October 23, 2020
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Press Conference

'Inconclusive, Not A Failure'

No more from Major General Rashid Qureshi or his tone or language from the Pakistan Foreign Minister - full text of his prepared note and press-conference Q&A

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'Inconclusive, Not A Failure'
'Inconclusive, Not A Failure'

Full text of Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar's statement:

"President Pervez Musharraf has returned from India optimistic about the prospects for better relations between Pakistan and India. Considerable progress was made in summit level discussions and in evolving the text of a Declaration. It is unfortunate that the expected consummation did not materialize. Nevertheless, the President remains convinced that the existing goodwill on both sides can and will achieve mutually desired results.

President Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee share a common vision of peace, progress and prosperity for their people in the twenty-first century. The President has complimented the Indian Prime Minister for the gracious initiative to invite him for the resumption of dialogue between the two countries after a hiatus of nearly two years.

Cognizant of the benefits of peace and cooperation between the two neighbouring countries, President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee held wide-ranging discussions on Pakistan-India relations, particularly on Jammu and Kashmir. They affirmed commitment to addressing each other's expressed concerns, creating an environment conducive to the establishment of peaceful, friendly and cooperative ties, for the welfare of the two peoples.

While in New Delhi, President Musharraf welcomed the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference. We hope India would accord them travel documents to visit Pakistan for consultations.

Time did not permit substantive discussion on any specific issue. But valuable progress was made at Agra on evolving a structure for a sustained dialogue process, that would take up Jammu & Kashmir, peace and security, and terrorism and drug trafficking at the political level. Economic and commercial cooperation, Siachen, Wullar Barrage, Sir Creek and promotion of friendly exchanges in various levels would be addressed at the level of high officials.

All these issues need to be addressed purposefully, constructively and in an integrated manner, with a sense of urgency. Responding to Press questions, the President of Pakistan was forthcoming on the discussion of any issues of concern to India. He emphasized again and again that realism requires a focus, and that progress on the settlement of Jammu and Kashmir would be conducive to normalization of bilateral relations.

Prime Minister Vajpayee has accepted our President's invitation for a return visit. The two leaders are expected to meet in New York in September and continue efforts to promote agreement. The goodwill between them is an asset for better relations between the two countries.

President Musharraf had a valuable opportunity to meet a large number of prominent Indian leaders. His exchanges of views with intellectuals and media luminaries will no doubt contribute to better mutual understanding. Enlightened opinion in India is no less keen than that in Pakistan to extricate bilateral relations from the time warp in which they have been trapped for 54 years.

Like the Indian Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Jaswant Singh, brought equal goodwill to the task of translating the convergence of thoughts at the summit level into words.

The two sides came very close to bringing the Declaration close to adoption and approval. In fact twice yesterday it appeared we had succeeded in arriving at a mutually acceptable formulation. It is unfortunate that the fruition of the exercise was aborted.

The Agra Summit remained inconclusive but it did not fail. In fact, the two leaders succeeded in covering a broad area of common ground in the draft Declaration. That will provide a valuable foundation for the two leaders to reach full agreement at their next meeting.

Compliments are due also to intellectuals, media and the common people in India as in Pakistan for their contribution to building an environment of opinion conducive to forward movement. Heartened by the prevalent goodwill, President Musharraf believes popular support will be an asset also to leaders in India who want to work for a future better than the past."

Excerpts from the Press conference:

The snag which did not allow a final declaration of the Agra Summit:

The snag related to the relationship between settlement of the Kashmir question and progress on normalization. We were very close to arrive at an agreement on that point also.

The basis of his optimism with regard to the Agra Summit when the fact remains that the Indian side was not prepared to discuss Kashmir at all:

 The basis of the confidence is first of all that the two leaders had a meeting of minds; secondly, that substantial progress was achieved in translating their vision into words and thirdly, that both sides agreed that the progress made at Agra should be a foundation for the continuation of dialogue in the future.

If he agreed to the proposition that the Agra Summit failed, but President Musharraf has been successful in expressing his sincerity and commitment  to the Kashmiris cause quite effectively:

I think what the President did in the course of the visit to New Delhi and then to Agra is very well known to all the people, who were following the coverage of the Agra Summit, minute to minute and day to day. The reason for our optimism is given in the statement that I have just read. Both sides are keen to use the progress that has been made as a foundation for further discussions, hopefully leading to full agreement. This is the sense with which we have come back and we hope that this sense will be reciprocated and that we will continue the dialogue process.   

If it was true that the Indian authorities refused to facilitate President Musharraf to address the media in Agra before his departure and if 90-minute notice was necessary for such a conference as claimed by the Foreign Minister of India in his press conference that morning, and if it were the security people who declined clearance for the President's meeting with the Press, and what about the expression by a member of Pakistan's official team that some invisible hands devastated the summit: 

Before we left for the visit to India, we, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conveyed a request to the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India for arrangement of a press conference by the President of Pakistan at the conclusion of the summit. As you know, the summit was expected to conclude by midday on 16 July, and the President was due to depart for Ajmer Sharif at about 2.30 p.m. For reasons that are implicit in what I have stated, namely the necessity of continuing further discussions on the text of the declaration, we were not able to depart at the indicated time. Later in the evening when it became clear that a final text could not be worked out, our side renewed the request for an opportunity for the President to address the press conference. For reasons best known to India that press conference was not arranged.   As for your second question it is not possible for me to see what was invisible.   

Who was responsible for the failure of the summit and if Prime Minister Vajpayee would be coming to Islamabad, responding President Musharraf's invitation: 

There is no purpose to be served by engaging in pinpointing responsibility and fault-seeking. It is a fact that fruition of our hopes was aborted. I have said we hope and believe that both sides desire to build on what was achieved in terms of understanding at Agra. Therefore, we are optimistic. The President of Pakistan extended an invitation to the Prime Minister of India and we hope that there will be an early opportunity for the two leaders to meet and that will lead to further discussions and hopefully to an agreement. Let me also add, that while in Agra I extended an invitation to the distinguished Foreign Minister of the Government of India to visit Pakistan. I hope that he will find an early opportunity to accept the invitation and visit our country.   

When his attention was drawn to Indian Foreign Minister's press conference that morning that there was disagreement between the two sides on the question of cross border terrorism which, in fact, blocked the way to a joint statement; and secondly, if trade matters were also discussed during the visit

The draft text of the declaration that was under discussion, and on which we achieved to a large extent the meeting of minds, referred to the subject of terrorism and narcotic trafficking as one in the catalogue of those issues that need to be further addressed. Now you have used a term "cross border" this is a matter that relates to the border between Pakistan and India. If there are any concerns on other side with regard to terrorism across the border, surely this matter can be raised in future meetings. As you know in Jammu and Kashmir, there is no international border but a Line of Control, resulting from the cease-fire of December 1971. No reference has been made to any cross LoC terrorism in the course of the draft of the declaration.   About the trade policy we did not discuss any specific issue in substance. Economic relations are one of the subjects that is to be taken up at the level of high officials when the dialogue between the two countries resumes.   

To a comment that as per ground realities the resolution of the Kashmir dispute seemed to be a long-drawn process

A process for the settlement of Jammu and Kashmir and any other issue between the two countries need not be protracted. That depends on the existence of a sense of realism and of goodwill and purposefulness in addressing the issues. And given that approach it need not take an endless period of time.   

Why necessary preparation was not done for the Indo-Pak summit and the snags which emerged during the course of summit were not removed at the official level meetings between the two countries:  

The question whether the summit should be preceded by official level meetings etc. has been under debate and discussion at various levels. The fact is that the Prime Minister of India took the initiative to invite our President and we accepted the invitation. We also thought that the generation of goodwill and the injection of the vision, the perception and the commitment of the leaders to building a future better than the past, would be in the best interest of the both sides. I think this assumption has been vindicated as for the drafting exercise. One will agree that if there was more time the residual paragraph could have also been worked out to the mutual satisfaction of the two sides. It appears that more time is needed for clarifying concepts and approaches and it is only right that time should be given in order to evolve a salutary mutually acceptable formulation. That is the present situation and we hope that we will have another opportunity to address this issue.   

How he felt about the assumption that India would never allow peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute and eventually the military solution would be the only option:   

The answer to this question will be given by time. It is our perception that the goodwill expressed in the media, in discussions, in seminars will contribute to the building of pressures for a solution sooner rather than later. I do not think whatever has happened at Agra will strengthen the hands of negative elements. On the contrary, the goodwill that was manifest should encourage those leaders in both countries, who look to a better future.

In response to a question that Mujahideen groups had held press conferences in Lahore and Rawalpindi, reiterating their resolve to continue armed struggle:

As you know the President of Pakistan had very wide-ranging consultations before he embarked upon his visit to India. It is manifest from the opinions that he heard that the people of Pakistan want to see a forward movement in relations between the two countries. Now there is an objective situation in Kashmir which needs to be taken into account. On one of the international TV networks there was an interview telecast today with one of the Kashmiri leaders who said that it was repression of human rights in India held Kashmir that drove the peaceful political freedom struggle underground into channels of militancy. So you can see also from the objective reality that the people of Kashmir need to have a channel for the expression of their views. (The interview under reference was by Kashmiri leader Yaseen Malik on BBC's Hard Talk).   

With regard to the APHC visit to Pakistan and the mechanism for the structured Pak-India dialogue:   

In the context of the President's meeting with the leaders of the APHC he expressed the hope that India would permit and provide travel documents to the Hurriyet leaders to visit Pakistan for consultations. In some conversations, not at the summit level, this subject was mentioned but it has not been raised officially in the context of the negotiations on the draft declaration.

To what extent President Musharraf's breakfast meeting was responsible for the derailment of the summit meeting, specially when New Delhi understands that it was an unofficial engagement:   

In contemporary diplomacy it is impossible to segregate official talks and interaction with media. What President Musharraf said in the course of his meeting with the Indian media luminaries was telecast on Indian media and media in Pakistan. It was not a secret approach behind the back of any body and I think that objective opinion will recognize both the necessity and the value of such a dialogue between the President and the leaders of Indian media. There was nothing he said in that meeting which he had not earlier said in the course of his meetings with Indian editors, who visited Pakistan and specially in the course of his discussions with the Indian side. In this regard you may recall the President's banquet speech hosted in his honour by his Indian counterpart. So he has been very up front in the course of his conversations and most people we met during our stay in Agra expressed appreciation for the candid approach of the President to discussion of India-Pakistan issues.   

His comments were sought on Indian Foreign Minister's press conference that morning that India would continue with its efforts for confidence-building measures and whether Pakistan would reciprocate and if POWs issue was also raised during the summit:   

The view of the Government of Pakistan on the statement of the External Ministry of India with regard to travel facilities etc. were expressed before we left for New Delhi. This subject did not come under discussion in the course of the dialogue in New Delhi or Agra and there is nothing more that I need to add to the views that we have previously expressed.   The question of POWs was raised with the President and he said that as a soldier he would wish to do everything that is possible to assuage the grief of the parents who believe that some Indians POWs were still held in Pakistani jails. Let me say that the President on his return has already launched the administrative action to re-ascertain whether there is any POW who is still held in any Pakistani jail. Let me also say that the same investigations were conducted earlier some 20 years ago and at that time the Government of Pakistan checked with the prison authorities in all the provinces and received the reply that there was no Indian POW held in Pakistan. It is the President's humanitarian response to the anguish of the parents to reassure them that we will check again. I would like only to add that please see what advantage would any country gain by holding a solider for 30 long years in its jail.   

If the Agra Summit was a total disaster and if the Agra declaration was to have a mention of a no-war pact and of third party mediation:   

The commentators that consider the Agra Summit a total disaster are quite clearly at 180 degree from our assessment of the achievements of the Agra Summit. We hope we are right and such commentators are wrong. As to the other subjects that you have mentioned namely the no-war pact and the third party mediation, these were not discussed at all at Agra.   When his attention was drawn to manhandling of some Pakistan journalists in India last night, the Foreign Minister said:   We have taken due notice of this incident and our High Commissioner will promptly draw the attention of the Government of India to this incident. Let me say that in our assessment this was an isolated incident that in contrast with that, the vast majority of India media persons were cognizant of the importance of the occasion and wanted to play a role that is positive and beneficial to the prospects of better relations between the two countries.   

When his attention was drawn to the fact that the Government of India had referred to the cross border terrorism but there was no reference to the cross LoC terrorism:   

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