After that it was merely a matter of drafting the statement.”

Once fresh instructions had been issued to Pakistani officials, they had three meetings with national security adviser Brajesh Mishra — two on January 5 evening and another the next morning. His main interlocutors from the Pakistani side were his counterpart Tariq Aziz, who is secretary of the National Security Council, and Lt General Hamid Javed, Musharraf’s chief of staff.

The official said India would not have accepted a commitment to curb terrorism only on “Pakistani territory”. To take the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir into account, the phrase used in the statement was: “Any territory under Pakistan’s control.”

On January 6, Mishra and Aziz cleared a draft but “to avoid the mistake of Agra, both decided that till Vajpayee and Musharraf agreed, there would be no agreement”. Their consent was given on telephone and that was how the deal was clinched.


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