July 17, 2001
2130 IST


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 Indo-Pak Summit

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'For once, India is reacting
to what Pakistan is doing'

Prominent Pakistani columnist Ayaz Amir was one of the most sought after voices in Agra during the two-day Indo-Pak summit. He was courted by television channels, cultivated by fellow print journalists and consulted by the people involved directly in the summit. Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt spoke to him soon after the talks between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf broke down. Here are his views on the summit in his own words:

The Agra summit would not have been a disaster provided they had played it right. Provided the glare of television cameras was not on them and provided they had not played to the gallery.

I mean, this was an honest attempt on both sides to come to some kind of an agreement. The fact that the President [General Pervez Musharraf] came and had this interaction is a good thing. It looks disastrous when you contrast it with the hype -- that editors' meeting and other media events. But even then, both sides should be honest enough to say, "we tried very hard, we have not been able to bridge our differences, but we are not deterred and will continue to talk." Vajpayee has been invited [to Pakistan] and let us hope he comes and they continue talking. That's a good enough thing.

Talks didn't start on a good note, to begin with. Only on television people said talks went on very well. 'Ah ha! Taj Mahal is beautiful; wasn't he [President Musharraf] looking good when he went to the Taj?' It went on and on like that. No one had any details of what was going on inside [at the summit meeting].

This result [the failure of talks] should have been expected right from day one. It is a difficult issue. We are amongst the worst pedantics of the world on both sides of the border.

A formula to satisfy Pakistan and India within two days was not easy. We should not walk away with sulks on our faces, we should say we will continue. I don't know the details of why the summit failed. But I can say with honesty that India was not ready to come up with the magnanimity or imagination required for some kind of settlement.

I think, in this summit, the Indian approach has been a bit bureaucratic. Vajpayee's trouble is he is not in complete control of his coalition. Musharraf runs his show. Vajpayee also has health problems. I don't want to sound harsh, but it takes some time for him to prime-up. There are hard-liners within Indian government who don't want any agreement with Pakistan. Americans (mimics American accent) would say: "You guys can't even talk. The world is moving ahead, what are you doing?" Pakistanis people will say Musharraf is right. He went to India. He wanted an agreement. I think Musharraf played his cards well. He handled himself very well. He struck no postures. He didn't flex muscles. He was polite. He was very respectful of Mr Vajpayee. He has stepped back on Pakistani soil comfortably. The summit will enhance his popularity back home.

And while saying these things, [I must tell you] I am not playing patriotic. For whatever reasons Mr Vajpayee gave the invitation, his [President Musharraf's] coming here is a big thing. He held many rounds of consultations in Pakistan .He consulted every uncle and aunt of his in Pakistan. It was a bit of tamasha there. Pakistani journalists in such a large numbers have never come here. This is all good, but it does not mean that because of the platitudes and homilies of goodwill, the differences will disappear. Star Television is not going to be the solution to the Indo-Pak problem.

Vajpayee will have some explaining to do. The Indian position is bit a stodgy. India has come out looking a little wobbly from this exercise. It is the small partners who revel in negatives and say that they stuck to their position. It doesn't behove the bigger partners to say that they stuck to their [stated] positions. If the US says in relation to Cuba that they stuck to their position, it would mean nothing. The US would look bad. For once, the diplomatic and public relation initiative is on the Pakistani side. And [this has happened] after a long time, and thanks heavens for this.

In the past, Pakistan used to react to things done by India. For once, India is reacting to what Pakistan is doing. Long it may last!

A joint declaration would have raised questions in Pakistan. The joint declaration, by definition, would have to satisfy Pakistanis and Indian concerns, which means marriage of conflicting view points. India's basic position is that you want Kashmir issue to be forgotten. You want Kashmir to be sanitized. You want militancy, or call it freedom struggle, to end. You want 12-year-old situation to come to an end. This is a big thing. You aren't even ready to offer in return a proper sequence of words! I mean Pakistanis are really asking for words. Say Kashmir is a disputed territory. Open it up. And then ask Pakistan to deliver. We are not asking for plebiscite. And when you say Kashmir is a disputed territory, it doesn't mean that you are offering Kashmir on a platter to us. The legal position is that Kashmir is a disputed territory.

Suppose Pakistan raises a question on UP today. Would you even listen to us? If we say Andhra belongs to us, would you even give us a date? You may say 100 times that Kashmir is an integral part of India. But international legal position is that it's a disputed territory.

Honestly, I am feeling happy. It was a good beginning. Both countries should have a sense to continue this process. I would have been disappointed with a watery and weak declaration. That's not what the situation demanded -- a declaration open to misinterpretation, a declaration which both sides could have used to play to the gallery would have collapsed. So I feel that a clear collapse is better than a weak agreement.

I feel there should be a continuation of dialogue and Vajpayee should come to Pakistan.

Indo-Pak Summit 2001: The Complete Coverage

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