Summits, from 1955 to 2001

Published : Aug 04, 2001 00:00 IST

Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Second Series, Volume 28 (February 1- May 31, 1955), Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund; Distributed by Oxford University Press; pages 636, Rs.500.

FROM 1952, relations between Jawaharlal Nehru and the Sheikh Abdullah began steadily to deteriorate. One of the causes was the Jan Sangh-backed Praja Parishad agitation in Jammu. In sheer anguish Nehru wrote to B.C. Roy on June 29, 1953: "If Hindu communalists could organise a movement in Jammu, why should not Muslim communalists function in Kashmir? The position now is that if there was a plebiscite, a great majority of Muslims in Kashmir would go against us... We are on the point of losing it (the Valley) because of the Praja Parishad movement. Psycholo-gically we have lost it and it would be difficult to get back to the older position." (Vol. 22; p. 204). This is the Sangh Parivar's "lasting contribution" to the Kashmir problem. When he met Mohammed Ali in London in June 1953, Nehru made plain his opposition against any decision that would "upset present conditions" (Vol. 22; p. 194). Nehru scrupulously kept Abdullah and, later, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed informed of his parleys with Pakistan.

Diplomatically Nehru was in a far weaker position when he arrived in Karachi on July 25, 1953. (He had last visited it in April 1950.) He was touched by the response. "The outstanding impressions of the Karachi visit were the excessive anxiety of the Government there to arrive at a settlement with India about various matters, and more especially the Kashmir matter. In fact, it was repeatedly stated that if Kashmir is solved, everything else follows immediately. The other impression was the popular welcome that I got from the people generally. This was remarkable and I rather doubt if any Pakistani leader ever gets anything like it. This was evidently spontaneous and not organised," Nehru wrote to G. S. Bajpai on July 30 (Vol. 23; p. 453). To Roy, he remarked: "It was really pathetic to see and experience the desire of the people there for a settlement with India" (p. 443).

Ghulam Mohammed and Mohammed Ali's "appeals to me were quite plaintive and almost pathetic... I said that the only safe solution was to accept the status quo with minor modifications... Mohammed Ali did not think that he could put this through" (Vol.23; p. 301).

Sheikh Abdullah's dismissal from the office of Prime Minister of Kashmir and imprisonment on August 8, 1953 further weakened Nehru's hand. He had no option but to invite the Pakistan Prime Minister to Delhi. Events had not improved Nehru's understanding of the people. He told the visitor on August 17: "In Srinagar and the Valley there were obviously two sets of people, one pro-India and the other pro-Pakistan. Most people, of course, were hardly political and cared only for their economic betterment."

Now, interestingly, Nehru agreed to a plebiscite. A Joint Statement issued on August 21 recorded a "firm opinion" on the holding a plebiscite. Even a provisional time-table was agreed. His reservations were bared to Bakshi on August 15. He was apparently for a regional plebiscite. "One has to keep partition in view, though we need not talk about it directly. If it is a question of partition, then the views of the people naturally have a great say but not a final say about every area. Such a partition will mean the fixation of an international boundary..." (Vol. 23; p. 329).

Nehru was more candid in his letter to Karan Singh, the Sadar-e-Riyasat, on August 21: "But for some kind of an agreement between us and Pakistan the matter would inevitably have been raised in the U.N. immediately and they might well have sent down their representative to Kashmir. All this again would have kept the agitation alive and made it grow" (Vol. 23; p. 347). A major crisis was averted. Pakistan's acceptance of military aid from the U.S. in 1954 provided Nehru a pretext for discarding the idea of plebiscite publicly.

In the 1955 Indo-Pakistan summit, he refused to revive the 1953 accord. A year later, he went public. He told a public meeting in New Delhi on April 13, 1956: "I am willing to accept that the question of the part of Kashmir which is under you should be settled by demarcating the border on the basis of the present cease-fire line. We have no desire to take it by fighting."

The Swaran Singh - Bhutto talks in 1962-63 centred not on plebiscite but on drawing an international boundary through Kashmir. (vide Y.D. Gundevia; Outside the Archives; p. 248. He was Foreign Secretary. Brig. D.K. Palit, Director, Military Operations gives details in his memoir War in High Himalayas; p. 393). Swaran Singh asked Palit "If I could consider offering a little more of Kashmir Valley because Pakistan's acceptance of partition would hinge on how much of the Valley we were willing to give up." Palit demurred to this but Swaran Singh was all for it. He went so far as to offer "the Handwara area" in the northwest of the Valley to Pakistan. Bhutto treated India as a defeated country and asked for the entire State bar Kathua.

After the talks broke down, there appeared in August 1953 the Jan Sangh leader Balraj Madhok's book Kashmir: Centre of New Alignments. Not only did he make the observation that "partition remains the only feasible and practical solution of the problem", but specified the concessions India should make to secure it: "It is, therefore, being taken for granted that the partition line to be acceptable to Pakistan now has to be more favourable to her than the existing Cease Fire Line. This is what is really meant by rationalisation or rectification of that Line. It has been suggested, for example, that Pakistan be given control over Titwal, Uri and Poonch areas by making the partition line in this sector coterminous with the outer boundaries of the Kashmir Valley itself. In return Pakistan may have to give some territory to Indian in the Chenab area of Jammu and the town of Dras near Kargil. It will mean a big sacrifice on the part of India."

In April 1963, the U.S. and the U.K. submitted their proposal entitled ''Elements of a Settlement''. It proposed that "Each must have a substantial position in the Valley". Ladakh went to India and Riasi and the Chenab basin to Pakistan. Anthony Mann had reported in The Daily Telegraph as far back as on February 16, 1963 that the State "would be divided along a line running north from a point 20 miles north of Jammu and leaving Srinagar to the east in Indian territory. This would leave the minor lakes near Srinagar in Indian hands. But Pakistan would have Wular Lake and the headwaters of River Jhelum.'' Thus, the northwestern part of the valley would have gone to Pakistan with Handwara, Uri and Tithwal. The line would have come as near as Baramulla.

The U.S. Ambassador, J.K. Galbraith, favoured a line "somewhere between Wular Lake and Srinagar". Had Pakistan not rejected this, it is not unlikely that Nehru would have improved on his Handwara concession so long as the line did not go beyond Wular Lake towards Srinagar, a proposal which annoyed him greatly. This was not the first time the U.S. and the U.K. worked for partition. On November 1, 1948, J.K. Huddle, the U.S. representative on the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), broached partition to Mohammed Ali who rejected it outright. Huddled proposed that "the Vale of Kashmir itself might be susceptible to division so that the southern part might appertain to India and the northern part to Pakistan. The southern part would include the district of Anantnag and the town of Srinagar, while the northern part would include... the town of Baramulla" (Alastair Lamb; Incomplete Partition; p. 274).

The poor people of Jammu and Kashmir never stood a chance. None really cared one bit for their wishes - Nehru, Jinnah, Abdullah, the UNCIP or the big powers. Realpolitik predominated throughout.

But, no critique of Nehru's record should overlook the grim fact that it was Jinnah who had raised the stakes. As Prof. Reginald Coupland remarked, India could survive if its arms were amputated (by partition). But could it survive without its heart (Hyderabad)? It had become a diplomatic war. There was a real prospect of accord only during November-December 1947. Patel and Liaquat were for it. Nehru had reservations and was uncooperative. Jinnah refused to include Hyderabad in the bargain. Nehru discarded plebiscite. Publicly, he spoke of respecting the wishes of the people right till 1954. Privately, he worked assiduously from 1948 onwards to obstruct a plebiscite and worked for Kashmir's partition. Till 1953, Sheikh Abdullah was also privy to this.

In 2001 neither India nor Pakistan nor the Kashmiri leaders - past and present - have a clean slate to write on or a record of unblemished virtue to flaunt. Sinners all, they have badly let down the hapless people of Jammu and Kashmir in all its regions; all its communities. The Valley has suffered the most. In 1965 Pakistan mounted an armed attack and failed. Its covert operation launched in 1988 has not been successful, either.

What has changed since the rigged election of 1987 is the outlook of the people of the State and the approach of the international community. Kashmiris are assertive of their rights and distrustful of both the countries and of their leaders. The world is more keenly interested in the issue than before.

Plebiscite is dead as dodo as are "the U.N. resolutions". But the repeated public pledges to the people of the State, to Pakistan and, indeed, to the international community, cannot be brushed aside. They must be adapted to the realities and ideas of today. The concept of self-determination itself has undergone change. It is no longer regarded as being synonymous with independence or secession. Kashmir can enjoy that right within the Union of India provided that the fraud perpetrated by perversion of Article 370 is erased.

If no Government of India can survive if it accepts de-accession of the State, we must recognise in all fairness and realism that no Government of Pakistan can survive if it settles on the basis of the LoC, either. For reasons more than one - and despite its own follies and worse - Pakistan is a country aggrieved; not unjustifiably, as documented earlier (vide the author's ''History and Politics''; Frontline; July 31, 1998). Its baggage of grievances includes the Radcliffe award, division of stores and assets, and, of course, Kashmir.

But there is greater awareness in Pakistan than before that its own hands are none too clean. The challenge to diplomatic creativity now lies in devising a solution which does not affect Kashmir's accession to India yet offers Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders concessions enough to enable them to defend the accord before their respective peoples. The status quo provides no basis for accord. Why would Pakistan settle for something it already has? It is not interested in tourist rights. Its interest centres on the Valley. India cannot possibly grant it territorial rights; bar mutual adjustments while converting the line of control into an international boundary. It can, however, concede a legal interest without affecting India's sovereign rights. There are precedents ample of states resolving disputes involving a mix of territorial rights and claims with ethnic, linguistic or religious affinities, otherwise than through cession. They did so with the state in possession of the territory concerned, as its legal sovereign, agreeing with the neighbouring disputant to restrict, by a bilateral agreement, the exercise of its sovereign powers over the territory so as to ensure an agreed quantum of autonomy to the people.

Kashmir thus acquires a double guarantee of autonomy; one, under the national Constitution - easily eroded like Article 370 of the Indian Constitution - and another under an international agreement which confers on Pakistan a locus standi to protest and to set in motion agreed forms of diplomatic redress should there be serious and specific encroachments on the autonomy of the territory. The issue of sovereignty is resolved once and for all. India acquires identical rights in respect of the POK.

There are three apposite models to draw upon - the letter by the British representative to Afghanistan, while signing the Anglo-Afghan Treaty on November 22, 1921; the Austria-Italy agreement on South Tyrol on September 5, 1946 as well as the accord in 1969; and the agreement between Finland and Sweden on June 27, 1921 whereby Finland agreed to respect the autonomy and Swedish character of the Aaland Islands over which it enjoyed sovereignty. By successive statutes Finland has enlarged their autonomy.

India's Prime Minister will be able to declaim from the Red Fort that India's sovereignty over Kashmir has been put beyond challenge. Pakistan's Prime Minister will be able to proclaim at Mochi Gate in Lahore that he had secured a guaranteed azadi for the people of Kashmir. And, both will be right. Each gains enough to sell the accord to his people, yet, concedes enough to make it acceptable to the other side.

There is another factor to be borne in mind. In this day and age, governments cannot decide the fate of people without their consent. At an appropriate stage, as Indo-Pakistan parleys make progress, the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir must be consulted and brought on board. No settlement can last unless it enjoys their support.

BUT none of this is conceivable so long as India maintains that Kashmir is its "internal affair", not a "dispute" with Pakistan, and that the only issue is the recovery of the POK. It is fascinating to trace the evolution of this stand. The D-word was explicitly used in Mountbatten's letter to the ruler on October 27, 1947, accepting Kashmir's accession to India ("where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question should be decided in accordance with wishes of the people of the State") and consistently thereafter by Nehru. His joint communique with Mohammed Ali Bogra on August 21, 1953 recorded: "The Kashmir dispute was especially discussed at some length." Even while rejecting the 1953 accord (on plebiscite), he wrote on March 5, 1954: "You have expressed your surprise at my connecting the U.S.-Pakistan talks concerning military equipment with the Kashmir dispute." (One ignores here the U.N. document which always used the word.)

In domestic law, if A questions B's title to his bungalow and files a lis pendens (pending litigation) notice, it ceases to have a marketable title. Internationally, however, the existence of a political dispute does not becloud legal sovereignty. Ireland seeks reunion with Northern Ireland but meanwhile the U.K.'s sovereignty over it is not affected. Even the U.N.'s plebiscite resolutions did not contest India's legal sovereignty over the State.

Nehru knew that... He told Parliament on August 7, 1952: "It is an international problem. It would be an international problem anyhow if it concerned any other nation besides India and it does. It became further an international problem because a large number of other countries also took interest and gave advice... So, while the accession was complete in law and fact, the other fact which has nothing to do with the law also remains; namely, our pledge to the people of Kashmir - if you like, to the people of the world - that this matter can be affirmed or cancelled or cut out by the people of Kashmir if they so wish."

He had, as we have noted, privately ruled out plebiscite in 1948. Fifty years have rendered it impossible politically. But that cannot affect the fact that the "dispute" persists; only, a particular solution is ruled out. For, as Nehru said on February 25, 1955, even while publicly ruling out plebiscite, "a question like this cannot be solved unilaterally". He had said earlier, on July 8, 1949 that "Kashmir is a world question" and on November 16, 1949 that "a deadlock, of course, will continue until there is a settlement. Therefore, mediation is the only way out".

He effected a retreat in three stages. Discarded privately in 1948, plebiscite was rejected publicly in 1955-56. Next, mediation was rejected. "These things must be discussed only by the two parties concerned" (February 2, 1962). In the last stage even meaningful bilateral talks were ruled out. The status quo must be accepted.

Here is the 40 years' record of mindless intransigence.

1. Nehru and Ayub Khan agreed to talks (November 29, 1962). The very next day Nehru rejected "anything that involved upsetting the present arrangements";

2. May 6, 1967: India was "ready to discuss all questions... including the Kashmir question". Four days later, Indira Gandhi said: "There is nothing to negotiate on Kashmir";

3. The Shimla Agreement (July 2, 1972), Para 6 envisages "a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir". But that is the name of a State of the Union of India. The expression makes no sense because omitted were the only words that could have invested it with sense. "Dispute"; "issue"; "problem" or "question" is what you settle.

For two decades neither side invoked Para 6 and demanded negotiations. As P. N. Dhar has noted, "The Simla agreement got gradually eroded" (The Telegraph; July 13, 2001). We were told Simla ordains bilateral talks on Kashmir but it is not a subject for negotiations;

4. On November 24, 1993, it was announced that Foreign Secretaries would "meet and all aspects of Jammu and Kashmir will be discussed" - its history, demography and so on. The D-word was kept out;

5. The joint statement issued in Islamabad on June 23, 1997 listed eight issues and envisaged "a mechanism, including working groups at appropriate levels to address all these issues in an integrated manner". To Foreign Secretaries were assigned "Jammu and Kashmir" and "peace and security including CBMs (Confidence Building Measures)", besides monitoring of progress on the rest which other officials were to discuss.

India refused to set up a working group on Kashmir or even hold a substantive discussion on it at a session proper. It insisted, instead, on talks in a "meeting" in a "session" which tackled all the issues in one go - anything to avoid a substantive discussion of Kashmir as a political problem. Following talks between Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif in New York on September 23, 1998, the 1997 accord was made "operational". Talks were held in November. The Lahore Declaration of February 21, 1999, reflected a slight degree of progress though only in the preamble - "the resolution of all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, is essential". So Kashmir was an "issue", after all, whose "resolution is essential" for peace between India and Pakistan. Since no other "issue" was so characterised, it is hard to contest the obvious - the half-century-long "dispute" is very much the "core" or main issue. Anyone "who says that the Simla Pact does not recognise Kashmir as an outstanding dispute is not looking at things objectively", Foreign Secretary J. N. Dixit said in Islamabad on New Year's Day 1994. In September 1993, he had with equal candour characterised the Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as "disputed" areas - a formulation India had rejected.

Given a four-decade record of persistent denial of the obvious, is it surprising that Pakistan was insistent on K's recognition as a D? Given India's military superiority which sustains the status quo, Pakistan reacted either with impotent rage or senseless propaganda or resorted to reckless adventures (1965 and Kargil). It feels deprived of its rights by the 54-year record.

On September 9, 2000, in New York, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said: "Kashmir is at the core of Indian nationhood", an expression he repeated in Agra on July 17. Why then did India promise a plebiscite there from the day of Jammu and Kashmir's accession till 1954? Why does the Indian Constitution still envisage the possibility of a "decision... (made at any international conference.... by the Government of India) affecting the disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir"? (Proviso to Article 253 which Nehru read out at the summit on May 15, 1955 to Bogra.) The Simla formulation of "final settlement" itself implies (a) lack of finality of status now and (b) its dependence on a "settlement".

On May 6, 2000, Jaswant Singh met a visiting group of Pakistan's human rights activists, who criticised India's record in Kashmir as they did Pakistan's. He blithely asked why Pakistan was so interested in the problems in Kashmir. "Why so much interest in Kashmir?" (The Hindustan Times; May 7, 2000). Why is he interested in the rights of Indians in Fiji? And which Indian government can be indifferent to the welfare of Sri Lanka's Tamils? Pakistan has the POK and a substantial Kashmiri diaspora. It is this mindset which is the main cause of the impasse today.

This brings us to the Agra Summit. Pervez Musharraf had declared his stand clearly enough. If Vajpayee had no intention of initiating parleys on Kashmir in earnest, he ought not to have invited him. Equally, if Musharraf was not willing to meet India's concerns on terrorism and "other issues", he ought not to have come.

Vajpayee's letter of May 24 invited Musharraf to "address all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir". The latter's reply of May 29 urged a joint effort "to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. We are ready to discuss all other outstanding issues between our two countries as well."

The 1997 Statement listed separately "Jammu & Kashmir" and "terrorism and drug-trafficking". In an interview to the Karachi monthly The Herald (June) Musharraf linked decline in violence to progress in the talks in Kashmir. The Press Trust of India reported from Islamabad on July 13 that the militant groups had "agreed to join a ceasefire if the summit achieves a positive breakthrough". As Ajai Shukla, a former army officer who had served in Kashmir, noted realistically: "The only real bargaining leverage that Pakistan wields in J & K is through its proxies, the jehadi groups operating in the State. Removing support to these groups would quickly destroy them, leaving Pakistan with no choice but to take whatever India sees fit to give. For Pakistan, therefore, cross-border terrorism had to be retained as a lever until the end of the peace process." (The Indian Express; July 18, 2001).

It was the same story elsewhere. The Hindu reported from Colombo that "most (Tamils) believe that if the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) were to be defeated militarily, the Sinhala political establishment would close the chapter on the 'Tamil problem' and bury their political aspirations forever" (May 15, 2000).

Such a linkage between substantive talks on Jammu and Kashmir and cessation of violence is ideally suited for an unstructured parley at the highest level for devising a set of understandings in appropriate formulae. For a reason best left unsaid, official parleys preceding Agra would have ensured that it never took place.

The travaux preparatoires were ready since 1997. Only the heads of government could strike a balance in private talks. In 1997 and 1998 the expression used was "terrorism", not "cross-border terrorism", which implies admission of official complicity. (Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar's and Pervez Musharraf's plea that it meant the international border, not the LoC, would be absurd even in a college debate.)

WHAT, then, went wrong? On July 17, Jaswant Singh listed three causes - Pakistan's "unifocal" approach on the centrality of the Kashmir issue; its stand on "the existing compacts of Simla and Lahore", and "cross-border terrorism".

Thanks to Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj's interview to The News (Lahore: July 20) we have a more accurate picture: "Let me start by revealing to you that most of the newspapers were really upset when our Prime Minister invited your President..." Her patron L. K. Advani made no secret of his feelings, at Turtuk in Kashmir on June 2: "We should not have expectations. Simply the heads of the two states meeting will not resolve issues." It is one thing to warn against euphoria, another to express pessimism.

Things went wrong from Day One because of Advani. "India does not believe negotiations between the two heads of government are ever or can be conducted through the press," Jaswant Singh rightly said (July 17). But Advani and he broke the rules on the first day, July 14. Both revealed to the press instantly what they had told the visitor. "It is unheard of, protocol-wise, for a Home Minister to discuss an individual fugitive with a head of state", The Telegraph's correspondent rightly pointed out, significantly, in a retrospect from Agra on July 16 after the collapse of the talks. The dailies of July 15 carried reports of Advani reading the Riot Act to President Musharraf on Dawood Ibrahim and his own remarks in direct quotes.

PTI reported on July 14: "Emerging from a 20-minute meeting with Gen. Musharraf at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mr. Jaswant Singh told presspersons... 'it would be befitting if we did not selectively reject what we did not like' " and went on in this vein. PTI added: "The Pakistan Foreign Secretary, Mr. Iman-ul Haq, refuted reports that Gen. Musharraf had repudiated the Lahore and Shimla agreements. What he has said is that the Shimla and Lahore Agreements did not lead to any progress as they were expected to" (The Hindu; July 15). In an interview to Gulf News (July 13) he had said clearly enough that the other issues "could move concurrently" with Kashmir, which must not be "sidelined".

Musharraf repeated this at the tea party that day, as was reported: "He had never sought to debunk the Shimla and Lahore accords and said that he would be willing to discuss "Kashmir and all other issues' " (The Indian Express; July 15). The Hindu reported: "Let us move on all issues in tandem."

One feature of the tea party has gone unnoticed. Musharraf asked the Hurriyat leaders to "adopt a flexible approach in their dealings with the Indian government and and also generate awareness about the inevitable changes which are expected on the Kashmir front". One correspondent added that in his "plainspeaking to the Hurriyat" he warned that "we all should be ready for some accommodation" (The Indian Express; July 15).

It was left to Sushma Swaraj to prove Musharraf's fears to be true on July 15, the first day in Agra: "The talks are progressing in the right direction much beyond expectations." She listed the issues - omitting Kashmir. The Telegraph reported the next day: "It can be said now that some people had an inkling that the Indian side would come out with a deliberate statement to suggest that Kashmir was not being discussed at all and that the summit was going very badly." The statement issued by Ashfaq Gondal, Press Information Officer, at 12-30 a.m. (July 16) explained that Kashmir had been discussed and "progress on Kashmir had to be in tandem with progress on other issues". Sushma Swaraj's amends were worse than her offence. "I was only highlighting the positive aspects." She said this after Musharraf's breakfast meeting on July 16 where he expressed ire over her remarks.

The best comment on this misconceived event can be made in the words of Iqbal Akhund, one of Pakistan's ablest diplomats: "Public relations is no substitute for policy; but in Third World countries with news media under their control, public relations had been the opiate of the ruling classes." No top negotiator should speak to the press, on or off the record, while parleys are in progress. Secluded Dayton was selected for talks on Bosnia.

It is, however, utterly false to attribute the collapse of the parleys to this lapse. For they continued thereafter. "Twice a mutually agreed draft could not be inked thereafter. The cautious Abdul Sattar's remark around 3-30 p.m. that "it is likely that a declaration would be signed" was welcomed by all. Sushma Swaraj's belated (July 20) claim that "things were derailed the moment the video recording of General Sahib's tough talk to a group of senior editors" was telecast is therefore untrue. While stressing "the need for confidentiality", Jaswant Singh listed the issues, revealed Pakistan's refusal to hold preparatory talks - but did not utter a word on the point that the draft had been agreed upon twice. He claimed that "if there was understanding on that ('cross-border terrorism') the present situation would not have arisen". No such deadlock arose on this issue in Islamabad in 1997 or in New York in 1998.

But if this was the sticking point, two questions arise: Why did he have to mention other excuses? And, why was the guest not invited to stay on for another day? Pervez Musharraf sadly complained at his press conference on July 20 that he was not. Abdul Sattar said on July 17 that had there been enough time "the residual paragraph could have been worked out" (The Times of India; July 18). All reports have it that the first draft was ready by 1-30 p.m.

The concessions Musharraf announced at the breakfast meet were not small - D was to be replaced by "issue"; no mention of plebiscite or U.N. resolutions; and a step-by-step approach. The elements of the nine-point declaration are known. It was agreed that "a settlement of the Kashmir issue would pave the way for normalisation of relations between the two countries". Talks on Kashmir, peace and security and CBMs and narcotics and international terrorism would be raised from the official to the political level; Foreign Ministers meeting biannually and heads of government atleast once a year. Other issues were included. The two sides had, indeed, come "very close to (Agra) being declared a huge success.... just a couple of steps short of an agreed formulation...." (The Hindu; July 19). It is those who prevented Vajpayee from taking those steps - the ones who did not want their reservations to be proved wrong - who bear the responsibility for the failure of the Agra Summit. His denial (July 22) of a final settlement does not contradict reports of aborted accords.

The Times of India reports that "according to the Pakistani side Mr. Jaswant Singh told Mr. Sattar that the document had to be shown to the Cabinet Committee on Security and promised to be back in 15 minutes... Finally he came back with the cryptic message that the CCS had rejected the portion on Kashmir and that cross-border terrorism had to be put in. To this, the Pakistani side countered that "if cross-border terrorism is in, there must be reference also to repression and respect for human rights in Kashmir. This is where the talks finally broke down" (July 21) ("aspirations of the people of J & K"' according to other accounts).

On July 17, Jaswant Singh said: "We will pick up the threads from the visit of the President of Pakistan." The next day the stand was reversed: "We will have to begin again on the basis of existing agreements - the Shimla agreement and the Lahore Declaration." Note the omission of the Islamabad Joint Statement (1997) as also the one in New York in 1998.

At his press conference on July 20 Musharraf repeated his acceptance of the "tandem approach and simultaneity". But the Stage III he spelt out then and in Agra on July 16 has gone unnoticed. At this stage, after the talks begin, "One could negate certain solutions." Evidently Pakistan would drop its extreme demands and so would India in order, as he had said in April, "to reach somewhere in the middle ground". He clearly wants to "do business" with India.

The Agra Summit did not fail for any of the reasons which led to the collapse of the 1955 Summit - lack of preparation or unrealistic expectations. It failed for the reason which accounted for the collapse of the Nehru-Zhou En-lai Summit in April 1960. Nehru was prisoner to the hawks in his Cabinet. Zhou was sent around to talk to G. B. Pant and Morarji Desai, who was rude to him. Nehru emerged politically weaker because of his failure of leadership.

Agra has impaired Vajpayee's standing. But he can reclaim it by resolving the sole issue which stood between the agreed Agra draft and its signature on that sad evening of July 16. There is reason to believe he would do that. The impact of an India-Pakistan Declaration now would be greater than that of the Tashkent or Shimla accords.

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