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The truth about the Lahore Summit

Print edition : Feb 16, 2002 T+T-

When Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif went as far as discussing the need to go beyond stated positions and devise a solution that would take the interests of India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people into consideration.

THE Joint Statement issued by the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan in Islamabad on June 23, 1997 is second in importance in the annals of bilateral relations only to the Simla Pact of 1972. The Joint Statement envisaged "a mechanism, including working groups at appropriate levels" to discuss, in a composite dialogue, eight specific subjects, including "Jammu and Kashmir".

Only a week later, Inder Kumar Gujral reneged on the accord. He would not agree to a working group on Kashmir. This accord was a precursor to the aborted Agra Declaration of July 16, 2001, which also provided for a composite dialogue. Gujral reneged on the first. Atal Behari Vajpayee allowed Advani and Co. to wreck the second. A recent disclosure in The Telegraph (July 22, 2001) is relevant: "One of the myths about Indian diplomacy is that there are hardliners and softliners on Pakistan. In the Indian establishment you cannot deal with Pakistan and be what peaceniks would call a 'softliner'.

"When he was Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral, who was miffed at criticism that he was soft on Pakistan, told this correspondent: 'Do you think I will give away anything to Pakistan? I am as much a nationalist as any one else.' He stressed that his Gujral doctrine 'did not cover Pakistan'."

This was tragic. Nawaz Sharif had secured a mandate to settle Kashmir. Deadlock ensued.

Interviews with Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, and Mushahid Hussain, Minister for Information, at the time of the Lahore Summit in February 1999 confirm in rich detail what Amit Baruah reported in The Hindu on April 3, 1999. "In a significant development, the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers agreed during their recent Lahore Summit that while Mr.A.B. Vajpayee will not refer to Kashmir as an integral part of India in public, Mr. Nawaz Sharif will reciprocate by not mentioning the U.N. resolutions on Kashmir. It has been reliably learnt by The Hindu that the Prime Minister, who had three meetings in Lahore on February 20-21, had free-wheeling discussions on the Kashmir issue, not restricted to the official public positions of the two countries." Others in government, unaware of what they discussed, kept "repeating traditional arguments since the Lahore Summit".

This is precisely what President Pervez Musharraf has in mind when he says "one could negate certain solutions" and move from "stated positions".

The report in The Hindu added: "In a radical proposal, Mr. Vajpayee suggested to Mr. Sharif that the two countries open the Line of Control (LoC) at Uri in Indian Kashmir to allow Kashmiris living close to it to meet each other."

Mushahid Hussain revealed to this writer, in Islamabad last month, something new - the Prime Ministers agreed also to coordinate their positions on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as two Third World countries facing pressure from the same source - the United States. That he was in solitary confinement for long after the coup in October 1999 did not embitter Mushahid Hussain one bit. Sartaj Aziz is a former civil servant with a reputation for integrity. He was meticulous and candid in his replies. One may not agree with his analysis of the Kargil crisis.

It is only fair to add that his reference to the Neelam Valley was not fanciful - India has sought to prevent infiltration across the LoC by artillery bombardments. "The great bulk of these bombardments have occurred along the stretch of the LoC that runs roughly parallel to and in some portions very close to the Neelam Valley road - a road that follows the Kishanganga (Neelam) river about 100 miles from Muzaffarabad (the capital of Azad Kashmir) to Kail. At three points on this route, Indian forces occupy distinctly advantageous positions in the heights overlooking the road from which they can bombard the highway and civilian settlements as well as delicately suspended footbridges across the raging Kishanganga. 'To be difficult,' said the Indian Army General whose forces man the artillery batteries in the mountains overlooking the Neelam Valley road, 'the Indian Army can easily choke this key artery.' 'Beyond Kail,' he said, 'there are no all-weather, all-year roads...' " (Robert G. Wirsing: Kashmir Conflict in Charles Kennedy (ed); Pakistan 1992; Westview Press, 1993; page 154). Pakistan's firing, on the other hand, is designed to facilitate infiltration.

The question does arise: if Vajpayee could go as far as he did in Lahore, why did he not sign the Agra Declaration? In his interview to this writer, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar was, despite urgings, firmly circumspect on this matter (Frontline, January 18, 2002). He need not have been, nor need New Delhi be secretive. John Cherian had provided the relevant details to Frontline (August 17, 2001; page 14). He quoted the sole contentious first paragraph in both drafts, the initial and final ones. The first read: "Settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue would pave the way towards normalisation of relations between the two countries." This was revised to read: "Progress towards a settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue would be conducive to the normalisation of relations and would further the establishment of mutually beneficial cooperative relations." What objection can one possibly have to this self-evident formulation? Why did a Vajpayee, who went as far as he did in Lahore, scuttle a composite dialogue based on this formula?

Niaz A. Naik was a very poor choice as interlocutor. His links with the realities are at best tenuous, as this writer discovered in talks in Colombo in January 2000. He believes, for instance, that Indira Gandhi wished to sign a no-war pact with Zia-ul-Haq in, of all places, the Red Fort in 1984. He was Foreign Secretary then. The Chenab Partition formula, which he kept touting, spelt the division of Kashmir on a communal basis. His repeated leaks and indiscretions reflect poorly on him. Had Shahryar Khan been named interlocutor, there would have been greater realism and candour. Unfortunately Sartaj Aziz relied on Naik's characteristically varnished accounts.

Naik did not appreciate India's insistence on a prior Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil because, he, like many Pakistanis, underestimated the depth and justification of India's resentment. He had misunderstood what he was told in Delhi and misrepresented it, thus misleading his government in the crucial June 1999 talks on Kargil. However, in the talks between Naik and R.K. Mishra from March 27 to April 1, 1999 in New Delhi, there was general understanding on the basic criteria - the need to go beyond "stated positions", in a spirit of give and take, reckoning with the interests of India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, in order to devise a just, equitable, feasible and implementatble solution. Vajpayee was insistent that it be a final solution, not an interim one.

Various options were explored - the LoC, the Dixon plan, and so on. Independence of Kashmir was rejected. India was opposed to any communal criteria. It mooted, not surprisingly, the LoC as the basis as Nehru had since 1948. Vis-a-vis the Kashmiris it was prepared to restore and even go beyond Article 370. On March 31, Vajpayee asked for a new formula, disappointed as he apparently was at the regurgitation of old ones. But Niaz Naik's fantasies possessed him. On March 31 he took a tourist map of Kashmir from a tourist kiosk at the Imperial Hotel to educate his interlocutor on the course of the Chenab. On April 1 he met Vajpayee on the latter's request. The Prime Minister had a message for Nawaz Sharif - let there be no shelling or infiltration while talks were on. The message was well received by Sharif on April 3. India complained of infiltration on April 11 and was assured of appropriate steps on May 7. By then Kargil had erupted in all its fury. Far too much has happened in the last five years for anyone to pretend that the Kashmir dispute is a closed chapter. The bogey of its being an atut ang (inseparable part) of India has been exploded.

THE two interviews that follow, which constitute a serious contribution to recent diplomatic history by persons careful in the use of their words - held in Islamabad on January 2, 2002, separately and without reference to each other - prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the Kashmir dispute is very much a live issue and regarded so by the Vajpayee government itself - its public pretences notwithstanding.

What was the background to the Lahore Summit in February 1999 between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan?

The Lahore process actually started somewhere in August 1996 as far as we were concerned. Frank Wisner, the U.S. Ambassador to India, had come to Pakistan and called on Nawaz Sharif as the Leader of the Opposition. In preparation for the meeting, Nawaz Sharif asked me: "Bhai saheb, is there no way (out)? Are we going to go on fighting? For the last 50 years there has been no way to resolve it. We cannot get a perfect solution. We must find some solution." I said: "Obviously no negotiation can succeed if both sides are stuck on their maximum position. No negotiation can take place. So unless both sides show flexibility the issue cannot be solved. It is something worth considering."

He asked Wisner the same question when he came half an hour later. "Mr. Ambassador, will India ever negotiate seriously on Kashmir?" Surprisingly, he gave the same answer which I had given. "Only if both sides show flexibility. All of you are so stuck on your maximalist positions that no negotiations can actually succeed; if that is the national consensus on both sides."

After he left, Sharif said: "If we get back to power this is something that we can do because nobody can doubt my niyyat (good intentions and my patriotism) if I negotiate on something less (than Pakistan's stand)." Three months later, when the (Benazir Bhutto) government was dismissed and the election campaign started, he twice made a statement during the campaign that "my priorities will be to hold intensive, serious negotiations with India on Kashmir and try to improve relations with India". He made those statements deliberately. Later, when he came to Islamabad he told me in Punjabi, "Sartaj saheb, mai gal kardi" (I said that thing) so that tomorrow people can't say "why are you negotiating on Kashmir?" because this is part of my election campaign. In the February 1997 elections we won a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, 140 out of 200, which is more than two-thirds, which was unprecedented.

He received a congratulatory letter from Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda. Nawaz Sharif showed me the letter. It was a formal letter and the draft of a formal reply came from our Foreign Office. When he showed me the draft reply I asked, "What about starting serious negotiations?" I was then Finance Minister, not Foreign Minister. "Why don't you add a few sentences..." The sentences added were: "I share your desire for improved relations but that requires serious negotiations and I suggest that we begin negotiations at the Foreign Secretaries' level if possible before the end of March 1997."

The reply came: "We are ready." The first meeting at the Foreign Secretaries' level was held before the end of March. They then met in June for the second time to identify eight subjects for the eight working groups.

Was there any understanding earlier between Gujral and Sharif in Male about the working group? (This was a reference to their meeting in Male during the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation on May 12, 1997.)

I think there was an understanding in Male. They had a very good equation. Nawaz Sharif told him, "Look, we are not prejudging a solution. But at least let us start discussing." So, the June meeting was very important because they agreed on (listing) the eight subjects (for discussion). But obviously, soon thereafter there was a domestic reaction in India in July: "Why did you agree to a separate working group on Kashmir?" So no negotiations could be held. The Gujral government fell (in November).

On June 23, 1997 for the first time those eight subjects were identified. It was agreed - quotes from the Joint Statement issued that day in Islamabad - "to set up a mechanism, including working groups, at appropriate levels, to address all these issues in an integrated manner. The issues at (A) and (B) above will be dealt with at the level of Foreign Secretaries who will also co-ordinate and monitor the progress of work of all the working groups." (A) mentioned peace and security, including confidence-building measures. (B) mentioned Jammu and Kashmir. The rest covered Siachen, Wullar Barrage project, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, and so on.

In May 1998 the nuclear tests were conducted. The Security Council, the G-8, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, everybody started saying that there must be serious negotiations on Kashmir. They realised that without that the nuclear issue would not be resolved. There was much greater international pressure. The next stage was the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) summit in August 1998 in Durban. The Prime Minister could not go. I led the Pakistan delegation and paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The two Foreign Secretaries agreed to revive the June 23, 1997 formula. An understanding was reached in Durban but it was not announced that preparatory work would be undertaken for the two Prime Ministers' meeting in New York in September 1998 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session. It was at that meeting that the bus service was agreed upon besides a couple of other things.

"The first round of Foreign Ministers' talks on Jammu and Kashmir and security was held here in Islamabad in October 1998. The other six were discussed in New Delhi in November. Our basic strategy was not to go as far as India's basic stand to forget Kashmir and start other things. We were ready, short of normalisation, to take certain confidence-building measures which would improve the atmosphere for negotiations. But if there was progress on Kashmir, then other things would also improve faster.

That is the context in which Sharif invited Mr. Vajpayee to come on the first bus. Even in New York they had said, "Well, the Foreign Secretaries are meeting, but ultimately we have to deal with the issues at our level. You can't expect civil servants to resolve the issues." The understanding was that ultimately "we have to come to grips." The process had started in 1996. Sharif was the first leader in Pakistan who said that to solve Kashmir both sides had to move beyond their stated positions. When Mr. Vajpayee came to Lahore, he did not repeat the traditional Indian position that Kashmir was a part of India and nothing more needed to be said. He said at a civic reception: "Dushmani bahut ho chuki. Ab dosti karni chahiye. Dosti ke liye mushkil faisle karna hai. Dosti ke liye Kashmir pe baat karna hai" (There was enough of enmity. Now we must forge a friendhsip. Difficult decisions will have to be taken to achieve that. We will have to talk on Kashmir in order to forge the friendship).

What was the understanding at Lahore?

The understanding at Lahore was - the back-channel. While the dialogue would continue on different issues on the official level as far as Kashmir is concerned we must have people who can talk in private. The back-channel was established in New York in September 1998 in a one-to-one meeting. That was a preliminary. Lahore gave it a fillip.

Did they nominate their representatives for the back-channel?

Absolutely. R.K. Mishra was nominated by the Indian side. Niaz A. Naik was nominated by Pakistan. Among others, Shahryar Khan's name was mentioned. The nominations were conveyed to each other after the New York meeting. They (the nominees) met in November-December 1998.

But what was the understanding on the substance?

The understanding was to try to accelerate the process. Basically what Nawaz Sharif said was, "Look, both on your side and on our side, we have been so insistent on our maximum positions to such an extent that it has become a national consensus and it is not going to be easy either for you or for me to try to climb down because everyone is so stuck on it. But if you come with any reasonable proposal, then I am prepared to take the risk and try to sell it because I have a two-thirds majority. I am a Punjabi leader and no one will doubt my commitment to the Kashmir cause. Also because I said in August 1994 that no investment will come. I am basically a development man and if you don't resolve Kashmir and the security situation in the region is bad, there will be no foreign investment and no development. We shouldn't go on like this for the next 50 years. So I hope to resolve this issue. You will have to come up with something." They agreed to accelerate the process.

Was there an understanding that neither side should publicise its maximalist position?

That also and generally a more positive approach. In March-April 1999, there was a major change of tone in the media.

How did the dialogue between Mishra and Naik proceed?

Since it was back-channel diplomacy there were no records. Naik came and briefed me occasionally. They had four to five meetings till May 1999. Mishra came here sometimes, Naik went there sometimes... The focus of the discussion, the basic line, was, I think, the Kashmir Study Group (KSG) formula. It had many versions. Niaz Naik, Admiral K.K. Nayar and Gen. K.M. Arif were working on various options.

Did Mishra accept the KSG formula?

Nobody would accept KSG Report. I am talking of it as an approach to explore whether that framework provides an option. The framework basically was to have a "desegregated referendum", a district-wise referendum. That opened up the possibility that the Hindu-majority areas in Jammu and Buddhist-majority Ladakh could go to India.

Did Mishra accept this?

I don't know exactly what he accepted. But I think later on what probably came up was that India was not prepared to go back to what you call Hindu-majority and Muslim-majority areas. But they discovered later on that all the Hindu majority areas were west of the Chenab river, and all the Muslim majority areas were east of the Chenab. So, they would have used the Chenab as the dividing line for Jammu. That is what people referred to as "the Chenab formula". The area east of Chenab and Ladakh would go to India. Azad Kashmir (PoK) and the Northern Areas would come to Pakistan and the Valley would be given the maximum autonomy under the KSG formula.

Under India's sovereignty?

There are three versions of it. In the initial Study they said it would have the maximum autonomy minus defence and foreign affairs which would be jointly managed by the two countries as a condominium. In the next they said that since areas may join the independent entity from both sides, each side could administer that area under its sovereignty. The Valley would not be partitioned. It would become larger (as an entity). Some districts (outside it) will opt to join (the Valley).

Who will administer the Valley?

It will be autonomous except in matters of defence and foreign affairs. In the first version they said India and Pakistan would manage these jointly. In the last version, they (the KSG) said (it depended on) wherever they (areas) came from. So, the Valley mostly in India would manage (defence and foreign affairs).

He quoted from the KSG's final report: 'Kashmir A Way Forward' (September 1999; page 3).

The LoC would remain although they expected that areas on both its sides would be part of the new entity.

You see, there are many unanswered questions. This formula would present problems for us and for India. So one cannot say that the formula was finally accepted either by India or by Pakistan. In broad terms the basis of discussion was that if Hindu majority areas east of the Chenab and Ladakh go to India and Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas go to Pakistan, you narrow the problem to the Valley and to the Valley you give the maximum autonomy. Now, if we all accept that it is under Indian sovereignty, India can say it had done nothing (wrong), "you have kept what you have and you (we?) have given autonomy to Kashmir."

How far did the talks proceed?

Again, I can't say in so many words how much was agreed. But I did hear that there was a lot of focus on the Chenab formula. They looked at maps. In other words, a kind of partition formula.

What was Mishra's reaction?

It was not something that was finalised. They had only explored options in preliminary meetings. The impression was that it looked promising if we were patient enough and allowed the process to continue. They were talking of 12 months after February. Because Nawaz Sharif said "if you do not resolve the issue in 12 to 18 months then I go for elections and you will have lost a chance". So, 12 to 18 months was the maximum period after February 1999.

After February, I also had a very good meeting with Jaswant Singh in Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka, during the SAARC Foreign Ministers' meeting in March 1999. I briefed him about the discussions. I told him we were not negotiating, but exploring. You know what is happening. So no record was kept of what was discussed. The idea basically was to push the back-channel. For the first time both the countries had moved from their stated positions. You can't expect me to move 90 per cent without your movement. I shall not expect you to move 90 per cent. We have to find the mid-point somewhere. You present the mid-point at 60 per cent and I present it at 60 per cent, that will be there. We have to show flexibility.

Did the meeting with Jaswant Singh take the Lahore process a little further?

Yes, we also agreed on a time schedule. There was the nuclear thing and other matters besides. We also agreed on a time-frame in which the various groups would meet.

What was Jaswant Singh's attitude on Kashmir?

He said: "I agree that this is as good a time as any in which we should try to find a solution. You are obviously familiar with the back-channel." But he said that this formula of a regional referendum plus autonomy for the Valley provided a basis. He said, "Give me four to six weeks and I can then convey...." But the four to six weeks never finished because the Vajpayee government fell (on April 17). The process was derailed earlier than Kargil.

Did the back-channel come to an end or did it continue?

It continued in the context of Kargil.What was the origin of the Kargil conflict?

Nobody knows. I think it was basically a local operation in response to the (happenings in) the Neelam Valley. They (Indian forces) are very close to the LoC there. In 1994 they resorted to incessant firing so that the road could not be used. The supply route for 150,000 men could not be used. They got rations through men carrying the load on their heads till they built a bypass later via Kagar Valley, a route which crosses places 17,000 feet high, open only during the summer. I am sure they were looking into ways and means of retaliating. Just as India was close to the LoC near Neelam, Pakistan was close to the LoC in Kargil. They were planning it as a local operation to block that road (from Srinagar to Leh).

What is the position today in the Neelam Valley? Is it usable?

No. It must have been blocked. The Indians won't allow it (to be used). So, basically, it (Kargil) was a retaliation for Neelam which was planned at the local level as one of those things so that for a few months it would be blocked. But because of the elections, which came after April, India's reaction was much more. Otherwise if for a few months you block a road, why would India sacrifice 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers for mountains that would have been vacated later anyway?

You never expected this?Probably that is why it got out of hand.

There was also India's feeling that it amounted to treachery after Lahore.

I don't think it was. At least I was not aware. Nawaz Sharif was not aware.

Nawaz Sharif was not aware of it?

The scale and the way it (developed). This is what he said.

Ever since India captured Chorbat La in 1988 and Siachen in 1984 there was always a feeling that it was crossing the limits. Even in October 1998 India did very intensive patrolling of that area.

What transpired between Jaswant Singh and you in Delhi on June 12, 1999?

In Delhi the talks were Kargil-related: How to resolve the Kargil issue. My offer was _ you say we have crossed the LoC. It is an unmarked area. Let the U.N. observers go and identify where the actual LoC is and we shall adjust. But some independent body has to verify. India refused and said we should first reconcile (return?) and then we shall see. R.K. Mishra came here a week later. It was probably agreed that Nawaz Sharif should go to Delhi, stop for a day after his trip to China, and sign some kind of a document where in return for a time-frame for a solution to the Kashmir issue, the Kargil situation would be resolved. The back-channel would have become formalised in the open. But then somehow it fell through. I had by then gone to Africa so I don't know what actually happened. But I think the visit was cancelled at the last minute. The only time when next the dialogue was resumed was at Agra, and you know what happened there.

There was a statement by Prime Minister Vajpayee to Parliament on the Agra summit, in which he said: "Eventually, however, we had to abandon the quest for a joint document, mainly because of Pakistan's insistence on the 'settlement' of the Jammu and Kashmir issue as a precondition for the normalisation of relations."

I wish to draw his attention to para 3 of the Joint Statement issued after his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York on September 23, 1998, which read as follows: "They reaffirmed their common belief that an environment of durable peace and security was in the supreme interest of both India and Pakistan and of the region as a whole... They agreed that the peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, was essential for the purpose."

The Lahore Declaration of February 21, 1999 reproduces this paragraph in the preamble and goes on to record the following agreement in the first operative para: "Their respective governments shall intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir." Thus, under the Lahore Declaration, India and Pakistan have already agreed (i) that Jammu and Kashmir is an outstanding issue between the two countries that needs to be resolved (and not merely addressed), (ii) that compared to other issues, Kashmir is the main issue, since it is the only one specifically mentioned in the declaration, and (iii) that the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, is essential for creating an environment of peace and security in the region.

Beyond an understanding on these points that was reached at Lahore, of even greater significance was the decision of the two leaders to move from form to substance, and explore concrete proposals to resolve the Kashmir issue in a manner that is acceptable, not only to India and Pakistan, but also to the Kashmiri people. As Mr. Vajpayee is aware, some progress was made in the follow-up discussions.

Will you please state the facts about the story of General Pervez Musharraf's greeting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at Lahore?

The fact is that on February 21, 1999, Mr. Vajpayee arrived at the Wagah border close to Lahore where he was received by Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif and a few of his Cabinet colleagues. There was a brief ceremony. We flew in a helicopter from Wagah to the Governor's House in Lahore where Mr. Vajpayee was to stay. I was also there because I was designated as the Liaison Minister-in-Waiting with Mr. Vajpayee and I had to accompany him all through and stay with him. When the helicopter landed on the lawns of the Governor's House he was received by the three Service chiefs led by the Chief of the Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf, who saluted him and extended his hand. So did the Air Chief Marshal, Pervez Mahdi Qureshi, and Admiral Fazi Bukhari, Chief of the Navy Staff. Then we all went inside the drawing room where the three Service chiefs sat with the two Prime Ministers, myself and some officials sat together and had a tete-a-tete over tea. They returned to Islamabad because Mr.Sartaj Aziz was hosting the same night a banquet for the visiting Chinese Defence Minister and the three Service chiefs had to be there.

What really transpired between the two Prime Ministers at Lahore?

I would say that the impulse behind the Lahore process was to break the log-jam in India-Pakistan relations, focussing on a broad understanding on ways and means to resolve the 50-year-old Kashmir dispute. India had accepted Pakistan's formulation that Kashmir was a dispute which would require resolution. This had been initiated first at Male in May 1997 in a meeting between Mr. Gujral and Mr. Sharif which was then made public on June 23, 1997 when an Agreement was announced between the Foreign Secretaries on the establishment of joint working groups on outstanding issues between India and Pakistan with a separate working group on Kashmir. This was the first time in 50 years that India had agreed to this.

I still remember that when the formal talks began, between Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Sharif, Mr. Sharif began by smilingly thanking Mr. Vajpayee, saying "You provided us an opportunity for becoming a nuclear power, because had you not gone nuclear, we would not have probably tested. So, it was India's tests, India's initiative on becoming a nuclear power by coming out of the closet that forced Pakistan to respond in kind." So, this was the beginning of the discussions. Mr. Vajpayee merely faintly smiled at that.

There was this understanding that since both countries were then facing simultaneous pressure from the United States for signing the CTBT _ though the pressure was separate _ perhaps we could have a joint position, exchange notes and we could coordinate our positions on this issue. This was for the first time that Pakistan and India felt that this was the issue. Since they had a certain perspective of Third World countries facing similar pressures from the U.S., they could coordinate their positions. I understand that Mr. Sartaj Aziz and Mr. Jaswant Singh then had a detailed chat on this issue in March 1999 on the sidelines of a SAARC meeting in Colombo.

The other area which was discussed was that the two leaders had a broad understanding to resolve the Kashmir question within an agreed time-frame, by moving beyond their officially stated positions on Kashmir which meant moving beyond the status quo.

What was the deadline in the time-frame?

I would say that there was talk of somewhere between nine to 18 months. But there was this feeling that this issue should be resolved within a certain time-frame. I think the time-frame was also determined with an eye to domestic politics on both sides and that was also an important element; that before they are overtaken by electoral considerations. This important issue should be resolved in a manner that goes beyond the officially stated positions of both sides and which changes the 52-year-old status quo on Kashmir.