November 2, 2001

Musharraf Leaves India Disappointed

The first summit meeting between India and Pakistan in more than two years ended in failure, with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf flying home on Tuesday in the middle of the night without any agreement.

India expressed disappointment at the failure of the sides to produce an expected joint declaration. Pakistani officials accused India of refusing to accept the language in the document that the leaders had negotiated. But, after a day of roller coaster expectations, proof that the summit had failed to yield any breakthrough on the key subject of Kashmir came as the Pakistani leader's motorcade sped off in the darkness toward the airport in the northern Indian city of Agra.

Soon after Musharraf and his delegation left their final meeting with Vajpayee inside a heavily guarded hotel, an Indian official confirmed there had been no agreement.

``I am disappointed to inform all of you that although the commencement of the process and the beginning of the journey has taken place, the destination of an agreed joint statement has not been reached,'' Ministry of External Affairs spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told a news briefing just after midnight.

Pakistan accused Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's government of going back on changes to the document that the leaders had agreed during their own negotiations.

``It appears there is an invisible hand which is creating obstructions repeatedly,'' Pakistan's chief spokesman, Major-General Rashid Qureshi, told TV network Zee News as he described the final frantic hours of haggling.

``The joint declaration had been approved by the president and the prime minister. The two foreign ministers had also approved it. But when they came back from Indian officials, there were changes in it,'' he said.


Although neither side spelt out the specific differences that scuttled agreement, Kashmir was the issue that had produced open disagreement even before the final breakdown in the search for common ground.

Mainly-Muslim Kashmir was left divided between Pakistan and India after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. A rebellion against Indian rule there has raged since 1989.

Pakistan wanted the summit to produce agreement from India that settling their 54-year-long struggle for Kashmir was the key to solving all other issues between their countries -- issues that India preferred to focus on.

India, however, considers Kashmir an integral part of the nation -- and therefore not negotiable -- while accusing Pakistan of aiding the guerrillas fighting Indian control. Pakistan says it gives only moral support to the rebellion.

``What will this do to conditions in the valley?'' Kanti Bajpai, a strategic affairs analyst at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said after the failure of the summit.

``We could see a harder push from across the border and security forces will have to be more on alert now.''

The summit -- which diplomats had seen as possibly the best ever chance to end Indian-Pakistani rivalry -- had been held against a backdrop of continued violence in Kashmir, where more than 30,000 people have been killed since the revolt began.

Thirty-seven people died in fresh violence on Monday, bringing the death toll since the eve of Musharraf's three-day visit to India to nearly 90, authorities said.


Sayed Salahuddin, supreme commander of the frontline Hizbul Mujahideen guerrilla group, said Kashmiris were now convinced that the path to a settlement lay only in armed struggle.

``Our armed struggle will continue as long as Indian forces are in Kashmir,'' Salahuddin told Reuters, blaming India for the failure of the Agra summit.

The summit had been roller-coaster ride, with Sunday's first day of serious talks after a day of ceremony in New Delhi producing positive comments from both sides.

But that mood of congeniality was shattered when Pakistan issued an angry statement at midnight condemning comments on the talks by India's information minister that omitted any reference to Kashmir being a subject.

Musharraf followed that up with a hard-hitting performance before invited Indian editors on Sunday morning. There he drove home his message that Kashmir had to be the focus of the summit if the decades of enmity between the countries were to be ended.

``I keep talking of Kashmir, you keep talking of cross-border terrorism...we can't even agree on a word!'' he told the editors, in a forceful display that impressed his breakfast guests and was broadcast in both countries.

But assurances of a joint declaration that would signify a successful summit were given by both sides as Musharraf and Vajpayee met again and appeared to patch up the differences over the information minister's comments.

However, as the hours dragged on without the promised signing ceremony and joint news conference, it became clear that serious difficulties remained.

Finally, Pakistani officials said Musharraf would be visiting Vajpayee in a final courtesy stop and then heading to the airport. As the stop at Vajpayee's hotel continued, speculation of a last-minute deal surfaced, only to be finally put to rest by his motorcade pulling out of the gate and disappearing down the road.

(Chinadaily.com.cn 07/17/2001)

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