The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pervez jaw-dropper for PM
- General recognises trio as Kashmir representatives

Washington, April 19: The big surprise ' perhaps shock ' during the Manmohan Singh-Pervez Musharraf summit came when the general shared his vision of Kashmir with the Prime Minister.

Mehbooba Mufti, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Omar Abdullah are at the top among the future leaders of Kashmir, Musharraf told Singh.

If the Prime Minister's jaw was about to drop, he quickly held it back.

Never before, since Pakistan's early leadership acknowledged Sheikh Abdullah as Sher-e-Kashmir, has any Pakistani leader given legitimacy to any leader in Jammu and Kashmir who did not sing Pakistan's tune.

But during his stay in Delhi, Musharraf more or less repeated the same thing, though not in so many words, when he met Indian editors for breakfast.

He told the editors that the elected leaders of Jammu and Kashmir do represent a section of people.

If a balance sheet is to be drawn up on the Musharraf-Singh summit, this represents an historic credit on India's side. It is a success for India that is far bigger ' in recent diplomatic parallels ' to China's acceptance of Sikkim as part of India, or earlier, to Portugal's final recognition that Goa belongs to India.

It is also the most tangible sign Pakistan will be willing, in the negotiations that are on the anvil, to make compromises on Kashmir.

The Prime Minister, sources privy to the talks told The Telegraph, did not respond to Musharraf's comment about the leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is presumed that his silence was because he did not want to say anything at all about the Mirwaiz, lest Musharraf misunderstood the import of whatever Singh said. The Prime Minister, of course, has no problem with either Mehbooba Mufti or Omar Abdullah.

Musharraf's comment about the Kasmiri trio surprised Singh also because he had no prior warning that this was coming from the general, with all that it implied.

The rest of the Musharraf-Singh powwow had been carefully choreographed between the Prime Minister's special envoy S.K. Lambah and Musharraf's national security adviser Tariq Aziz at their secret meeting in Dubai in the first week of April.

The single most tangible gain for India from the summit is that the World Bank's intervention in the dispute between India and Pakistan over the Baglihar dam will be a non-starter.

India had been concerned over Islamabad's recent decision to approach the World Bank on the issue, which amounted to third party intervention instead of bilateral efforts to resolve an Indo-Pakistan dispute.

Singh assured Musharraf of India's 'sincere' commitment to the Indus Water Treaty and he told the general that if India was committed to the treaty for 45 years, now is not the time to contravene it. He offered fresh talks with Pakistan, though Islamabad had walked away from the negotiations.

Musharraf, according to sources in Delhi, appreciated the logic behind Singh's argument, but needed a face-saver since his government had already hot-footed to the World Bank rejecting the same logic a few months ago.

Singh provided that face-saver when he later told visiting Pakistani editors that 'if weighty and credible evidence is demonstrated to us in its (Baglihar's) design, we are duty bound to rectify it'. It is now expected that the two governments will return to the negotiating table at the technical level.

Another surprise fallout of the summit was Musharraf's televised criticism of the Hurriyat Conference. In a briefing for the Pakistani media just before leaving Delhi, which was telecast by Pakistan TV last evening, Musharraf showed his impatience with Hurriyat leaders and asked them to use their 'brains' and join the dialogue.

'We are heading for a solution,' Musharraf asserted. 'We have no option but to talk. Let us talk. Begin talks.'

The story of how Musharraf met Hurriyat leaders came out during that televised briefing. It appears India asked Musharraf to use his influence on the Hurriyat to bring its leaders to the negotiating table.

'I bluntly said why should I tell them to meet (the Indians). I too want to meet. If I am not allowed to meet them, then why should I tell them to meet (Indians)' They agreed. So the meeting took place.'

Musharraf suggested that since India was not agreeable to trilateral talks with Kashmiris, the Hurriyat should talk separately with Indians and Pakistanis.

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