(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 22, 2001
Carry Forward Dialogue
THERE was a Shimla Agreement, a Lahore Declaration, and now we have the Spirit of Agra which assures us that the process of Indo-Pak dialogue will continue. Notwithstanding the fact that both returned from the summit reiterating their fundamental positions --- Pakistan sticking to the centrality of Kashmir and India emphasising cross-border terrorism --- the two foreign ministers have indicated that sufficient ground has been covered for a resolution of all other issues as well. The lead article in this issue gives our assessment of the inconclusive summit.
Normally, summits are held as the culmination of long-drawn homework by both sides on what should be the possible outcome. Unfortunately, in this case, the summit was the starting point. The Indian explanation that sufficient homework could not be done because Pakistan refused to hold any interaction before the summit, is specious. India, which took the initiative, could very well have rescheduled the summit with a view to preparing properly. An unprepared-for summit is worse than a delayed summit. Unless, of course, there were compulsions other than those of national interest.
Through these columns earlier, we had detailed the US pressure for the holding of such a summit. General Musharraf, in a way, endorsed that such pressure existed. It is, indeed, unfortunate that the Vajpayee government should have given higher priority to international pressure and sought international appreciation for India than attending to the ground realities for improving Indo-Pak relations.
There are domestic pressures as well in both countries. That the summit was inconclusive has been hailed by fundamentalist organisations in Pakistan and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba described General Musharraf as a "hero" for not compromising. Clearly, any movement towards normalisation of relations or a possibility of a solution of the Kashmir problem will amount to the fundamentalists losing their ammunition.
Likewise in India, there have been strident calls given for purifying the places visited by Musharraf with Ganga-jal and go-mootra. Fundamentalists in Pakistan too had done a similar thing when Vajpayee visited the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore. The Shiv Sena, a member of the ruling alliance and of the Union cabinet, has openly disapproved of the summit and opposed it. The RSS was, not so secretly, hoping that the summit fails, so that it can continue to mount its anti-Muslim communal campaign. Reports suggest that within the BJP, there is general "satisfaction, if not outright jubilation, among members of the Bharatiya Janata Party at the failure of the Indo-Pak summit" (Asian Age, July 18). Pakistan's official spokesman has gone to the extent of suggesting that an "invisible hand" had sabotaged the joint declaration which was almost finalised after five rounds of negotiations.
The BJP, in its earlier incarnation, had opposed the Shimla agreement by burning its copies and sending several of its leading members to jail as a consequence. The BJP (then, Jan Sangh) held that India had given too many concessions to Pakistan. Its hypocrisy is exposed by the fact that the same person who then led these protests inside the parliament and outside, swears as the prime minister today by the Shimla agreement as the basis for future Indo-Pak relations! At the same time the failure of the summit to produce any document is being interpreted by the BJP as a positive outcome --- on the ground that, unlike in Shimla, India did not lose anything in this summit. It hopes to use this to its advantage by fomenting communal polarisation in the forthcoming UP elections, by creating an atmosphere of distrust against the Muslim community.
It is, indeed, an irony that the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi today seek to cleanse and purify the Rajghat because General Musharraf visited it! Communal fundamentalists who are today part of the central government and the ruling NDA alliance cannot be allowed to sabotage the process of normalisation of Indo-Pak relations. For their short term political gains, the interests of crores of Indian and Pakistani people cannot be allowed to be held to ransom. Fundamentalists of both varieties, in India and Pakistan, will have to be marginalised so as to carry forward the process of normalisation of Indo-Pak relations.