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Archive for July, 2001

Understanding Each Other

At Agra Pakistan and India seemed very close to an agreement, post-Summit statements make it quite clear that both sides were in fact far apart in their respective perceptions about what the agreement amounted to. Pakistan held out that their long-standing stand on Kashmir being a core issue was about to be formally recognized, India felt that its main concern, “cross-border terrorism” was going to be addressed by Pakistan and this would drastically curtail the freedom struggle within Kashmir. Such different interpretations post-Summit would have made any Declaration a non-starter, the various clauses could have been used as enough pretext by extremists on either side to destroy whatever understanding was developing among the leaders and intelligentsia of both the countries, seriously retarding the peace process. Both Musharraf and Vajpayee are very conscious of hard-liners in their constituencies, that is why they avoided eroding each others’ domestic standing by giving these hard-liners due cause. When two people meet to solve a problem, the sensitivity each displays for the other’s problems despite disagreeing with each other goes a long way in creating the right atmosphere for eventual solution. The good chemistry between Musharraf and Vajpayee was the main success of Agra, that it did not result in an “instant Declaration” may be temporarily disappointing, in the cold light of reality one can understand it has created the foundation that will eventually lead to lasting solutions.

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1000 yrs in Less Than 100 hrs?

About the best thing that could have happened to Pakistan and India was to have no agreement at all at Agra. Munich is a benchmark that compromises made on appeasement can have a terrible backlash. Refusing to fall into the trap of having to satisfy an expectant world at any cost, the two countries decided to walk away from the negotiating table without a Joint Declaration containing compromises lacking sincere intent. There may not have been the success of a Declaration, there was no failure of the peace process at Agra. Consider the intent behind a play of words in the language of the draft declaration, any agreement reached under such compulsions would have been torn apart by domestic dissent on either side before the ink was dry, the two leaders would have been eaten up alone by the lions-in-waiting on either side. Maturity prevailed in foregoing a short-time exultation of a contrived success, and in agreeing to continue future discussions in the congenial atmosphere that seems to have largely replaced the public acrimony of the past the countries may have had their first real success on the road to achieving lasting peace. Instead of the dialogue of the deaf prevailing since Kargil, a growing understanding (and a public deference hitherto missing) was manifest in the statements of the two Foreign Ministers the day after Agra. Many commentators have observed that 54 years of mistrust, suspicion, conflict, etc could never be erased in three days, unfortunately the divide goes back over a thousand years plus. Given such an environment even if the miracle had happened, the very speed of the understanding would have been its undoing.

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