AHEAD OF INDIA-PAKISTAN
'Megaphone Diplomacy' Over Kashmir
and Pakistan's agreement to avoid any more ''megaphone diplomacy''
before a mid-July summit, expected to address their long-standing
dispute over Kashmir, sets a better tone for the high-level
meeting, reports Inter
Press Service correspondent Ranjit Devraj from New Delhi.
This agreement was reached during a five-minute telephone
conversation between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
and Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a few hours afer the military ruler,
who calls himself chief executive officer, was sworn in as
president of Pakistan on June 20.
''It would be good if political rhetoric on both sides could be
toned down before the summit meeting since it had an impact on
political forces in both countries,'' a spokesperson for the
Indian foreign ministry said.
On June 19, when the July 14-16 date for the summit was announced,
Vajpayee reiterated that the status of the Indian state of Jammu
and Kashmir was not negotiable. What was open to negotiation,
Vajpayee went on to say, was the third of the former princely
state occupied by Pakistan or Azad (free) Kashmir as Islamabad
''We will try and find solutions for that (Pakistan-occupied
Kashmir) and other issues,'' Vajpayee told reporters in the
western metropolis of Mumbai.
Vajpayee's statement was apparently made as a rejoinder to
Musharraf's reported statements that Kashmir would be the core
issue at the summit which is to take place in the city of Agra,
famed for the Taj Mahal and other Mughal monuments.
Musharraf has also been reported referring to Kashmir as ''the
unfinished agenda of the partition''. India and Pakistan were
created out of British India following independence in 1947, when
the former princely states were given the choice of joining one or
the other country.
India considers the whole of Kashmir as a part of India since its
ruler acceded to India, but Pakistan holds the position that the
people of Kashmir should be allowed to vote in a plebiscite to
decide which country they would like to join.
In 1994, India's Parliament resolved that territories held by
Pakistan should be retrieved but many analysts believe that
conversion of the Line of Control (LoC) , where the armies
countries found themselves at the end of the 1971 war, could be
turned into an international border.
However, few expect any serious change to come about as a result
of the July summit. The foreign ministry spokesperson said it
reflected a ''large picture of reconciliation and dialogue.''
India's High Commissioner in Pakistan, Vijay Nambiar said the main
idea of the summit was to induce confidence between the two
countries after the bloody six-month war they fought in 1999 on
the LoC which divides Kashmir.
According to Nambiar, what really compelled the two countries to
get together was globalisation and the fact that Kashmir had
become a ''major hurdle for the development of the region''.
''If we can re-establish confidence and resume the Lahore process
after the summit that would be a great achievement,'' Nambiar said.
Lahore city in Pakistan was where the last Indo-Pakistan summit
took place in February 1999, when Vajpayee symbolically crossed
over the border riding a bus to sign the Lahore Declaration with
then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharief..
But the Pakistan army, then headed by Musharraf, was opposed to
the Lahore process and instigated massive infiltration across the
LoC. That led to the bloody Kargil war which ended only after
former United States President Bill Clinton pressured Islamabad to
withdraw the infiltrators.
In October 1999, soon after the end of the Kargil war, Sharif was
ousted in a bloodless coup by Musharraf and India refused to open
dialogue with the military dictator. Vajpayee's May 23 invitation
to Musharraf for a summit came as a surprise to many, but as
Nambiar said: ''I think even a military regime can establish the
broad parametres for the foundations for good relations.''
Musharraf's new position as president would greatly enhance his
authority and legitimacy, and according to observers in both
Pakistan and India, was done with the July summit in view.
''We can now accord him full honours due to a head of state -- we
did not know where how to fit a chief executive officer (CEO),
into protocol,'' said an official here.
Musharraf's move was seen in Islamabad as an attempt to get more
credibility in order to meet Vajpayee on equal footing as
Pakistan's leader, but some here said Musharraf's assumption of a
civilian leadership makes little real difference, since as one of
said, ''we all know who calls the shots''. Islamabad officials
deny any link to the summit.
Still, there is scepticism about the outcome of the talks unless
Musharraf agrees to stop supporting militancy in Indian Kashmir.
So far, he has refused to do that, saying it is linked to the
progress of dialogue between the two countries.
In spite of Vajpayee's statement asserting that Kashmir's status
as an integral part of India is not negotiable, the issue is
certain to be discussed at the summit.
''We know that Pakistan will insist on discussing the core issue (Kashmir)
and we are not going to shy away from it,'' Nambiar said during a
television interview aired June 20.
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