A pity no Indian correspondent nailed General Musharraf at his Islamabad press conference. It is not relevant whether Kashmir has a "freedom struggle". Does Pakistan train, arm and provide sanctuary to Afghan militants before they cross the LoC or not? This would have tested the General's self-trumpeted candour.
But why blame Musharraf? India blithely hosted the summit while he continued to hold a gun to its head. Before the summit Pakistan was considered almost a rogue state. The world was concerned at its role in international terrorism. Kashmir had gone into the background.
Day after day Musharraf expressed his eagerness to talk with Prime Minister Vajpayee. India spurned his overtures. It said Musharraf must first stop cross-border terrorism.
Suddenly, without apparent reason, Vajpayee invited Musharraf. The shock over this somersault gave way to hope. Perhaps the PM was given some secret assurance that led him to do this. Never mind if that assurance came through track-2 diplomacy, through the US, through China, or whatever. Which government ordinarily would squander away its recent gains by such a reckless move?
But the summit was sabotaged by both sides. Regardless, Jaswant Singh stated that the peace process would continue. Pakistan's foreign minister Abdul Sattar promptly echoed the sentiment. Russia and America did likewise.
Next day, after an informal cabinet meeting of only bjp ministers, Vajpayee made another stunning somersault. He pronounced the Agra peace process dead. He said next time both countries would start from scratch. Analysts speculated that the rss had twisted his arm. Earlier they thought the US was prodding him.
Who cares? People want concrete results—not a flip-flop-flip government.
After the summit things are worse. India legitimised Musharraf's dictatorship. It legitimised his self-elevation to presidency even while responsible Pakistanis challenged it. Lashkar and Hizbul have resolved to step up violence. They killed over 50 persons during the summit. The world focus has shifted from terrorism. Kashmir is back in the limelight. Musharraf has reinforced his claim that various foreign terrorists are waging a "freedom struggle" in Kashmir.
The Indian people had overlooked this government's many weaknesses. It had
expected that the bjp alone could and would one day settle with Pakistan. That hope is
dead. The PM must search his heart. Does he serve any purpose by continuing in office?
Time to call it a day, my friend,
Time to say goodbye,
Nothing left to say in the end—
Only a sad sigh!