Agra invite to Musharraf was on Qazi suggestion: Advani

Agra invite to Musharraf was on Qazi suggestion: Advani
New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) Former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani tonight disclosed that it was on the suggestion of then Pakistan Ambassador to India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi that he urged then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to invite President Gen Pervez Musharraf to the failed Agra summit.

Speaking after releasing 'Sunday Sentiments', a collection of Karan Thapar's collection of articles written in The Hindustan Times, the Leader of the Opposition said most of the talks he had with Qazi was through the noted journalist and television anchor.

"Immediately after Kargil, there was a change of regime in Pakistan and the elected Prime Minister was replaced by Gen Musharraf but Ashraf said that if one effort (Vajpayee's famous Lahore bus trip) did not succeed, it does not mean, another attempt would not succeed and that he should be invited.

"I ventured to make the suggestion to the Prime Minister which he accepted though it was not endorsed by all others in the Foreign Ministry and one of them had said it", he said.

Advani, who was widely perceived to be responsible for the failure of the summit, said it was Pakistan's stand on not recognising terrorism and referring to the violence in the Valley as freedom struggle which led to its collapse.

The BJP leader, who had to step down as party Chief in the wake of the Jinnah controversy, said "efforts should be made" to improve ties with the neighbouring country.

However, he did not make any reference to his Pakistan visit.

Asserting that if social untouchability was wrong, political untouchability was equally wrong, Advani recalled the proceedings of the Jan Sangh's meeting in Calicut (Kerala) where many party delegates attacked the leadership's decision to join the CPI alongwith other parties in Government formation in Bihar in 1967. He said the then Jansangh Chief Deen Dayal Upadhyaya had remarked that India was a democracy where there were occasions which required that all parties work together.

"It is an ironic situation that untouchability in social life is supposed to be a crime but in politics unless you practise it, you are supposed to be wrong", Advani quoted him as saying.

Showering praises on Thapar, Advani said the column gave a different image of the author as against his "aggressive, often unpleasant" television persona.

In his address, Thapar recalled that just a day after the terrorist attack on Parliament, Advani's wife at a party had dragged a reluctant Pakistani envoy Ashraf and brought him before Advani and introduced him to the guests.

"The columns Sunday Sentiments goes beyong normal. It is not just about Advanis and Ashrafs. It opened my eyes to the real world", he said.

Noted cartoonist Sudhir Tailang said after former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, Advani was his "hero number two".

"He (Advani) is a cartoonist's dream come true from head to toe. He is also kind and courageous to ask for the original drawings from me", he said.

The book has been published by Wisdom Tree.

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