Agra Summit and Beyond a collection of essays, interviews and personal remembrances of the Agra summit, undoubtedly an important event in Indo-Pak relations, in the recent years. Khalid Mahmood covers the road to Agra and the events that took place during the summit meeting in a chronological sequence on who said what and on which date. His essay also covers major opinions published in leading dailies. Tavleen Singh’s essay was a personal recollection of the Agra events and the general history of Kashmir from a journalist’s perspective. An important observation that Tavleen makes is: ‘The journalists in Agra were some of the finest in the subcontinent but were, inadvertently, taking exactly the positions their governments had.’ This is an important issue, not only related to the Agra Summit, but every major development, especially when it comes to J&K. Especially, when the development is negative, such as a terrorist attack or cross-border terrorism, the media in both countries become highly jingoistic, thus inadvertently becoming a tool for the hawks to bash the other side further.
Tavleen concludes that there are two roads ahead: Peace without redrawing borders, which is the Indian perspective, based on the belief that cross-border terrorism will die a natural death. ‘If it does not and the violence in the Valley continues to remain beyond the control of the Indian government, then an international solution will have to be sought at some point.’ An interesting, but controversial formulation. Is the international community interested in Kashmir today? Is it capable of pressurizing either India or Pakistan on any issue related to the basic stated positions of both the countries? Unlikely.
Karan Thapar’s interview with General Musharraf in 2000 and Ziauddin’s interviews with Vajpayee form two chapters, which have been seen, read and commented upon numerous times by the columnists and researchers from both countries.
Manoj Joshi underlines the need for effective political mechanisms in both India and Pakistan to have harmonious relations. Military and coalition governments and at times even minority governments have been in dialogue with each other. Undoubtedly, these governments have inherent weaknesses. He concludes: ‘At present neither of two countries have a leadership that is strong enough for a compromise.’ True, but what happened when both countries had strong leaders? From Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi in India and from Jinnah to Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan, both countries had numerous strong leaders, who came to power with absolute support. On the other hand, Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh have taken bolder steps than many of their predecessors, despite not being so strong.
Mubashir Hasan’s essay, like Tavleen Singh’s is a personal recollection of events in the last three decades relating to Indo-Pak relations. Hasan writes about the various summits between the two countries and numerous Track-II meetings. On the reasons for the Agra summit, he concludes, ‘the pressure of public opinion in both the countries was too strong for the governments to resist for much longer.’ Perhaps. But why did the same public pressure fail to force India and Pakistan to move beyond? Public pressure and policy formulations are a paradox in India and Pakistan. For they have never been uniform.
- Suba Chandran is Assistant Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi.