Vajpayee's Pakistan policy

Published : Jun 06, 2003 00:00 IST

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee greeting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf prior to the summit at Agra in July 2001. - V. SUDERSHAN

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee greeting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf prior to the summit at Agra in July 2001. - V. SUDERSHAN

WHATEVER prompted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to announce on April 18, an abrupt U-turn on his confrontationist policy towards Pakistan? That he chose Srinagar as the venue for this suggests a keen awareness that the people of Kashmir yearn for a settlement with Pakistan, which alone can remove the uncertainty and put an end to violent militancy. That he couched his offer of peace in florid terms ("a new beginning") and persisted in it, amidst contradictory statements, reflects an awareness of the tricky situation in which his policies and rhetoric have landed him.

He is sadly mistaken if he thinks that oratory, in which he unduly prides himself, will help provide a smokescreen either for the retreat or escape from accountability. The situation is serious and complex. How far is he prepared to go to satisfy the yearnings of the Kashmiris, Pakistan's expectations and those of his countrymen? The Prime Minister's explanation for his volte-face is an insult to intelligence: "I realised that day that I needed to start a new chapter." Four days earlier at Gangtok on April 14, he had said that talks would be held with Pakistan only if "cross-border terrorism is stopped immediately". The only rational explanation for the somersault is that a dialogue had well been arranged, but the Prime Minister needed a formula, which he could sell to a public fed on his rhetoric. United States Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was due to come. He would provide a face-saver by announcing the assurance from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on May 8.

But it was identical to that which he had given Steve Coll of The Washington Post a year ago on May 25, 2002. "There is nothing happening across the LoC." That was part of a deal as the Post reported on June 22: "U.S. officials - including President Bush, the day before Armitage arrived in Islamabad - also gave Musharraf private assurances that they would finally focus on ways to resolve the half-century dispute over Kashmir."

Pakistan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inam ul Haque meaningfully told this writer on July 24 in Islamabad: "The sustainability of any action, particularly if it is a unilateral action, can only be ensured if there is a reciprocal response from the other side." (Vide Frontline, August 16, 2002 for the text). What Vajpayee spurned a year ago - the linkage to talks - he has accepted now under renewed American mediation. Meanwhile, the atmosphere was so poisoned since the failed Agra summit in July 2001 that the Prime Minister was reduced to pleading in Parliament on May 8: "To search for peace is no crime."

But he still does not desist from disinformation on Agra: Ham doodh ke jale hain, chhach ko bhi phookh phookh ke peena jaante hain (having suffered burns with hot milk, we will be extra careful when drinking buttermilk). This will haunt him when he returns from Islamabad after the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit. He cannot afford to fail. A silly charade was enacted between April 18 and May 8, on a prepared script. Recourse to demagogy to avoid democratic accountability is not permissible.

What we are witness to is the total collapse of the policy which the government has pursued towards Pakistan in the last five years since it came to power. Its decision to stage a military confrontation, at great financial and diplomatic cost, after the attack on Parliament House on December 13, 2001, was an expression of this policy. Based on unrealistic expectations of U.S. support it collapsed as the U.S. made it plain that it had had enough. "We don't want to go through this again," Secretary of State Colin Powell exclaimed on June 12 after the danger of war had receded. He cited "commitments that we have made to two sides that we would work and use our good offices to create the opportunity for dialogue between the two sides." That is now accomplished. He emphasised that the "dialogue must ultimately lead to a discussion of Kashmir and find a solution to Kashmir. (Emphasis added throughout.) The Prime Minister cannot stall any longer.

None were in doubt where the military mobilisation could have led us. The opposition was put in a bind lest it be accused of lack of patriotism. Some sections of the media were ready to applaud anyway. Pranab Mukherjee openly voiced a view shared by many: "Certain questions do come to mind. One is whether it was necessary to build up this type of hype, this war psychosis. Was it meant to draw international attention to the type of terrorist threat we are facing? Or was it meant to influence the local elections? Or was it meant to counter pressure from the inner layers of the Sangh Parivar?

"Another question constantly haunts me. If our demand is that Pakistan must stop supporting terrorism and it is only then are we prepared to talk, what does this mean? No country will say it is supporting terrorism, so how can it say it has stopped supporting terrorism? ...

"Surely the problem cannot be resolved by launching a war against the country which is harbouring the terrorists. It is just not possible. We have to fight it within our borders; see that terrorists don't infiltrate into our country. This is how we have been doing it for the last 10-20 years. We are not in 1914, when an Austrian Prince was killed and Europe fought World War I. If you are the U.S., may be you can think of doing that. When you are not, you are not ... They shouldn't have created this war hysteria. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear weapon states. Surely they are aware that the United Nations Security Council empowers the five permanent members with special powers to intervene in a conflict between two nuclear states?" (The Indian Express, January 13, 2002).

Demand for accountability will be fortified by this timely and ably documented book (Operation Parakram: The War Unfinished by Lt. Gen. (retd.) V.K. Sood and Pravin Sawhney, SAGE, pages 204, Rs.280).

Sood is a former Vice-Chief of Army Staff. He was a member of the Task Force on Border Management set up by the government in 2000. Sawhney is South Asia Correspondent of Jane's International Defence Review (United Kingdom). A noted analyst of strategic affairs, one respects his integrity even when one disagrees with him. They form a good team. This writer completely disagrees with their prescription of war. But they press for talks if war is ruled out.

Unlike many a "specialist" on the subject, they question the official line and render a service to the nation by sharply calling the government to account: "The Vajpayee government ought to be held responsible for two serious setbacks to national security. First, it conducted the 1998 nuclear tests without giving much thought to the consequences. Second, it ordered Operation Parakram before it could muster the political courage to take it to its logical conclusion. On the first issue, the government maintained that national security had been strengthened, when just the opposite seemed to have happened.

"By the time Operation Parakram was finally called off (October 16), it had long become counter-productive. On the one hand, Musharraf's personal stature had risen amongst his Army commanders and the jehadis for daring India's military mobilisation. On the other hand, the U.S. had become more than a mere facilitator between India and Pakistan."

After 9/11 India had two options, the authors opine - follow the American example in Afghanistan and attack Pakistan or talk to it. It preferred to lean on the U.S. in order to secure its goals. The result was an India-Pakistan contest for the U.S.' favours. Our super nationalists fuelled international concern on Kashmir.

It was a most unusual mobilisation. "Operation Parakram was unusual in many ways. Never before had a war between India and Pakistan been an announced one. Indian Army Chief General S. Padmanabhan announced to the media on January 11, 2002, that the mobilisation for war was complete and the armed forces were waiting for the political nod. Never before had the Army remained mobilised for 10 long months. Never before had there been an open debate about the very motive of a mobilisation - were there any purposes other than war? And never before had an Army chief, who was also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, said at the official termination of the operation that `whenever there is a situation calling for Army's help, the latter's role should be clearly defined to avoid confusion'."

Who was responsible for this "confusion"? Remember, the co-author is a former Vice-Chief of the Army Staff. He knows a lot. The book reveals what happened on December 18, 2001: "According to informed Army sources, the Prime Minister called the three service chiefs and told them to prepare for a war with Pakistan. On being asked by General Padmanabhan what the government expected from the war, Vajpayee is understood to have said: woh baad mein bataayenge (that will be told later). Such was the beginning of Operation Parakram, where neither were the political objectives for war defined, nor did the military leadership press too hard to find them. Even though this sounds incredible, the Army leadership at this stage was not unhappy about it. Ever since the end of the 1999 Kargil war - called Operation Vijay by India and Badr by Pakistan - the Army had known the unavoidability of Operation Parakram."

It thought it had the green signal and went to work: "In a tacit understanding, while the senior Army brass in Jammu and Kashmir winked, the units adopted a calibrated offensive action across the LoC to engage the Pakistan Army and sanitise areas of infiltration. For example, on January 22, 2000, fighting in the Chammb sector left 16 Pakistani soldiers dead with fewer Indian casualties. While both sides blamed each other for the fight, the truth was that India, in strength, attacked a Pakistani post and overran it."

After all, Vajpayee had declared in Parliament that "now India had to embark on an aar-paar ki ladayee (a war to the finish)". It was an irresponsible pronouncement. As events showed he did not mean it. Indeed, he could not have meant it. The authors wish he did. "Perhaps the failure of Operation Parakram lay in its genesis. It was not a deliberately thought-out action, but a knee-jerk reaction to the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. The government simply got carried away as there was pressure to do something equally spectacular to show the domestic audience that India meant business.

"The mobilisation was extraordinary in many ways. To begin with, the government did not issue any directive to the armed forces either in writing or verbally outlining what was sought by Operation Parakram. Nearly eight months into the operation, the government made a feeble attempt to put together a few objectives - mostly afterthoughts like the need for free and fair Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir - which were sent to the Chief of Staff Committee in a draft form for comments. However, before these could be formally issued, the operation was called off." In support of their account, the authors cite an "interview with a senior Army officer".

Dates were fixed twice for launch of war: around January 5-6, 2002, and on June 15, for a much wider war, after the Kalu Chak attack on May 14. The armed services were consulted. Vajpayee said on May 22: "The time has come for a decisive battle and we will have a sure victory." But when the U.S. and other countries issued advisories to their citizens, New Delhi was displeased. Why? Did it not mean to go to war? "Unlike in January, the Indian armed forces were prepared and determined in June to seize the initiative and launch a major offensive in the desert sector on an unprecedented scale. The U.S. feared that a full-scale war could escalate into a nuclear exchange if India's offensive managed to go deep inside Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan test-fired two-nuclear ballistic missiles in May. This was meant as a warning to India to apply brakes on its most ambitious plan ever. Therefore, tremendous pressure was successfully put on the Indian leadership and India was once again tamed by June 10... After June 15, he (Gen. Padmanabhan) realised that the Indian leadership did not have the stomach to take a war inside Pakistan." He urged demobilisation at the earliest. It was ordered on October 16.

Charades come naturally to the government. "Considering that Pakistan was not helping India find an honourable reason to demobilise forces, assistance was sought from the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB)." It had met earlier in a similarly cosmetic exercise. Within hours of the NSAB meeting on October 16, came the expected official announcement of demobilisation.

Defence Minister George Fernandes told Parliament on October 20, 2002, that Operation Parakram had cost the nation Rs.8,000 crores, excluding the Rs.300 crores compensation paid to people in the border States where troops were deployed. A total of 387 lives were lost in the 10-month-long mobilisation. Add to this the colossal damage done to the equipment, which lay exposed to the vagaries of nature.

The authors hope for a revival of the Operation. It was a "strategic location". India has not given up the military option. "That India is preparing to fight another day is evident from the fact that the government has pulled out all the plugs for defence purchases worth billions of dollars to be signed and procured in the third quarter of 2003. The expected deals will be of two types; the ostensible and the hidden. The former is needed to reinforce conventional strength for both regular and irregular war, and the latter is an effort to procure prohibitive technology needed for various indigenous missile projects. Russia, Israel, and hopefully France (in the same order), are the countries with whom this business would be done. India's topmost priority, however, would be to garner adequate quantities of spares, force multipliers for night-fighting and depth reconnaissance, and specialised ammunition. Should India and Pakistan go to war in the near future, which is likely, an embargo on arms and ammunition would be among the first actions taken by the international community."

Major-General (Retd.) Afsir Karim, a highly respected commentator, remarked: "The adverse effects of the massive deployment of troops in high alert mode, with no definite mandate of going to war, were overlooked, both, by the political leadership and the media... The troops became mere pawns in the hands of politicians intent on pursuing their own agenda... The costs and benefits were never properly calculated." (The Times of India, October 26, 2002). The authors pour scorn on analysts close to the government and on the government's manipulation of the media through its favourites.

To Parmvir Das, former Director-General, Defence Planning Staff, it was "the war that never was". India could not have launched a limited war. It does not enjoy the kind of superiority in military power against Pakistan that would ensure victory. "Mobilisation, such as those enforced in the last year, are not going to serve any purpose other than those of vested political interests, sadly using the armed forces as a convenient pawn." (The Indian Express, November 18, 2002).

There is an important aspect that is over-looked. Bar a superpower any country that goes to war without a powerful patron's support comes to grief. Witness Suez and Pakistan's attack in 1965. India had the USSR's backing in 1971 as had China in 1962. Khrushchev accorded it to the Chinese Ambassador on October 13 and 14, 1962. Israel got a wink from the U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig before marching into Lebanon in May 1982. Deng Xiaoping revealed to President Carter, on January 29, 1979, his plans to attack Vietnam. By the end of 2001, a U.S.-Pakistan entente was very much in place. A correspondent noted: "New Delhi's decision to mobilise fully for war against Pakistan was partly based on the recognition that America's global campaign against terrorism has given it a historic opportunity to force an end, once and for all to Pakistan's support for cross-border terrorism. (The Hindu, May 23, 2002) Home Minister L.K. Advani said on December 25, 2001: "The situation has developed in a manner as to make it possible for India, with the support of world opinion (read the U.S.) to force Pakistan to abandon terrorism as an instrument of policy."

Quick unsolicited support to the U.S. after 9/11 yielded no more than a promise to tackle India's concerns in "the second stage" of the battle against "global terrorism". The demand to declare Pakistan a terrorist state had no takers. Expectations that world opinion would respond to India's call, as it did in 1999 on Kargil, proved unreal. Tersely, New Delhi hoped to exploit the situation to impose a military solution to the Kashmir question in both its dimensions, internal and external.

"Something concrete needed to be done to show people at home and the international community that India meant business. Finally, on December 18, 2001, Operation Parakram - essentially an Army operation, as the Air Force and the Navy can be mobilised at short notice - was launched. Unfortunately, India is no U.S. and Pakistan no Afghanistan. Hence, mobilisation, which implies that troops are launched into war in a matter of weeks, if not days, did not reach its logical conclusion as India continued to hope that the U.S. would see its point of view and leash Pakistan. For some reason it ignored the fact that all nations have to fight their own wars, and that it could not be an exception to this rule. Driven by sheer naivete, India relied completely on the U.S. in the belief that the `two democracies' had a common fight against international terrorism."

The policy was doomed to failure. "Once the U.S. made it known that it was unwilling to apply too much pressure on India to restrain itself, and on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism permanently. India's political leadership developed cold feet. As it became clear to India that neither Pakistan nor the U.S. was suitably impressed by the mobilisation, it was time to call off the operation and think of gains which could be attributed to it." The world loathes violence but it sees Kashmir as a dispute to be solved politically, not militarily. It is aware of popular opinion and human rights violations.

INDIA had two splendid opportunities to cry "victory" and call off the Operation. One was on January 21, 2001, when Musharraf took measures against terrorists. The other was at the end of May when Musharraf gave his assurances. It ignored both. It had diluted its proper demarche of December 14, on terrorist activity, by submitting an impossible list of 20 persons for extraction. That was Advani's intrusion in diplomacy.

Now on May 8, 2003, Vajpayee concedes that Pakistan is not in control of all the jehadis. "It will be a serious matter if all terrorists were to emerge from one source. But the reality is different. When did this dawn on him?" He will not permit another major attack in Jammu and Kashmir to derail the peace process. The authors repeatedly make this point. "Pakistan started losing ground rapidly as jehadi outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen - inspired, trained and provided for by the Taliban and the Al Qaeda - took over the armed struggle in Kashmir, (and) Killings targeted at minorities."

The Hizbul Mujahideen, which supports the present peace process, was sidelined. "Compounding the situation was the changing attitude of the local populace. By the beginning of 2001, there were increasing demands for according the dead jehadis a martyr's burial. In 1994, the Hizbul was hailed as the liberating force, six years down the line, the same respect or awe was being reserved for the jehadis... . The jehadis were already in Kashmir and they were not listening to Musharraf." We must ask ourselves: Why do Kashmiris accord a martyr's funeral to foreigners who perpetrate killings on their soil? Photographs in Srinagar dailies reveal what correspondents do not.

India did not have a casus belli, which the world would endorse. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on the eve of his visit to India on December 3, 2002: "President Musharraf has taken a number of resolute steps to combat terrorism. My position is that we should not put all the burden, all the blame on him (Musharraf) for negative developments, but we should, rather, try to stimulate him to continue his policy."

Harried by jehadis at home, "Musharraf repeatedly warned India that the window of opportunity for talks between India and Pakistan was fast receding... For Musharraf, the Agra summit was a desperate attempt to curtain the growing clout of the Taliban in Kashmir. What Musharraf lost at Kargil to the Taliban, he wanted to gain at Agra. India, on the other hand, used the summit to please both the domestic audience by giving no quarter to Musharraf and the U.S. by demonstrating willingness to talk with the architect of the Kargil war. In reality, both sides lost at the Agra summit because Pakistan was too sure of its agenda, and India appeared far too clueless."

This is glib and uninformed. India and Pakistan twice agreed on a draft declaration. But Advani scuttled the accord. Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has shown skill. He has called Musharraf his "boss" but the President projects the Prime Minister. Jamali will lead his team in the India-Pakistan talks. Nonetheless Vajpayee must shed his antipathy towards Musharraf. It is of crucial importance that we size him up correctly. It is, perhaps, natural to hate a man you have wronged. Never in the annals of diplomacy have the hosts taken to reviling a guest soon after he left their country. And that, after they themselves had gone back on an accord.

The country has been told a whole load of lies about Agra. Two recent disclosures explain why it failed. Inviting Musharraf was Advani's idea thanks to Pakistan's High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi's persuasion. (Shekhar Gupta; The Indian Express; April 26, 2003); C. Raja Mohan writes that to the Prime Minister's advisers "the summit would be seen as a success if both sides could declare that they had broken the ice and would meet again." Pakistan's perception was different. It felt cheated when I.K. Gujral reneged on the Islamabad joint statement of June 23, 1997, which envisaged no more than a mechanism for a composite dialogue on all issue, including Kashmir, distinctly. Much later correspondent K.P. Nayar revealed his game plan. The so-called Gujral Doctrine "did not cover Pakistan". Gujral told him: "Do you think I will give away anything to Pakistan." That statement envisaged talks on "terrorism", explicitly.

Pakistan wanted to infuse life into that process. Thus, what "was to be a get-acquainted meeting between Vajpayee and Musharaff got transferred into a negotiating exercise of considerable scope." Raja Mohan is wrong on the latter. It was of limited scope. It concerned the process not the product. The level of talks was updated. Para I recorded recognition of Kashmir as a main but not the sole issue. Understandably, given past experience. Accord was reached on it as Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar asserted repeatedly without any contradiction. He gave this writer a detailed account of the talks.(vide Frontline, January 15, 2002 for the text of the interview). A revised draft of Para 1 was accepted by Jaswant Singh around 6 p.m. on July 16. He promised to return in "15 minutes". At 9 p.m., the guests were told it was off. They were all but told to leave. This despite the fact, which Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh admitted in the Rajya Sabha on August 10, 2001, that six "square brackets" (recording disagreement) were reduced to one. Why were the talks not continued then. Both Musharraf and Abdul Sattar said that they were prepared to stay on for further talks.

It is a brazen falsehood to ascribe the failure to Musharraf's remarks at the breakfast that morning.

The drafts were approved twice even after that (2-30 p.m. and 6 p.m.). Vajpayee's disclosure in the Rajya Sabha on August 16 that "one person" had intruded even while he was talking to Musharraf was a give-away. He was Advani's emissary. News of the progress had nettled Advani. He had said on June 2: "We should not have expectations. Simply the heads of the two States meeting will not resolve issues." Had the declaration been signed - for which preparation went so far as arrangement of tables and chairs - Vajpayee's stock would have gone up internationally and domestically.

He was to be overruled again twice within the next six months by Advani - on Narendra Modi's removal and on Krishna Kant as presidential candidate. If on the former Vajpayee covered his debacle with the Goa speech attacking Muslims, on Agra he began abusing Musharraf personally, an exercise in which Jaswant Singh merrily joined. Significantly, it was at the BJP's National Executive on July 28 that Vajpayee began this shabby game. It lasted for a whole fortnight. On July 17 Jaswant Singh said at Agra: "We will pick up the threads from the visits of the President of Pakistan." The stand was reversed the very next day. "We will have to begin again on the basis of pre-existing agreements - the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration."

There was no explanation for the reversal. The massive disinformation on Agra ties Vajpayee's hands now. To his credit Dr. Manmohan Singh did call the government to account in Parliament.

This episode bears recalling now for three reasons. First, while Vajpayee's sincerity is not in question, his strength of character is. He could have threatened to resign at Agra and won. He did worse than submit. He denounced his guest. Many in the media joined him.

Secondly, Pakistan is certain to revive the Agra draft. Its Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, who enjoys high respect, said as much on May 6. "If one wants to genuinely hasten the process, we start from where it was left at Agra." As it is, both Musharraf and Abdul Sattar agreed (on July 10 and 17) to consider revisions to the draft. (It not only omitted reference to Shimla; but also to U.N. resolutions.) The Shimla pact itself recognises the "centrality" of Kashmir in Para 6 ("a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir," no other dispute is mentioned) and refers to the U.N. charter twice in Para 1. Vajpayee himself said in the Lok Sabha on August 7, 2001, that India and Pakistan had come to an understanding on some issues at Agra and this will provide a direction to the dialogue process. Why then discard the Agra draft? External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha's remark on May 12 that "none of the existing agreements between the two countries have ever referred to Kashmir as the core issue", betrays his ignorance. The Nehru-Mohammed Ali Bogra agreement of 1953, the 1972 Shimla agreement and the entire history, including the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1172 of June 6 1998, record the stark reality that Kashmir is indeed the core issue. Is it any consolation to Sinha that it calls Kashmir one of "the root causes" of India-Pakistan tensions.

Thirdly, if Vajpayee is to make any progress he must stop disinformation on Agra. It was not an unprepared summit. An External Affairs Ministry official told K.P. Nayar: "I am a Kashmiri, Kashmiris have suffered more than anyone else at the hands of Pakistan. I (sic) can never compromise with Pakistan". (The Telegraph, July 22, 2001). Full of self-importance, he wanted to get into the act to scuttle the summit. Bypassed, he took his revenge, and worked on Advani. Kissinger, an advocate of preparations, said "the possibility of using summit conferences to mark a new departure in the relations of states should not be underestimated." That was what Vajpayee missed at Agra. He must try again. India must interact with Pakistan at all levels - President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the outstandingly able Foreign Secretary Riaz Hussain Khokhar.

THE world's perception of Musharraf and Kashmir differs from India's. The BBC's former correspondent in Pakistan, Owen Bennett Jones, provides a graphic account of how and why the Army staged a coup (Pakistan: Eye of the Storm; Viking; pages 328, Rs.395). Robert G. Wising's book reflects the intense interest Kashmir generates abroad. He has collected considerable material and suggests avenues for accord (Kashmir in the shadow of War; Regional Rivalries in the Nuclear Age, M.E. Sharpe; pages 285, $67.95 hardback, $24.95 paperback)

Musharraf's speeches reveal a man who is out to give battle to jehadis at home. On June 5, 2001, at the National Secret Conference he said: "Where do we see justice and equality? Do you see it in Pakistan? Where? ... To be poor in Pakistan is a curse. Everybody oppresses him... what about mutual tolerance? ... We are killing each other wearing masks." Funds collected for Kashmiris "are going into private pockets". And "religion should never be exploited for political gains". That was before Agra. Later speeches were in the same vein. Why demonise such a man? His main opponent defines his ideology. It is the coalition of six Islamic groups, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (united action forum) led by the bigoted Jamaat-i-Islami. Musharraf needs a Kashmir settlement of fair compromise to get Pakistan off the hook and resume a normal life.

On principle, the breakfast meeting should not have been held during a summit. But two points are in order. He said nothing there that was not said earlier over tea in Delhi. (Frontline, March 15, 2002, the writer's article based on N. Ram's notes at Delhi). Secondly, in both places, he suggested exclusion of extreme positions by both sides. "Negation of some solutions" can only mean exclusion of plebiscite and U.N. resolutions on his side and on ours, of refusal to accept that a dispute exists and the future status of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be determined - as U.N. maps record. The via media need not spell secession, as some fear. India simply refuses to explore any such diplomatic openings.

But that is far off. The immediate need is to devise a compromise, which both sides can accept and sell to their people. It can comprise three elements. First a package of CBMs, which blends those suggested by Vajpayee before Agra on July 4 and 6 (meetings of Directors-General of Military Operations) and July 9 when he proposed opening of check-posts "at designated points along the International Border and the LoC" - the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Jammu-Suchetgarh road. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, also suggested that on May 9. Prime Minister Jamali unveiled his package on May 6, in which he reiterated his support to the CBMs "outlined in Lahore in February 1999". On July 6, 2001 Vajpayee said that in order to give meaning to the MoU he proposed initiation of "an official dialogue at the experts level - immediately". The MoU envisaged inter alia consultations "on security concepts and nuclear doctrines". Sood and Sawhney stress the need for "an understanding with Pakistan on nuclear and missile matters".

Next, a revival of the Islamabad - Lahore - Agra process in a creative blend with explicit reference to Shimla, as India desires, and a rewording of Para 1 of the Agra draft to which Pakistan was agreeable. Two correspondents have reported its text (John Cherian of Frontline (August 3, 2001) and Seema Guha then of The Times of India (July 22, 2001). It will be a road map for the dialogue.

KASHMIR is, like it or not, an issue of international concern. It cannot be shelved. Meaningful, substantive negotiations can no longer be avoided. India must realise that. Pakistan must realise that it must make it easier for India to talk. It must abandon the Bhuttos' line and agree to a solution to the Siachen, Wular Barrage and Sir Creek disputes even prior to a Kashmir accord. Kashmir as the sole issue will gain greater, not less, notice. Both the people of Kashmir and world opinion will ensure that.

This is the third element - a tacit understanding that the revised Agra draft will yield results on these three pending disputes plus a truly meaningful parley on Kashmir in private and on a political level. The other three issues too need a political decision to finalise accords, which are already in place on Siachen on June 17, 1989, with details filled in on November 2-4, 1992 and on the Wular Barrage on October 15, 1991, with details settled on August 6-9, 1992. Narasimha Rao reneged on Siachen; Benazir Bhutto on Wular Barrage.

It will have to be a cautious, calibrated process. Between now and the SAARC summit lies a phase in which utmost prudence and trust will be required.

Pakistan's perfidy in Kargil was a sad blow to Vajpayee. Advani's intrigues robbed him of achievement at Agra. Vajpayee's own weakness made matters worse. It was sad to hear him say that this will be the last effort in his lifetime. Pakistan has sobered since Kargil. Vajpayee must realise that the world expects him to back up his good intentions with grit and courage. He must summon them as he embarks on the peace process. He has far greater political standing and clout in the country than he realises. His adversaries in the Parivar cannot do without him. India will back him if he does the right thing.

Both Vajpayee and Musharraf would do well to heed the advice of the brilliant diplomat, Abba Eban. While public opinion matters "a statesman who keeps his ear glued to the ground will have neither elegance of posture nor flexibility of movement".

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment