Tuesday, August 7, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Caravan of peace to Pak will continue: Jaswant
T.V. Lakshminarayan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 6
The caravan of peace to Pakistan which began from Lahore will continue its journey, despite the Agra setback and “dogs of war” will not be able to deviate it from its path, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told the Lok Sabha today.

India has accepted Pakistan’s invitation for further summit level talks and dates for the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s, visit to that country would be worked out at a diplomatically convenient schedule, Mr Jaswant Singh said.

Making an intervention on the discussion on the Agra Summit, Mr Jaswant Singh, for the first time, made a very detailed presentation on what happened at Agra.The effort took more than one-and-a-half hours.

Giving a point by point reply to every criticism and concern expressed by the members of the Opposition and other parties, Mr Jaswant Singh said the media had built up a hype about the summit and when the results were not according to its expectations, they termed it a failure.

He was particularly severe on the Congress, which,he said,had charged the government with not doing enough homework for the summit. He referred to the Simla Agreement, the Tashkent Agreement and other interventions in the United Nations, adding that the outcome in each case was not entirely in India’s favour.

On the Kashmir issue, the Minister said Pakistan’s approach was on the consequence of the issue which was based on compulsive hostility arising from the two-nation theory.

India had pointed out to Pakistan that the dispute in Kashmir could not be based on the fact that there were majority Muslims in the area. There were several other districts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where such ratios existed.

When Pakistan President Musharraf referred to Kashmir as the core issue, the Prime Minister had retorted by saying that he would then talk about the core of the core issue. At this point, the Pakistan leader said he did not want to get into history.

On the accusations that the Indian Government had not done enough homework and there was no prepared agenda, Mr Jaswant Singh said even when the Prime Minister was recovering from the knee surgery he was studying all details of various talks between India and Pakistan. The Prime Miniter was fully equipped for the summit talks. On various developments that led to the summit, he said the Prime Minister began the initiative with the Lahore summit. The Kargil and Kandahar episodes were a setback but these highlighted the role of cross-border terrorism and it helped India to create global opinion against terrorism.

The ceasefire by the Hizbul Mujahedeen and the non-initiation of combat operations announced by Mr Vajpayee were events that further threw international attention on terrorism.

Having got world opinion against terrorism, India decided to give peace one more chance when General Musharraf took over. He said India had not given legitimacy to the military ruler as it believed that it was a task for the people of Pakistan. As far as India was concerned it went by the dictum that you can choose your friends but not your neighbour.

On the summit agenda , he said apart from continuing from what the “Simla and Lahore process bequeathed us, the composite dialogue process is very much part of the agenda.

As far as India’s position on Kashmir was concerned, it was well defined in Schedule I, Act I of the Constitution. This included areas ceded to China by Pakistan.

On not playing the media game with Pakistan, Mr Jaswant Singh said the Agra summit was held in retreat. India had suggested that the summit must take place in Goa, away from the glare of the media.

It was General Musharraf who suggested that he wanted to come to Delhi. It was then decided that soon after his arrival and a lunch by the President of India, he would take off to Agra. The Pakistan President then made another request that he wanted to spend at least a night in Delhi.India as the host could not refuse the guest.

On speculation that an agreement was almost ready before the summit, Mr Jaswant Singh said it was like saying somebody was half pregnant. “You have an agreement or you don’t have an agreement.”

As for reports that the Indian Foreign Minister had made several corrections in the draft of the declaration, Mr Jaswant Singh said he had made several corrections. The pencilled corrections could have related to correcting “Punjabi English” to making comments on square brackets, which is an euphemism for areas of non-agreement. Similarly, the Pakistan Foreign Secretary also had made his contributions to the draft.

He said Pakistan’s media management was against cannons of all diplomatic conduct.Back

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