Of the Delhi tea and the Agra breakfast

Print edition : March 02, 2002

India and Pakistan ought to publish a compilation of the July 2001 Agra drafts in order that the whole truth regarding the respective positions may be known.

WE know a lot about Indo-Pakistan summits in the distant past - in 1955, in 1960, and in 1966 in Tashkent - as well as more recent ones since Simla in 1972 right down to Lahore in 1999. The Agra Summit in July 2001 came so close to success that twice at his press conference in Agra on July 17 Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh said it was "not a failure". Indeed, "we will pick up the threads from the visit of the President of Pakistan". But we are told little from the Indian side about the causes of its failure.

Strangely, that very night in New Delhi, the Cabinet reversed the Minister's stand because, as The Hindu reported (July 19), Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar had, at his press conference the same day (July 17), mentioned all the topics for a "sustained" dialogue, described the procedure and called the last Agra draft as a "valuable foundation" to build upon.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Nirupama Rao, said: "No closure was reached on the text of an agreement. We will, therefore, have to begin again on the basis of the existing agreements, that is, the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, which are the cornerstones of India-Pakistan bilateral relations."

Inexplicably, all official statements black out the Islamabad Joint Statement of June 23, 1997, for a composite dialogue on eight topics, that is, seven others besides Kashmir. The MEA's compilation, India-Pakistan Relations, studiously omits it. So, strangely, does a journal of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Strategic Analysis, in its Special issue of October 2001 which appends 11 documents from 1947 to the Lahore Declaration.

Abdul Sattar's tabulation, on July 17, followed the Islamabad Statement of 1997: "valuable progress was made at Agra on evolving a structure for a sustained dialogue process that would take up Jammu and Kashmir, peace and security, and terrorism and drug-trafficking at the political level. Economic and commercial cooperation, Siachen, Wullar Barrage, Sir Creek and promotion of friendly exchanges in various levels would be addressed at the level of high officials."

Clearly the draft Agra Declaration took off from the Islamabad Joint Statement. The Times of India reported (July 21) that "the political level" that Sattar spoke of was the level of the Foreign Ministers. "Annual Summits and regular meetings of the Foreign Ministers were all packed into the nine-point draft agreement (the Declaration)."

Evidently, publication of the Agra drafts would blow sky high the falsehoods which the Government of India has been spreading to cover up the fact that L.K. Advani & Co overrode Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh and forced them to reject an unexceptionable accord; a draft that met all of India's concerns - cross-border terrorism, dialogue on all the issues on which the two sides differ (besides Kashmir) and respect for the Simla and Lahore accords.

Since a campaign of disinformation on Agra was launched, beginning with Vajpayee's fulminations at the Bharatiya Janata Party's National Executive on July 28, it is only appropriate that both governments should publish a compilation of the Agra drafts in order for the public to know the whole truth. The Government of India persistently gives false explanations for its debacle in Agra. It started with Jaswant Singh's list of Pakistan's triple offences at his press conference in Agra on July 17 - Pakistan's "unifocal" approach on the centrality of the Kashmir issue; its stand on "the existing compacts of Simla and Lahore" (implying that it rejects them); and "cross-border terrorism".

In his Independence Day speech, Vajpayee alleged that President Pervez Musharraf "came here with a single-point agenda - to make India accept Pakistan's terms on Kashmir". Why not publish his draft to prove this? In Agra the exercise was not about settling Kashmir or any other issue but about establishing an institutionalised dialogue on all the issues; Kashmir was only one of them. Vajpayee said that Musharraf "wanted us to forget the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration... He kept on describing cross-border terrorism as 'jehad' and freedom struggle."

The propaganda barrage continued. On February 8, 2002, the Indian Express reported Vajpayee's speech in Dehra Dun in which he said that Pakistan's "obsession with Kashmir led to the failure of talks. We offered them trade and business, but they were insistent on Kashmir".

As it happened, most fortuitously this writer received that day in Chennai, at his insistent request, a copy of a document which explodes these falsehoods besides the one that it was General Musharraf's breakfast which ruined the Indian government's appetite for compromise. The request was triggered by Frontline's Editor N. Ram's mention of the notes he had made of the informal exchange of views over tea with President Musharraf on July 14, 2001, at Pakistan House in New Delhi, the residence of its High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, in company with a group labelled by the media as "Indian intellectuals".

The meeting was attended by close to 20 persons, including former Prime Ministers V.P. Singh and I.K. Gujral, Admiral (retd.) L. Ramdas, former Chief of the Naval Staff, academics including Aijaz Ahmad and Bhabani Sengupta, Lt. Gen. V.R. Raghavan, and a few journalists including N. Ram, Kuldip Nayar and C. Raja Mohan. This meeting went on for an hour and was followed by General Musharraf's much briefer meeting with the Hurriyat leaders, and immediately after that by the tea party hosted by the Pakistan High Commissioner. Musharraf accorded his consent to N. Ram for publication of the notes. He, in turn, has permitted me to draw on them for this article.

This was General Musharraf's first substantive discussion during his visit. He was forthcoming and seemed to hold back little, N. Ram noted, either on his own or when questioned. "He seemed to reveal what was on his mind and, also, his negotiating pitch. My detailed notes on what he said were of much interest to political leaders I met subsequently that day, at the tea party and in the Rashtrapati Bhavan banquet."

The contents of the document were remarkable in the meticulous care with which it was written with an obvious concern for accuracy which the nuances reflected. That was but to be expected. But what astonished one was the fact that it differed not one bit from what Musharraf said at the breakfast meeting in Agra on July 16 of which so much fuss is still being made. One columnist went so far as to complain that Musharraf "crawled over Vajpayee". Evidently, unlike this writer, that columnist has a poor opinion of Vajpayee.

The accompanying table of comparison between the fare which the General provided over tea in Delhi and what he served to his guests in Agra is based on direct quotes for the most part.

On all the three topics that vexed Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh, as they later claimed, Musharraf's remarks in Agra on July 16 were no different from what he had said in Delhi on July 14. At the President's banquet, N. Ram was asked by quite a few people for his detailed notes of the meeting over tea. He records that he briefed a range of India's political leaders, including senior Ministers, on the Pakistan President's observations. Vajpayee was well aware of what Musharraf had said at the tea in Delhi when he met him in Agra. Negotiations between Jaswant Singh and Abdul Sattar proceeded smoothly well after the breakfast meeting. At his press conference in Islamabad on July 20 and repeatedly thereafter Musharraf kept proposing his three-step formula and "the tandem" approach at the tea. To a question whether on Kashmir he expected any kind of "substantive breakthrough" or whether the breakthrough would be "producedural," General Mushrraf notes that it will be a little premature if I tell you what I have in mind when I go to Agra tomorrow (for the official talks with Prime Minister Vajpayee). But I can say the breakthrough (we hope will come) won't be just procedural and cosmetic. I look forward to a substantive breakthrough."

Implicit in his oft-repeated proposal to "negate (that is, eliminate) certain solutions", which are non-starters, is a broad hint that he would not press for a plebiscite. He likewise expects India to go beyond "stated positions" - Kashmir is "not negotiable" at all; is not a "dispute" and the LoC as has is etc. Musharraf is clearly aiming at a via media between the status quo and the plebiscite. That is a challenge to dilpomatic creativity.

Another broad hint thrown in Delhi as well as Agra is the "indirect" effect of progress in the Kashmir parleys on militancy. Read: it will subside; for, he will have something to show by way of results.

The reference to "freedom fighters" came in response to a pointed, albeit legitimate, question. It was juxtaposed to what militants are called in India ("terrorists") and their different characterisation in Pakistan. Musharraf had in mind "a substantive breakthrough" at the end of an institutionalised dialogue - as had Nawaz Sharif and Vajpayee through the back channel in 1999.

The man had come to India determined to succeed. On July 28, Vajpayee said gleefully that he had been sent back empty handed. Musharraf and Abdul Sattar both regretted that no time was allowed for further discussion. A closure was abruptly declared. In Shakespeare's plays the jester is the one who proclaims the truth. Laloo Prasad Yadav is no jester; only a shrewd man with a gift for puncturing pomposity. He spoke the truth when he said that it is against our culture to send a guest away at midnight.

Had Agra been allowed to succeed, the post-WTC scene in South Asia would have been radically different. The tensions would have subsided. MPs should demand that the Agra texts be made public now by the government. That is the practice which Nehru followed. That is the practice in international diplomacy.

1. Centrality of Kashmir

"Kashmir is the core issue... Let this be recognised".

2. Need for compromise:

"The road ahead needs compromise from both sides. By this I don't mean one-sided compromises. 'Give and take' is involved if you want to improve the situation. We know about the internal problems of India and the internal problems of Pakistan. We need to rise above these problems. This needs boldness, courage, statesmanship."

3. Shimla & Lahore Accords:

"It has been made out that I have rejected the Shimla Accord and the Lahore Declaration. There can't be anything further than the truth than this. I said the Shimla Accord and the Lahore Declaration haven't moved ahead to bring about normalisation. I didn't say anything about rejection."

(Earlier that day, Foreign Secretary Inamul Haque instantly contradicted Jaswant Singh's charge that Pakistan was showing "selectivity" in adherence to accords (The Hindu, July 15, 2001).

4. Issues other than Kashmir:

To a question by N.Ram about the interpretation of his statement on arrival, which suggests that only a resolution of the Kashmir dispute will lead to "full normalisation", General Musharraf responds: "This is another misperception about what I said". It is "absolutely wrong" to say that his stand is that nothing can move forward unless the Kashmir issue is resolved, "But what I said was, 'Kashmir is the core issue.' My English is not good. Let us find another word, some other adjective (for 'core'). What I mean is that this is the issue on which we have fought wars, which has come in the way of peaceful and amicable relations between Pakistan and India. Let this be recognised. I have nothing against taking up other issues in tandem. What I am against is this. 1) You can't take up other issues at the cost of the Kashmir issue. You have to include Kashmir (in any meaningful effort to normalise and improve India-Pakistan relations) 2) Having taken up various issues in tandem, we cannot move ahead only on those issues and leave the Kashmir issue behind.... Lets take the other issues along." To a question noting that if Pakistan had "core concerns" on Kashmir, India had its concerns (vis-a-vis Pakistan) and should not these also be taken up, General Musharraf responds: "Why not? Everything must move in tandem."

5. The process for a a solution:

"Step I, I feel, is the initiation of dialogue. We have taken this step. The second is: we must recognize Kashmir as an issue, as the issue that has been in the way of peaceful and normal relations between India and Pakistan over more than 50 years. Let's recognize this frankly and honestly. The third is: a structure for solving it, may be a time-frame even."

6. Terrorist violence in Kashmir:

Progress in the talks on Kashmir would have "an indirect bearing on the militancy (in the part of Kashmir with India)."

7. The Nuclear Question:

V.P. Singh asked, "We are both nuclear powers. How do we reduce the scope of accidents, of mishaps, of miscalculation?" Musharraf agrees that the implications of nuclear weaponisation by India and Pakistan need to be addressed. To a follow-up question by N. Ram on what kind of measures he is prepared to discuss with India to end the nuclear stand-off between India and Pakistan and whether he is willing to talk about agreements for non-deployment and non-induction of nuclear weapons, General Musharraf responds that on this issue, "It is better to be blunt. I think that on this issue, these things have generally been initiated by India and we have had to react. On the blasts, on the deployment. Once after India did that, we have reacted, starting raising forces. We can agree to any regime of nuclear restraint, of reducing the risks." Asked specifically whether he will be willing to discuss an agreement (with India) on non-deployment and non-induction of nuclear weapons, he answers: "Why not?"

1. Centrality of Kashmir

"Let's not remain in any illusion that the main issue confronting us is Kashmir... That is the reality on the ground whether we like it or not."

2. Need for compromise:

"If we keep sticking to our own positions rigidly we cannot move for ward. So, therefore there is a degree of flexibility, open-mindedness, understanding of each other's problems, that is the pre-requisite for any forward movement."

3. Shimla & Lahore Accords: No question on this point was asked in Agra. 4. Issues other than Kashmir:

"Can we equally today start on something which is to do with non- Kashmir, also in action?

A. "Yes, certainly. Again I reiterate, absolutely. We can address all issues, having identified the main issue but then another suspicion in Pakistan is that they always involve us in other issues, brushing the main issues aside and then start leading others. This happened with Dr. Mahboob-ul-Haque. He came here with President Zia.... All issues must make progress. You cannot, no leader in Pakistan can allow the sidelining of Kashmir for the sake of economy and confidence building and nuclear and everything. They have to progress in tandem. There has to be a relationship to keep progressing on all issues together."

5. The process for a a solution:

Let's go step by step. Step one was the initiation of the dialogue and again I would like to give all the credit to Prime Minister Vajpayee for his statesmanship, for having invited me... Now step two. I feel this acceptance that Kashmir is an issue, it must be resolved, and may I say when I say it must be resolved obviously there are three parties to it. It is Pakistan, India and also Kashmiris... So this acceptance of the main issue is step two. One can then, after entering into dialogue, move further... maybe at the step two one could negate certain solutions if possible. Obviously national consensus will be required. Can we negate certain solutions that these are not the solutions? Would one keep saying stated positions and all that, let's leave this... in the area that we are left with, are the possibilities. So, I think these are the steps. Step one we have taken. Step two, I would say, can be taken today. Step three can be taken later and step four will be more later.

6. Terrorist violence in Kashmir:

Q: "Is your commitment to the absence of violence or the non-use of violence conditional upon progress or are you committed to a non-use of violence irrespective of whether we hear good news in four hours or not?"

A. That is. We are not encouraging any violence in Kashmir. This is an indigenous freedom struggle going on. You keep calling it terrorism and violence. We in Pakistan, keep calling it a freedom struggle. Who is right, who is wrong? We keep saying that there are atrocities and repression against the civilians by the Indian army of over 600,000 people. So where do we land up? Yes, these are issues which must be addressed. These issues, I am sure, and all the issues, whether it is the repression by the Indian forces which we say and the cross border terrorism which is always mentioned from this side. In tandem everything proceeds further with the progress on Kashmir. That is how I feel because I am sure the progress on Kashmir will certainly have its effects, and indirect effects, on whatever is happening in Kashmir."

Q: "In order to stop the bloodshed whether the Government of Pakistan will take initiative or not? This is the basic concern of the media.

A: "Exactly, this is the whole thing. Tell me about the bloodshed, on both sides as a result of which army men are being killed, civilians are being killed. Can this be stopped? Why is this happening? This is happening because of the Kashmir dispute. Can anyone expect this bloodshed to stop and yet expect the Kashmir dispute to stay intact. Is this realistic? Ok. Ok. I am saying this so that it should end. It should end, absolutely... But it will end only when we will go hand in hand, expand the issues and go towards a solution."

7. The Nuclear Question: No question was asked on this topic in Agra.

A letter from the Editor


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