The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brutal moments to big break

Islamabad, Jan. 15 (PTI): The breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations came after “brutal and frank” exchanges at the January 5 meeting here between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf, making others fear at times that the informal summit was about to break down, Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has said.

“There were moments (during the meeting) when I was worried by some exchanges between the two. Then I realised, of course, they were speaking the way they did because they have already achieved a certain degree of understanding, which allowed them to speak so frankly,” Kasuri, who was present at the meeting, said here last night.

Recalling the tense hour-long meeting, he said only leaders of stature and understanding could speak with such frankness while fiercely advocating national interests.

Kasuri said the most striking aspect about the rare meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President was their dogged representation of national interests. “They are brutally frank and both were equally conscious that it is in the interest of their countries. The reason for brutal frankness is not negative. It is a desire to get across to other without any doubts in the other person’s mind. It is not to rock the boat, that is clearly understood,” he said.

The two leaders could reach a decision to address each other’s concerns and agree on a dialogue because of the frank exchanges, Kasuri said. “They were brutally frank in pointing out their priorities, which is what alarmed me initially. But they were equally committed to making this succeed.

“It was a frank exchange between the two of them. Normally, I would have thought that such things can lead to a breakdown. I was a bit worried because I have been involved from the beginning and wanted it to succeed from the very first day. But now I reflect that the reason why they were speaking that frankly, because they already had a rapport which I did not have with (Yashwant) Sinha.

“I was feeling tentative about it. But President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee were not. That is another illustration of the understanding which exists between the two. Only when you have understanding, you can speak some time brutally, frankly. Otherwise, if the understanding was not there, it can be prescription for disaster. But that was not the case here.” Kasuri did not elaborate the issues that triggered the animated conversation.

He attributed the leaders’ candidness to the understanding developed at the Agra summit. “I could see very clearly in the meetings at the highest level that they understand each other (more) than the rest of us did.” Kasuri said the peace process should acquire the firmness to withstand major incidents. “Do not get carried away. One or two incidents can have a devastating impact. We therefore need to create a momentum. Even if those incidents take place, then we would not be derailed. It can come about, if there is greater trust between the two countries.”

“Trust can be generated if there are frequent interactions. Do not waste too much time. Do not take too many risks,” the Pakistani foreign minister said while advocating frequent talks at higher levels to speed up the peace process.

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