Hon’ble Members would recall my invitation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to visit India.
In the days and weeks before his visit, I had occasion to exchange views and perspectives – individually and collectively – with leaders of political parties, eminent personalities, media representatives and intellectuals, on the future prospects for India-Pakistan relations.
They endorsed, almost unanimously, our view that the visit should be used to seek avenues for durable peace and cooperative friendship with Pakistan. Building on the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, we sought, through the invitation and the consequent visit to strengthen the broad-based framework of dialogue, so that progress could be made on all outstanding bilateral issues, including Jammu & Kashmir. We also identified the continuing cross-border terrorism as an important subject to be addressed.
To promote a congenial environment and confidence building in advance of the visit, the Government announced some significant decisions relating to peace and security, nuclear and non-nuclear CBM’s, people to people contacts, humanitarian issues, education, youth exchanges and trade. We believe these decisions have been well received by the people of India and Pakistan. The Government remains committed to implementing them.
President Musharraf, accompanied by Begum Musharraf, was in New Delhi on July 14. He was accorded full ceremonial honours. He called on the President, who hosted a State banquet. The Vice-President, Home Minister, the External Affairs & Defence Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha called on him. I hosted a lunch in his honour. At the retreat in Agra on July 15 and 16, President Musharraf and I had extensive one-to-one talks for over 5 hours. We also had talks at the delegation level.
During these discussions, I emphasised the importance of creating an atmosphere of trust for progress on all outstanding issues including J & K. I took up other specific issues which would help the process of peace. These included the issue of 54 POWs believed to be in Pakistani jails; the extradition of known terrorists and criminals who have been given sanctuary in Pakistan; the up keep of Sikh Gurudwaras and Hindu temples in Pakistan, the treatment of Indian pilgrims visiting shrines in Pakistan, and the enhancement of mutually beneficial trade.
I focused on the terrorism being promoted in the State of J & K. I conveyed in clear terms that India has the resolve, strength and stamina to counter terrorism and violence until it is decisively crushed. I want to reiterate this determination today on the floor of this House.
In his presentations, President Musharraf focussed almost exclusively on Jammu & Kashmir. Honourable Members would be familiar with all his views, since they were widely disseminated in both our electronic and print media.
Despite the obvious differences in our perspectives, we made progress towards bridging the two approaches in a draft joint document. We sought to incorporate in the document the structure of a future dialogue process on all issues, including meetings at official, Ministerial and Summit levels. We made proposals for addressing the issues of Peace & Security- including nuclear and conventional CBM's, Jammu & Kashmir, and terrorism; and all other issues from the composite dialogue.
Eventually, however we had to abandon the quest for a joint document mainly because of Pakistan's insistence on the `settlement' of the Jammu & Kashmir issue, as a precondition for the normalization of relations. Pakistan was also reluctant to acknowledge and address cross-border terrorism. My Cabinet colleagues and I were unanimously of the view that our basic principles cannot be sacrificed for the sake of a joint document.
There are strong views both in India and in Pakistan about Jammu & Kashmir. But it is our conviction that an all-round development in the relationship between India and Pakistan will have a beneficial impact on our dialogue on J&K.
No worthwhile purpose would be served by a debate on whether or not J&K is a "core issue". But we cannot ignore the fact of terrorism and violence in the state, which is exported from across the borders. We cannot accept that the insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir today, with its foreign mercenaries and generous assistance from abroad, is anything but terrorism.
The daily killing of innocent men, women and children can simply not be glorified as "Jehad" or as any kind of political movement. Please reflect that, soon after the Agra Summit had concluded, our pilgrims on their way to the holy shrine of Amarnath were killed. And just two days ago another massacre of members of one community occurred at the hands of the terrorists. That is why Pakistan's refusal to end cross-border terrorism is the main hurdle in the creation of a conducive atmosphere.
Pakistan has been seeking a solution to J&K in accordance with the wishes of the "Kashmiri people". I am certain that the primary wish of every single Kashmiri, whether from the Kashmir valley or Jammu, Ladakh, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the Northern territories or the Shaksgram Valley, is to live in peace, security and freedom, so that he can make economic progress.
We should constantly strive to provide him with this fundamental right. Most of the Kashmiris have their elected representatives, through whom they express their legitimate aspirations. We are also willing to listen to all other streams of Kashmiri opinion, however small the minority they represent, as long as they abjure violence. It is in this spirit that we had offered to talk to the representatives of the All Parties' Hurriyat Conference.
President Musharraf has extended an invitation to me to visit Pakistan. I have accepted this invitation. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has similarly invited the External Affairs Minister. This, too, has been accepted. Thus, our bilateral engagement with Pakistan will continue. We will continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation. We will persist with our efforts to convince Pakistan that our bilateral cooperation should not be held hostage to the resolution of any one issue.
Though we could not conclude a joint document in Agra, we did achieve a degree of understanding. We will build on this to further increase the areas of agreement. Obviously, India's concerns in vital cases- such as cross-border terrorism- will have to find place in any document that future negotiations endeavour to conclude.
Let me add- we are not looking for propaganda advantage or seeking to score debating points. We will engage in quiet, serious diplomacy. Our endeavour for a relationship of peace, friendship and cooperation will be pursued vigorously.