Agra repeats in Islamabad

Pakistans all-or-nothing versus Indias selective approach
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 16 July 2010, 20:14 IST
Last Updated : 16 July 2010, 20:14 IST
Last Updated : 16 July 2010, 20:14 IST
Last Updated : 16 July 2010, 20:14 IST

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The extent of acrimony and angry diplomatic exchanges that marked the conclusion of Agra summit was virtually replayed on Friday at the end of two-day  talks in Islamabad.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during the day (coincidentally happened to be July 16) did exactly what the then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf did on July 16, 2001, at the end of the failed two-day Agra summit talks - blame the Indian side for the failure of talks. 

Qureshi, addressing a press conference in Islamabad, in the afternoon, shed all diplomatic niceties and claimed that his talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on Thursday had failed because the latter did not have a proper brief from New Delhi.
He uncharitably said that during their talks Krishna was repeatedly taking telephonic calls from Delhi. India was not “mentally ready” for the talks, he asserted.

On the other hand, he claimed he was fully prepared. “I led Pakistan’s team and I did not need to make even a single phone call (to other leaders in Pakistan) during the day-long talks. He (Krishna) is the principal for giving direction to foreign policy of India. (But) why were directions being sent repeatedly from Delhi?” said Qureshi.

Musharraf’s footsteps

Qureshi was simply following the footsteps of Musharraf. Nine years ago, on July 16, 2001, Musharraf had blamed the failure of Agra summit on “hardliners” (reference to the then Home Minister L K Advani) in the then Vajpayee government.

The recurrence is not just confined to the July 15-16 dates or to the Pakistani assertions that the negotiators on the Indian side lacked requisite mandate.

Nothing appeared changed in nine years as the Krishna-Qureshi talks, too, like the Vajpayee-Musharraf summit talks, were over the two issues of terrorism and Kashmir.
Krishna focused on India’s core concern of terrorism emanating from Pakistan. But his Pakistani counterpart insisted that progress should be made on all issues of disputes in tandem—Islamabad’s familiar way of stating that Kashmir should be on the negotiating table.

“Progress in talks could only be possible if we move forward on all issues in tandem,” Qureshi said in Islamabad. He alleged that India's “selective approach” on addressing issues of mutual concerns had killed the talks. “I could see from yesterday’s (Thursday) talks that they want to be selective. When they say all issues are on the table then they cannot, they should not, be selective,” Qureshi said.

New Delhi blamed the “all-or-nothing stand” of Islamabad for the stalemate. At a press conference soon after his return to New Delhi in the evening, Krishna rubbished Qureshi's allegations and said he had gone to Islamabad prepared with a clear mandate from the government. “India is ready for gradual and incremental steps in normalising ties with Pakistan,” he said.

“We wanted to take a realistic step-by-step approach keeping in view the traditional complexities of the India-Pakistan relation. One cannot go to a high-intensity level without a warm-up phase,” said a senior official. “But the Pakistani side adopted an all-or-nothing approach, seeking a road map for discussions on all outstanding bilateral issues,” the official added.

“They (Pakistanis) had certain expectations, which we thought was not realistic in the current context of the bilateral relation,” said top Indian officials in New Delhi. They said India was ready to discuss all issues, including Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen and others, that had been taken up in the composite dialogue before the process had been stalled in the aftermath of the November 26, 2008, attacks in Mumbai. But, New Delhi was not ready to accept a time-bound road map that Islamabad was insisting.

India has also not taken kindly to Qureshi’s undiplomatic attack on Indian Home Secretary G K Pillai whom he bracketed with Pakistan's terror ideologue Jamaat-Ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed.

However, Krishna said he had been assured by Qureshi that the Pakistani government would act on the additional information about the 26/11 plot coming out of the incarcerated Pakistani-American terror-plotter David Coleman Headley’s revelations to the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation and Indian National Intelligence Agency. Headley is reported to have directly linked ISI to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Published 16 July 2010, 20:14 IST

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