Monday, July 16, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


S P E C I A L  R E P O R T

Win-win diplomacy at work
Hari Jaisingh

Agra, July 15
It is a positive step forward after the intense diplomatic war of nerves before and during the India-Pakistan summit.

This psychological warfare had all the ingredients of high drama conducted amidst high expectations, considerable cynicism, tough posturings, plain speaking and hard bargaining on both sides.

What changed the tempo? What made President Pervez Musharraf soften his posture? Or was the pre-summit tough stance pre-planned to test the Indian nerves?

A complete factsheet can be compiled once all relevant information is available. Still, the net result after the first day of hectic discussion between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Musharraf is nothing short of a breakthrough in the relationship. Even the reaction from the Pakistani camp so far is positive.

The first statement read out by Indiaís spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs is very brief. This ensures a win-win situation both for New Delhi and Islamabad.

As agreed, the Kashmir issue will be discussed as per Pakistanís desire. It will, however, be all-embracing dialogue. Apparently, cross-border terrorism and stability along the Line of Control will figure in the proposed upgraded level of meetings between the two sides, as India desires.

There is no loser in this bargain. A lot depends on the drafting skills of future declarations.

The first signs of softening of Pakistanís attitude were visible at the luncheon hosted by the Indian Prime Minister in honour of the visiting dignitary. Talk anything during the one-to-one summit between General Musharraf and Mr Vajpayee, but publicly it must be packaged in a Kashmiri cover, a high-level functionary from Islamabad told me.

The ill organised tea party at Pakistan House in New Delhi on Saturday too gave some positive signs of softening. The change in the mood of defiance could also be seen on the face of Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar who was Pakistanís envoy in New Delhi in the eightees.

Later in the evening the new Pakistani tempo was very much reflected at the banquet hosted by the Indian President in honour of General Musharraf.

However, the plain speaking by Home Minister L. K. Advani on Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism gave a clear message to the ruling General that India meant business.

It was also made clear to the Pakistani delegation that it was in the interest of Islamabad to bury the past and make a new beginning in the bilateral relationship, especially in view of its precarious economic condition and sharp signals for a patch-up from Washington.

The next round of talks will unfold some new points of accords.

Indeed, the attempt at Agra is to ensure a reasonable face-saving victory for President Musharraf for his positive role as a peacemaker while the Prime Minister also gains politically as a man of peace. From Lahore to Agra it may be a small step, symbolically speaking, but is quite significant for reshaping India-Pakistan relations for the peoples of the two countries.

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