Agra Summit: A Failure?

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Agra Summit ended up in an anti-climax. Before and during the meeting of President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee, there were huge expectations. Apparently the process started off well and almost all the reports coming from Delhi and Agra on July 14 and 15 were positive. The body language of the two leaders was enough to prove that they meant business and were determined to write their names in the history books. Everybody was foreseeing the start of a new era: an era where the traditional rivals of South Asia will emerge as good friends. Many were predicting that the two leaders would be able to resolve all their outstanding issues including Kashmir even before leaving the negotiation table. Analysts on electronic and print media were talking about opening up of boarders between the two countries, start of mutual trade and cultural exchange programs. Few of the people in Pakistan even started dreaming about spending their next summer at the hill resort of Srinagar. But let not forget the known English saying, If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

The evening of July 16 proved to be a great disappointment for many, when differences arose between the two delegations on the wording of the declaration. After the delay of about eight hours the Pakistani contingent decided to come back home without signing any declaration. Yet the peace lovers had not lost their heart and waited for the official versions of the two governments. Though the Minister for External Affairs in India and the Minster for Foreign Affairs in Pakistan spoke their mind on the next day, but what they said proved to be a sign of great encouragement for all those who were still optimist. The two press conferences were similar in tune and theme. Both the ministers declared the Summit a success, inspite of the fact that differences arose between the two sides on the text of the agreement, which was never signed. They considered the Summit as the beginning of the dialog process between the two countries and hoped that the process will continue. Jaswant Singh clarified that the visit of Vajpayee to Pakistan is still on.

The clarification of the two sides managed to satisfy few but failed to answer the queries in many minds. How can one consider the summit as a success, when there was no one to see off Musharraf at the time of his final departure from the Jay Pee Palace Hotel, Agra? The disappointment was clearly reflecting from the face of the General. One wonders if there was any official protocol given to the president of Pakistan at Agra airbase? Actually, the things were never moving in the right direction. On the arrival of Pervez Musharraf at New Delhi airport, Indian air chief in uniform did not salute him. India banned live television coverage of the official welcome given to President Musharraf because of sensitivities in broadcasting pictures of an Indian military chief saluting the visiting General. The Samadhi of Gandhi was washed in order to purify it after the visit of Musharraf. Indian media showed the interviews of the people who believed that it was not possible for them to trust the Pakistani president. In fact Indians, as a nation, were not ready to treat the villain of Kargil as a national guest.

Another point, which one fails to understand is why the Indian Prime Minister invited General Musharraf if he was not ready to consider Kashmir as a dispute or, for that matter, an issue. Even before leaving Pakistan, Musharraf stance was strong. Loud and clear, he repeatedly stated that he was going to discuss Kashmir and other issues with India. If Indians were sticking to their old stance that Kashmir is an integral part of their country, one cannot find any justification for this entire drama. The expected joint declaration was also not issued because hard liners like L.K. Advani, in the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, refused to consider Kashmir as a dispute to be accepted in the declaration. Keeping these facts in mind, I wonder why was every body so optimistic about the Agra Summit?

The only way Pakistan and India can come closer is if the two countries, especially India will change their mind set.

If we look at the history of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan we find one common factor in all the negotiations i.e. India dominated all the discussions. Mohammad Ali Bogra declared Nehru as his elder brother. After creating problems for the Indian army in the battlefield, Pakistan lost the war of 1965 at Tashkent. At Simla Pakistan agreed to change the cease fire line with the line of control and thus gave a number of areas to India, which were previously part of Azad Kashmir. It was Vajpayee and his delegation, which commanded the talks at Lahore. For the first time after Quaid-i-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan we find a Pakistani leader, who was not dominated by the Indians on negotiation table.

Keeping their traditions alive, Vajpayee tried to divert Musharraf from the core issue of Kashmir and tried to talk on economy, culture and trade etc. However, Musharraf showed his commitment with the Kashmir issue when he decided not to include the Finance or Commerce minister in his delegation. The way Musharraf pleaded the case of Kashmir in front of the editors of Indian press in a breakfast meeting was a bold act of bravery and responsibility. Many leading Indian editors during the meeting accepted Kashmir as the main bone of conflict between the two countries. Without any doubt, it was a great success of the General.

During the past summits between the two countries, Indians while finalizing the draft, played with the words. They tried to repeat the same at Agra. When the main ideas were approved by the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India and were seconded by the Minister for External Affairs in the Indian Cabinet and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Indian officials tried to spell the idea in a way that, in the times to come, they could interpret it according to their wishes. It was a planned move. They were sure that Pakistani president was interested in taking something with him from Agra and thus will repeat the mistake committed by his predecessors. However, this time their calculations proved wrong and they failed to judge the person they were dealing with. Pervez Musharraf preferred not to sign any declaration than to sign one, which goes against his principles and the wishes of his people. In this way Agra Summit can be consider as a success for Pakistan and not a failure.