July 18, 2001,
Agra another step towards peace: India
Agra, July 17
“India and Pakistan should transcend these differences for the welfare of the two peoples and it is New Delhi’s constant endeavour to bridge them,” he said at a press conference here in the forenoon.
Mr Jaswant Singh said the leadership was absolutely clear that cross-border terrorism and violence must cease and India had the will and resolve to defeat all such challenges. “We will pick up the threads in pursuit of peace, friendship and cooperation with Pakistan.”
Without any posturing or rhetoric, the minister said in a calm, measured, confident and dignified tone that “unifocal approach conflicts with the concept that we abide by. Internationally, nations and officials do not and cannot negotiate through the media. Indo-Pak relations must be broad-based without being dictated that unless the centrality of Jammu and Kashmir is accepted, there can be no progress with regard to other aspects. Bilateral relations between the two countries cannot be held hostage by a single issue. All issues have to be addressed in totality by adding J and K as well. Cross-border terrorism is unacceptable to India. It is an attack on humanity and not a problem in this country alone.”
In this context, Mr Jaswant Singh pointed out that even 22 innocent civilians were killed in Jammu, India persisted in its endeavour. “We continue to believe that against the efforts that have preceded the Agra summit, the present one cannot be negated, rescinded or wished away. Agra was a continuation of the Lahore process, the foundation for which was laid by the Simla Accord.”
Removing doubts that the impasse at the Agra summit had brought the resumed dialogue crashing once again, he explained that the invitation extended by Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf had been accepted by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. “It (invitation to Mr Vajpayee) remains in place and mutually convenient dates for the Prime Minister’s visit to Pakistan will be fixed through diplomatic channels.”
Denying speculation that some parties to the Indo-Pak talks were indulging in a game, Mr Jaswant Singh said complex negotiations of this nature always hang by a thread as it were. Every effort was made to arrive at a text with the cooperation of Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar. It is not possible for India to comprise on issues of principle. “Efforts to promote peace and friendship will remain. The Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration is one facet. We will continue till we reach that destination.”
Reaffirming India’s commitment to “walk the high road of peace” with Pakistan, Mr Jaswant Singh said he would “not characterise the Agra summit a failure. This is yet another step in finding lasting peace though there is disappointment on both sides about the deadlock.
Asked if the summit had been convened prematurely without adequate preparation, the Minister said enough work had been done by the government weeks before the summit. India did suggest to Pakistan for exchange of officials to agree upon the agenda for the Vajpayee-Musharraf summit.
“Consistently, the response from Pakistan was that they did not want officials to visit Islamabad. They wanted the Heads of State and government to fix their own agenda. I can’t dictate. I can only request.” He ruled out any third-party mediation saying, “Three is a crowd.” He said there was no attempt to bring in a third party. He maintained that India and Pakistan were enough to deal with bilateral problems.
About stability on the Line of Control, the Minister acknowledged there was “relative quiet and not total peace.” At the same time, he said, infiltration was continuing and India would deal with it.
Mr Jaswant Singh said the issue of Indian prisoners of war languishing in Pakistani jails was a matter of concern. The government had raised this issue with Pakistan. General Musharraf had assured them that he would go back and look into this matter.
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