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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

India-Pakistan detente
It may appear cynical at this stage of comparably subdued but still palpable euphoria on the ‘history is made’ atmospherics of the Indo-Pak dialog to recall Agra Summit, but those who have noted the news story about LK Advani with his list of ‘India’s most wanted’, raring to go over to the neighbours and pick a fight, will recall the failure of Agra summit and the controversial role of Advani and Shushma Swaraj, both of whom mercifully are absent from the negotiation scene as well as media headlines during the current phase of a new breakthrough in Indo-Pak relations. 

On the Pakistani side, the more voluble Information Minister too was sidelined, as he could not take the heat from the press on his recent Delhi visit and came out with the ominous suggestion that Pakistan too has its most wanted list and none other than Advani’s name figures in a Karachi Police Station FIR on an attempted murder attack on the Pakistani ‘father of the nation’ Mohd. Ali Jinnah. 

As things stand, there are lots of stages between the proverbial cup and the lips and personal egos unfortunately do play spoiling role in sabotaging best of efforts. 

There is no doubt about Prime Minister being much more confident now than he was at Agra Summit, given BJP victory in the 3 state elections, where Vajpayee did play his crucial role in marginalizing VHP and Bajrang Dal’s extremists from election strategies. 

This confidence has given Vajpayee a historical opportunity to take the natural course of ‘give and take’ with Pakistan; rather than the Advani course of ‘take and give’. 

It is sad that between Agra and Islamabad summits, over the years so many more lives were lost in Jammu and Kashmir, and India spent crores for mobilizing half a million troops across the length and breadth of western borders after the ‘attack of Parliament’, which was ‘forewarned’ by the intelligence sources and could have been forestalled by the Home Ministry. 

All these hardships heaped on the nation, could have been avoided, if personal pick had not spoiled the working rapport achieved by the same Vajpayee/Musharraf team, through uncontrolled and spur of the moment interventions by Advani and Shushma Swaraj. 

The need of the hour is to guard against any such planned or inadvertent interventions that could unravel the whole peace process. This turning point in Indian subcontinent’s history should not be mortgaged to the narrow quirks of a party rivalry. 

For the people of India, the stakes of Indo-Pak peace settlements are higher than petty party rivalries and ego trips in the BJP camp. 

So far all credit goes to them for all the behind the scene hard work that made the breakthrough possible.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

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