Fate of the Summit

After having raised high expectations, the Agra summit ended at a somber note. Despite five long and tricky one to one rounds between Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf and Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee the talks collapsed over the Jammu and Kashmir issue. Indian intelligentsia blamed Pakistan president Musharraf candid remarks about Kashmir at breakfast meeting with journalists for having doomed the talks. Many a Pakistan journalists and opinion makers blamed omission of Kashmir by information minister Sushma Swaraj for having hijacked the summit.

About the talks having ended in a deadlock many a story have been reported in the press but what exactly happened is difficult to say at this stage. Initially it seems that everything was going on smoothly and the two sides were very well appreciating each other’s point of view. The marathon one-to-one sessions of president Musharraf and Vajpayee followed by foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the two countries holding long sessions in cordial atmosphere indicated that the two countries were about to iron out their differences on vital issues including Jammu and Kashmir.

The reports that emanated from Agra suggested that the prime minister Vajpayee and General Musharraf had agreed on the draft joint declaration to be signed at the end of the summit. It was declaration but it was some invisible hand that appeared like a ghost and reversed the whole process. It was reported that Pakistan wanted Jammu and Kashmir to be mentioned as main issue in the declaration with some mention about its resolution in accordance with the aspirations of the people of the state. The Indian side wanted the cross border militancy to be mentioned in the joint declaration.  

For whatever reasons, the summit failed to issue a communiqué, joint statement or a joint declaration. The silver lining in otherwise somber environs was clearly seen when the two leaders engaged themselves in a 100-minute last ditch late-night round to salvage the summit from collapsing. It indicated the determination of the two leaders to add a new chapter to India-Pakistan relations. It also indicates their determination for ushering an era of peace in the South Asian region. The two leaders failed to break the deadlock, created basically by the obduracy and refusal of the Indians to be reasonable and accept even a diluted mention of Jammu and Kashmir in the proposed joint Agra declaration.

It had been after protracted track two meetings between Indian and Pakistani intellectuals and mounting international pressure that prime minister had invited Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf for talks. The efforts that had gone in making the two leaders meet and discuss all their outstanding issues and explore the possibilities of resolving them could not be wished away for the obduracy of bureaucrats who created chaotic conditions over selection that led to the deadlock.

True, the summit has failed to bring out any written document on the understanding reached between the two countries but with all its cumulative gains it would be difficult to believe that the summit failed. In fact there have been many a gain. The centrality of Jammu and Kashmir issue to India-Pakistan relations has been recognized by majority of the Indian opinion makers. The leaders on both the sides in fact accepted need for symbiotic relations between the two countries. Much before the vested interests in the two countries try to make a political capital of the set back to the summit at Agra the leaders in the two countries should meet each other once again with a resolve to finding a solution to the Jammu and Kashmir problem and other allied issues amicably.

Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.

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