(“Khali Pili Khalas” ("Much Ado About Naught") Salman Rushdie)


New Delhi, 21 July 2001

India, Pakistan and the World were entertained to the Vajpayee–Musharraf Summit drama which was about a very serious issue/dispute/problem i.e. Kasmir from the 14th July, for three exciting nail biting days –– with continuous talkathons on four Indian TV channels and several articles in the print media. As analysts we enjoyed every moment, surfing away to put this piece together but very glaringly the Military or Kashmiri view- points were totally lacking.

Even retired military officers were absent on TV to give comments, except for Col Iqbal Seghal from Pakistan a POW who escaped from Agra in 1971 and is now a publisher and Uday Bhaskar who is a serving officer in IDSA. It is the Kashmiris, the Army and Para Military Forces that are suffering the most but they don’t seem to count.

Two good lookers from Pakistan, one Ashma Jehangir a lawyer and another perky former adviser to the Pakistan Navy, were very articulate and sadly no good lookers from India could match them, save Barkha Dutt who did a programme on the summit –– where Admiral L Ramdas now an anti-nuke man grinned his way to say “I told you so”. “We have to listen to Pakistan’s concerns”. He is part of Track 2 and has stakes, as we all have for peace and progress –– but don’t forget his daughter is married to a Pakistani general!

Our Air Chief did not salute Musharraf at Rashtrapati Bhavan (see Second Opinion, which appeared in the Pioneer.) Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw now over 80 also agreed in Asian Age. Strangely, the Chiefs of Staff were not invited to the President’s banquet (?), because we know they cannot dare to decline to attend the President’s banquet –– and they never say a word on what they think is correct or incorrect. They obey. It seems their presence was irrelevant at such a function, which surely is a bad precedent. They have no choice but to defend India’s borders no matter what the politicians do, but we hope they spoke up in pre summit briefings and explained the military ORBAT (Order of Battle), between India and Pakistan which is now Nuclear, and to get that Attot Ang (part of the POK) will not be militarily possible in the present circumstances and nuclear confrontation may follow if we try it.

(To IDC it appears that we got our values confused a bit –– mistaking the man for the Chair he represents. In the Indian Army there is a tradition to salute at the door before entering an office. Thus even when a General enters the office of a subordinate officer he will salute first, as traditionally he is saluting the Chair and not the person sitting in it. So traditionally, by standing in the reception line the Air Chief would be saluting the President of Pakistan and not Gen Musharraf! We are not sure if he did it of his own volition or was ordered not to salute. If there were any doubts on this issue why didn’t he just stay away? Nothing intrigues us any more!)

This is the way we are and Musharraf may be Pakistani, but he is of the same generic ilk and came to India to get his own way. Yet he is a miltary officer, has been to RCDS, wears uniform and so has a way of blunt talking to achieve the objective and hopefully has some ethics. We probably did not have an objective for Agra. In fact he came out well and entertained the world with two hours of his TV.-media interaction on the 20th July and spilt the beans that a declaration was ready but then it was not agreed to by India’s Cabinet Committee on Security which means Advani, Yeshwant Sinha and K C Pant. Singly or severally they did not agree, maybe because the PM and Jaswant Singh were the framers of the declaration. Surely the PM could not have had second thoughts?  I K Gujral also admits we do not know the truth.

Now the MEA has been ordered to go back to the Shimla and Lahore agreements –– so the lessons in the book 'Indians –– Why We Are What We Are?‘ are being reenacted all over again. It was Lee Kuan Yew who said that, “when you want to go back on your word let the Indians handle it, because the Chinese will not like to lose face. The Indian does not mind losing face and he can talk his way out of it.” Please also note that Singapore’s Law Minister responsible for Internal Security is invariably of Indian descent or a Sri Lankan Tamil. In this context Pramod Mahajan on Star TV’s Realty Bites was brilliant.

At Agra we saw India take two steps forward by PM Vajpayee  graciously inviting the Pakistani General and going in for a one to one with him for hours –– and then calling in the delegations who read out the riot act –– this is what we analyse had happened. It was one step back.

IDC in its earlier uploads had been pessimistic but not so pessimistic as to predict that no declaration would come out. So we are happy the declaration was made and agreed upon but the Cabinet Committee on Security declined it –– and till we hear the Indian side this is our analysis. We are sure this is not the end, Parliament opens on Monday 23rd July and talkative Indians will spill the beans sooner than later. The truth will be out.

Much has been seen on TV and written in the media on the failed summit so we will not labour on it. We quote Charan Singh that seasoned politician who had said in his time "The misery of your enemy (Pakistan) should also bring a tear to your eye".

The fact is that the Pakistani President's visit and summit was ironic in its poor preparation. But as Musharraf the cigar smoking gambler and some one who wants the South Asian area to move ahead has said, if we are agreed on the problem of Kashmir (it is problematic as 200,000 security forces and US$2 billion per year are spent there and yet no one is able to control the deaths), we can draft matters in half an hour and proceed. PM Vajpayee too comes off as a great guy and those who have been liaison officers to him know he enjoys being in good spirits and has lived a dangerously happy bachelor’s life, so many expected miracles at Agra. Yet after that media event and a few million dollars spent on a get together to agree to disagree, a drama seems to have been enacted by Vajpayeeji and his team. There were no tears from the Indian side, which wanted Kashmir toned down to an Issue to which Pervez agreed, but he was not going to give up his lever on terrorism. The professionals did not seem to know the difference between insurgency, militancy and terrorism –– all these lead to law and order problems. The semantics took over not the definition of what Kashmir is going through. The architect of Kargil, General Pervez Musharraf is now not being forgiven for his stance at the summit by the MEA mandarins who want to highlight the notings on old files and seem to shun any new thinking on the subject.

The social side had lunch hosted by Prime Minister Vajpayee on July 15 at a 5-Star Hotel (not Hyderabad House!) saw the shrewd Abdul Sattar sitting next to RM/EAM Jaswant Singh and Begum Saheba sat next to Vajpayee. L K Advani was close to Musharraf with former Prime Minister V P Singh to his left and I K Gujral to his right. Sharukh Khan and Yusuf Khan (Dilip Kumar) were present. Then came the confabulations with the Hurriyat and the high tea at the High Commission followed by the talks at Agra. In an interview to Gulf News, Musharraf clarified his stance on the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, which require both countries to enhance mutual trust and cooperation.

Finally it seems on Monday 16th at mid day the two Foreign Ministers agreed on 'The Agra Declaration' but then something went wrong possibly on the Indian side as Musharraf’s statement at the briefing went on repeatedly to explain this. 

Post Agra Jaswant Singh defended India's stance well and thank God he has excellent communication skills (learnt no doubt at Mayo and the NDA), which Pakistanis say are robot like. Hope Salman Rushdie’s phrase ‘khali pili khalas’ does not apply and we can pick up the threads soon or the ante will be up in Kashmir and our fine Army and Para Military forces will not know what Agra was all about.

We do not know what the PM spoke in his one to one talks with Musharraf, but the Prime Minister clearly gave vent to India's approach to relations with Pakistan in his prepared statement, to please his Cabinet Colleagues when they joined the visiting General for some twenty minutes. Vajpayee spoke of the need for a "comprehensive view" of Indo-Pakistani relations involving a "broad based" approach to our relations. He candidly pushed Musharraf to see the problems posed by Pakistani support for terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere. Musharraf just wanted the first irritant Kashmir addressed but then as usual we want CBMs. And so on other issues such as Siachen there was a chasm. The No-War pact etc. fell by the way side. Vajpayee seems to have been briefed by the intelligence that there are Indian POWS in Pakistan and the General like a soldier said, “We must be mad if we have kept POWs for 30 years.” In any case the POWs if any in Pakistani jails must be mad by now and Pakistan has confirmed there are none. Vajpayee also dwelt on the support provided by Pakistan to people involved in the Bombay bomb blasts, harboring of criminals like Dawood Ibrahim, the hijackers of IC 814 and to residual terrorist elements who have been engaged in terrorist activities in Punjab. The General saw to it that Dawood left Pakistan and assured India the POWs matter will be looked into.

On the Media part of the Summit, here below are the statements of the External Affairs spokesperson Mrs Nirupama Rao, which are telling. The GOI has yet to realise that the media is part of the daily decision-making and transparency is in the air. Even as far back as the Falklands war Admiral Sandy Woodward had said that he fought two wars at sea, one against the Argentenians and the other against the media embarked on his ships. The same was the case with the Gulf War, which we also saw in our drawing rooms.

About Sattar giving out contents of the draft declaration, she said "This is a very novel interpretation on how diplomatic parleys have to be conducted." "If the logic of the media conducting negotiations simultaneously with the principals is to be accepted, then I am afraid international or bilateral confidential parleys or discussions might very well be held in an amphitheatre with the media present all the time” –– sarcasm at its best!

Finally what is our analysis? 

India is unclear what to do and how to deal with the Kashmir problem and shuns third party mediation so it is in a soup. Farooq Abdullah wants Azadi (Freedom). Since India has a fine Army it can linger with indecision on and on and hope that Pakistan goes down economically.

Pervez Musharraf knows Kashmir must be discussed some day and embarrasses Indian leaders who are divided on it, first with Pakistan’s view and then with the Kashmiris themselves and so Pervez gains legitimacy. He created the distinct impression that when he says Kashmir he means Kashmir which is in India’s control and Kashmiris to him are the Muslim population of Kashmir only. To him the Hurriyat, and not the elected Government of the State, represents the Kashmiris .

We were intrigued that no Indian politician or media person asked him to explain on TV why he was holding on to a large part of Kashmir (POK) when the whole of the state had acceded to India. Or how Pakistan had handed over a huge part of it to the Chinese? Why did no one confront him with the plight of the Hindu residents of Kashmir (they are Kashmiris too) who have been systematically hounded out of their homes and their businesses and houses taken over by militant action?

At this juncture we quote Lt Gen Vinay Shankar from a brilliant article on Kasmir in the Asian Age on 7 Jul. His artillery bore the brunt of Kargil as much as the infantry did. At first he admits elections in Kashmir may have been rigged. “Till a few years ago, if the people of the valley were asked to make a choice between India and Pakistan the odds were that they would elect to join Pakistan.” 

This is another truth from another General who goes on to say. “If the will of the people of Kashmir is sought today, it is almost certain that a vast majority would seek the status of an independent country “.

Act One, Scene One on Kasmir is over and Act Two has begun. What next?

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