Thursday , 27 July 2017
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Agra Summit

Agra Summit

The Summit brought forth the differing focus and perceptions of the two countries. India intended to discuss the entire gamut of relations ranging from CBMs to economic and political issues, nuclear risk reduction and other areas which were identified by the two countries in the Lahore Declaration in addition to Kashmir. However, Pakistan insisted that Kashmir was the core issue to the Indo- Pak dispute and until it is resolved, talks on other issues such as economic cooperation and CBMs were pointless. Pakistan had already started showing its interest on Kashmir as the main topic for discussion much before the talks

 

First of all it must be discussed that what has been achieved or what were the main terms on which bilateral engagement Agra took place. Those points of concern were terrorism, Siachin issues, Kashmir dispute There were few progresses made although expected end did not come through. Both the sides agreed in principle that the settlement of Kashmir issue would pave the way for normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. They also agreed to hold annual summit and biannual meetings of foreign ministers to tackle the three issues – Peace, Security and Confidence Building Measures (CBM), Jammu & Kashmir, and Narcotics and terrorism.

 

Decade-old differences between the two countries couldn’t be rubbed out in one single visit. Secondly, one must bear this in mind that process of making effective efforts didn’t pursue consistently. Due to many ups and downs or events ensued by non-state actors trust deficit was created. Such trust-shaking events plunged any current development into stalemate. At end of any on-going process we feel need to restart. Vajpayee-Musharraf Agra Summit is a start and we should not give up. It is definitely a defining moment in our bilateral relations.

 

Can we say Agra Summit as failure or success? One must not forget that in politics and then in international politics there is nothing like success or failure. International relations always face fluidity.Summit at least unveiled the freezing divergences between the two country. It gave a framework which could lead to sound and reliable relationships. Challenges on both sides had been realised. Initially it was premature to call it off as a failure as not concluding the Summit by issuing a declaration is not at all a yardstick for the success of a Summit. Declaration at the end of a Summit is not a definition of success going by the fate of declarations/proclamations in 1999 in Lahore (Vajpayee- Nawaz Sharif), 1997 in Male (IK Gujral – Nawaz Sharif), 1989 in Islamabad (Benazir Bhutto – Rajiv Gandhi), 1987 in New Delhi (Rajiv Gandhi-Zia-Ul Haq), 1972 in Simla (Indira Gandhi- Z A Bhutto).

 

If we view the Agra summit as an attempt to restart the bilateral discussions especially after Kargil war (recall that Kargil war was after the 1999 Lahore declaration), is that not in itself a success rather a hopeful situation? The sheer fact that both the heads decided against issuing a declaration when there are still some issues to be resolved shows that they mean business rather than telling the world that we agreed on certain things but not to be implemented, as it happened with the above listed Summits. If one wants to be objective and optimistic, without yielding to the Press versions, one can only say that the Agra Summit was inconclusive. We must continue talks and with more intense effort and above all with the change in our mind-sets. Amidst all kinds of allegations against each other, it is heartening to note that both the countries asserted that Agra Summit is a prelude to future efforts and future efforts would concentrate on restoring peace in the region, building mutual trust and friendship, and work in co-operation.Even the self-claimed savior of Kashmiris, the Hurriyat, denied that the Agra summit was a defeat. Let us not get disheartened and tear the preface of the book by saying that it did not address all the expectations of the reader. The good will developed from Agra Summit would take us forward. Hopefully, Agra summit served the purpose of cementing better relations between the two countries especially after the Kargil war. Also, this would keep the US away from meddling with the Kashmir issue. If Agra summit can truly succeed in lifting the bilateral negotiations to political level (foreign ministers level), as it is being projected, that would turn out to be an important outcome of this summit. This would give enough room for accommodation, which would not be possible at delegation level talks.

 

Musharraf’s breakfast meeting with press members during his stay at Agra gave chance to media to create sensational hype among public. He should have avoided certain things such as negotiation-hazardous media conference; giving statement about feelings of Pakistani people  for Indian government; hosting tea party to members of Hurriyat Conference. If only we are committed to move ahead, let us not make a fuss of these less-serious things. They are not at all the causes for this inconclusive summit but had not been proved as reasons of success of talks.

An agreement on the most difficult and contentious issues that have nosedived the relations between both our countries was not arrived at during the summit entirely due to the semantics of the draft agreement. Hardcore approach had been adopted on words used in the declaration. For India, cross -border terrorism is the major concern and Pakistan is obsessed with Kashmir. India considers Kashmir as an integral part of it. The Indian side reportedly took objection to the phrase in the draft agreement that read as settlement of Kashmir issue (reader may note the reference to Kashmir as an issue and not as a dispute). The Pakistani delegation objected to the reference to sponsored narcotics and terrorism. Pakistan also objected to the word “cross-border” and it kept on referring to it as only cross-LoC. After marathon discussions for two days, four times at official level, India decided to drop the special reference to cross-border terrorism and satisfied by including the word terrorism as one of the three main issues. Also, Pakistan gave up on the phrase according to the aspirations of the people of J&K in the context of solution to Kashmir issue. One can judge from these as to how much we fool ourselves by not getting into the crux of the issue. After these phrases were changed as per the wishes of both the sides, and after the draft agreement took a final shape close to adoption and acceptance, Prime Minister reportedly forwarded it to the cabinet for its approval. At this stage, his cabinet colleagues reportedly rejected it. Pakistan alleges that at this stage an invisible hand played its role, with an indirect reference to the Home Minister Mr L.K.Advani.

 

The Indian side has come face to face with a confident- perhaps overconfident- military mind grappling with Pakistan’s serious challenges of political freedom, economic growth and sectarian strife. They have sized up Musharraf’s ability and willingness to reign in the fundamentalist militant organisations operating from inside Pakistan. His argument that armed violence in Jammu and Kashmir is entirely indigenous in nature has shown his disregard for the realities of the situation and for international opinion. It was expected that President Musharraf would bring his military asset of clear thinking to bear on the deeper need to move India Pakistan relationship to a stable threshold. The shared interests of both nations and of the region were expected to motivate his visit to India. It is unfortunate that he could succeed in projecting himself no better than his military predecessors. Kargil confirmed that General Musharraf had misunderstood the strategic outcome of a military action. Agra reinforces the belief that President Musharraf could not grasp the strategic opportunity to place Pakistan on a new course. The two countries have , however, taken the position that they will continue with the dialogue process. There in lies the hope for the future of India- Pakistan relationship. In the meanwhile, violence in Jammu and Kashmir has escalated. Pakistan has given up maintaining restraint on the Line of Control. It has recommenced the firing to which Indian troops have responded.

 

Americans used different strategies to push India and Pakistan to the negotiating table. Abdul Satar was told that US appreciated Pakistan’s role in catching in acts of terrorism against US interests abroad but it was not doing anything in containing the threat of extremism from Afghanistan. It warned him that new Arab elements were moving into Afghanistan. Richard Boucher, US State Department spokesman emphasized that, the questions of India and Pakistan and the issues that they were going to deal with are very important to them and to the US. We look forward to them for establishing a base of cooperation to produce a more peaceful and stable situation in the region, and it is our hope that they will do that. US. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage was of the view that there was much ground work to be done to build political support for lifting US sanctions on Pakistanis, but an India-Pakistan summit later this month could have an impact on this process.

 

Armitage went on to criticise Musharraf for undermining democracy, first by overthrowing a civilian government and then declaring himself as President. Armitage, who recently visited India as part of President George Bush’s campaign to promote missile defence, described, that 50 years old USA relationship with Pakistan, to its embarrassment as relatively false. He praised India as a democracy and rising regional power. Interestingly Armitage did not visit Pakistan.

 

US administration used persuasion to get India around to the negotiating table with Pakistan. India was told that dispute like Kashmir was distracting attention in emerging as world power. India was promised lollipops in terms of upgrading and widening anti-terrorism training programme. US official described Osama bin Laden and Taliban as common threat to national interests of India and US. American officials dug up pro-US and pro-Chinese divide in Pak Army. They told Indian officials that Musharraf, a pro-US moderate man was under pressure from pro-Chinese elements in the army, Lt Gen Aziz and Lt Gen Mehmood. They argued that this loby had strong links with Jehadi groups. General Musharraf was described as a peacenik in commando uniform.  US officials said that it was the fear of a counter-coup that forces Colin Powell to nudge New Delhi to invite Musharraf. US argued that a successful summit will strengthen Musharraf at home. This success needs concessions from India. India was also asked to bail out Pakistan. Pro-American peace lobby in India had launched a media blitz for seeking unilateral concessions to Pakistan. India had already supported 3 billion IMF accommodation to Pakistan this year, as well as concessions over Kashmir, like the extended NICO and the involvement of Hurriyat.

 

Similarly arguments were given after Benazir Bhutto took reins of power. It was said then that India needed to engage her benignly for fear of provoking Pak military into overthrowing her. The fact on the contrary was that she had made her peace with the military.

 

The Agra summit ended with the two sides not being able to agree on a Joint statement or declaration. Five rounds of talks between the two leaders could not break the ice. However, the summit reconfirmed the differing approaches to deal with issues which affect their relations. On the positive side, Musharraf and Vajpayee would have understood each other’s point of view. They would have a clearer idea of each other’s power and willingness to make the necessary compromises, if a solution to the Kashmir issue is to be found. They would have realised each other’s political compulsions. Gen. Musahrraf, whose experience of dealing with India was confined to military operations, has seen at close quarters the Indian political leadership and its approach to India- Pakistan relationship. He would have found the Indian public response to his visit a pleasant experience.

About Ali Tariq

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