New Delhi, Sept. 26: Atal Bihari Vajpayee today dismissed Pervez Musharraf’s account of the Agra summit in 2001, saying that it failed because of the general’s insistence on referring to the Kashmir conflict as a “struggle for freedom”.
In the book, In the Line of Fire, that became available in India today, Musharraf writes: “…I said that today both of us had been humiliated. He sat there, speechless. I left abruptly after thanking him in a brisk manner. Vajpayee failed to grasp the moment and lost his moment in history.”
The reference was to the last meeting between the two before the general took off for home late in the night.
Responding to this version of history, Vajpayee said today he was yet to see the book but Musharraf’s comments had surprised him. “No one insulted the general and certainly, no one insulted me.”
India and Pakistan have a long shared history but seem destined not to agree on more recent developments. Vajpayee is also writing his memoirs, which will concentrate on his six years as Prime Minister, where a more elaborate Indian version of the history of the Agra summit should become available.
In a glimpse, the former Prime Minister said: “…during our talks he took a stand that the violence that was taking place in Jammu and Kashmir could not be described as ‘terrorism’. He continued to claim that the bloodshed in the state was nothing but the people’s battle for freedom.”
It was obviously a stand India could not accept. “This was responsible for the failure of the Agra summit.”
Musharraf, on the contrary, writes that Vajpayee buckled under pressure and refused to sign a joint statement. “I told him bluntly that there seem to be someone above the two of us who had the power to overrule us,” the general says.
He does not name anyone but, given the background, it is being seen in India as a reference to Lal Krishna Advani, then home minister. Some media reports at the time had suggested that Advani had stopped the country being sold down the Yamuna.
So sensitive was the subject that Vajpayee, when Prime Minister, even referred to it in Parliament. He said while he was talking with the Pakistan President, there were people anxiously pacing up and down the corridor wondering what was “cooking” inside.
In his statement, Vajpayee does not address this allegation of “someone above”.
“Atalji’s explanation for the failure of the summit is adequate. I don’t think the party needs to make any further comments,” said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar.
The former Prime Minister said his belief, right from the beginning, was that lasting peace with Pakistan would not be possible till cross-border terrorism was discussed.
“Ever since the NDA government was formed in March 1998, establishing normalcy in Indo-Pak relations had been a principal item on our agenda. But everyone in our government was acutely alive to the fact that there could be no normalcy until cross-border terrorism, which had taken thousands of lives, was ended,” Vajpayee said.
He explained that this belief took him to Lahore on a historic bus journey to meet Nawaz Sharif, though all it led to was the Kargil war. “When the establishment in Pakistan changed, my government decided to invite General Musharraf to Agra,” he said.