Verbatim Record of Press Conference of Shri Jaswant Singh, Minister of External Affairs held at 10 00 hours on 17th July, 2001 in Oberoi Hotel Agra
- At the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the President of Pakistan H.E. General Pervez Musharraf visited India on 14-16 July, 2001.
- In keeping with his abiding vision of good Neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan, the Prime Minister had invited President General Pervez Musharraf to walk the high road of Peace and reconciliation. Our commitment to that noble objective, upon
the attainment of which, rests the welfare of many, is not transitory. It is that commitment, which was demonstrated at Simla, in Lahore and recently during President General Pervez Musharraf’s visit.
- Significant CBMs that were announced prior to President Musharraf’s visit would be fully implemented on our part. It is our conviction that, when put in place, they will make an important contribution to our relations.
- During his visit, the President of Pakistan had extensive discussions with our entire leadership. These included three rounds of one-on-one meetings with the Prime Minister and an hour-long farewell call prior to his departure yesterday night. There were
also detailed discussions during delegation level talks. All these meetings were marked by cordiality and candour. They provided an invaluable opportunity to both sides to understand each others’ view points, concerns and compulsions.
- Our negotiations for an agreed text of a document were seriously pursued. There were long hours of discussions at official and political levels. During these negotiations India did not shy away from any issue. In keeping with the confidentiality, which
is necessary for these negotiations, and the maintenance of which is essential for the future of bilateral relations themselves, it would not be proper to go into details. However, it needs asserting that during the negotiating process, India fully respected
all established international norms. As a mature and responsible democracy, we negotiate to improve bilateral relations with our neighbours, not to indulge in public relations.
- We are of course, disappointed that the two sides could not arrive at an agreed text. It will not be a breach of confidentiality to clarify that this was on an account of the difficulty in reconciling our basic approaches to bilateral relations. India is
convinced that narrow, segmented or unifocal approaches, will simply not work. Our focus has to remain on the totality of relationship, our endeavour to build trust and confidence, and a mutually beneficial relationship even as we address and move forward
on all outstanding issues, including Jammu & Kashmir: building upon the existing compacts of Simla and Lahore.
- It was also made abundantly clear to the Pakistan side during the visit, that the promotion of cross-border terrorism and violence are unacceptable and must cease. Let there be no illusions on this score: India has the will and resolve to defeat all such
- We will pick up the threads from the visit of the President of Pakistan. We will unceasingly endeavour to realise our vision of a relationship of peace, friendship and cooperation with Pakistan.
MR JASWANT SINGH: As this text, ladies and gentlemen of the press, will be shortly with all of you, I wish to simply add that on these three broad areas, which is, a unifocal approach by Pakistan, which conflicts with the concept that we
abide by, that relationship has to be broad-based or spaced by an approach which was dictated by the impulse that unless the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is made central there will be no progress on any other aspect. We do not believe that bilateral relations
between India and Pakistan ought to, or can be held hostage by any single issue. We believe in the totality of approach which addresses all issues. As we move along improving bilateral relations we will continue to address the issue of Jammu and Kashmir as
The second aspect is relating to cross border terrorism and violence is unacceptable to India. I might refresh your memories, ladies and gentlemen of the press, that even during the Lahore visit on the eve of which we had experienced, if you would remember,
the killing of 22 innocent civilians in Jammu, we had still persisted with our endeavour and Pakistan had then found it possible to announce with India, its complete opposition to terrorism and rejection of it. That was the second difficulty.
The third is that we continue to believe that every compact, or agreement, or effort that has preceded the present effort cannot be negated, rescinded, or wished away. That is why we made it clear and there is a reference here that the effort at Agra was a
continuation not simply of the Lahore process but also as a building upon the foundations that were laid by Shimla. It is that central objective which again had some difficulty in being accepted by our distinguished visitors. These were the three broad areas.
I am, of course, in my colleague Joint Secretary (Publicity)’s hands and I will endeavour to answer all questions that you might have, subject of course to the confidentiality that must always mark discussions between Heads of Government and Heads of State,
and subject also to the fact that I actually work in Delhi and not in Agra and I must go back and start working. I have an aeroplane to catch which is really an aeroplane that has to take back high dignitaries and I do not want to keep them waiting. So, as
Nirupama has said, we have an hour and a quarter. I am in your hands Nirupama, and she is in your hands. I do not mean physically.
QUESTION (MS PAMELA CONSTABLE, WASHINGTON POST): What is the likelihood that Prime Minister Vajpayee will still accept the invitation from General Musharraf to visit Pakistan, and how would you characterise the atmosphere and the tone of the
talks as they ended last night, compared to the cordial atmosphere in which they began on Saturday?
MR JASWANT SINGH: There is an invitation that has been extended to Prime Minister Vajpayee. He has accepted that invitation. That invitation and its acceptance remains in place. So far as the atmosphere of departure is concerned, naturally
it was marked by some disappointment on both sides. But in the totality of India-Pak relations, I am not disheartened by any one single incident to take that as the defining incident and treat that as a kind of fixed mark for ever.
QUESTION (MR RAMESH BHAN, UNI): Was President Musharraf stopped from addressing a press conference yesterday?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I must correct this because it is a matter of, for me personally, very great regret that my distinguished colleague and officer of the Ministry of External Affairs received very uncivil treatment. I must put it on record, it is my responsibility
that she was so subjected and I really wish I knew that. I am very sorry Nirupama, I want to publicly apologize to you because I am responsible for your welfare as a Minister. It is a matter of very great regret to me.
I must clarify abundantly that as a visiting Head of State, Head of Government, we did not stand in the way of, whenever General Musharraf or anyone else from the Pakistan delegation wished to meet the media, have a press conference in whatever fashion at
whichever place. It is not we that stood in the way of General Pervez Musharraf. Even though the whole thing trod very close to negotiating through press, we did not at any stage choose to do so because that is not how discussions or negotiation between high
dignitaries of State is ever conducted or can ever be conducted. So far as denying an opportunity to His Excellency General Pervez Musharraf sahab to meet the press last night, the question does simply not arise. There was an original intent that should an
agreement or should an agreed text of a document be reached, then of course there will be a joint press conference. As the evening progressed it became evident that this was becoming more difficult to achieve. Thereafter I think, if I am not mistaken, around
9:30 or so at night – I might be in error on the exact time of it but roughly at that time – a request was received that General Musharraf, after the farewell call, would like to meet the press in Hotel JP Palace. The security requirements accompanying General
Pervez Musharraf mandate that 90 minutes’ notice be given for any press conference or any meeting with the press to be held. We were given a departure time and it was simply not practical, as dictated by security, to have an impromptu press conference in Hotel
JP Palace. It was not the Government that stood in the way, it was a security consideration and the practicality of holding a press conference at such short notice which is really the aspect of it.
QUESTION (MR NARAYANAN, ALL INDIA RADIO): How close did you come to an agreement yesterday? There are reports that you almost clinched an agreement but India backed out of it later on.
MR JASWANT SINGH: I am not going to engage in the game of who backed out from what. It is not proper for me to go into that exercise. Complex discussions and negotiations of this nature always hang by a thread as it were. We made every effort
to arrive at an agreed text. I must place on record that I received all cooperation and understanding from my distinguished and able counterpart His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. But I do not want to say how close we were or how far we were
because when it comes to issues of principle, it is not possible for India to treat principles as being close, or to compromise with them in any sense.
QUESTION (MR SOUMYA BANDOPADHYAY, PRATIDIN): At yesterday’s breakfast meeting President Musharraf had compared Kashmir with Palestinia. At the same time he had made reference to actions of India in Bangladesh. What do you think about it?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I do not want to comment on the views held and expressed by General Pervez Musharraf sahab at that breakfast meeting. The original request that had come to us was that he would like to meet the senior Editors, – if I understand
right, I do not want to be faulted on detail because I necessarily do not go into all details – that it was off the record meeting and we facilitated such a meeting. The views the he holds are his views. Of course, we do not agree with them.
QUESTION (SEEMA GUHA TIMES OF INDIA): I just wanted to know what happened during the farewell call. What was the mood like of President Musharraf and the Prime Minister?
MR JASWANT SINGH: What happened during the farewell call? I regret very much that it is not up to me to disclose what was discussed between two Heads of Government. What was the mood like? As I have already explained, the mood was reflective.
QUESTION (MR VIJAY NAIK, SAKAL PAPERS): I just want to know that yesterday in the briefing by Pakistani side, they said that some of the Ministers objected to the points which were in the document and, therefore, the document or the declaration
could not be arrive at.
MR JASWANT SINGH: Please repeat that.
QUESTION (MR VIJAY NAIK, SAKAL PAPERS): The Pakistani side after the meeting briefed their own press and said that some of the Ministers did not confer with the points which were there in the document or the declaration and, therefore, the
declaration could not be signed and that they were disappointed. We were also told by her that the Indian Government is also disappointed. Was it a fact that we objected to certain points which we did not agree.
Secondly, I just want to know why Indian Government actually gave these points which were raised by Shri Vajpayee in the first meeting with Mr Musharraf after 24 hours to the press here. They could have been given immediately after he made the points. But why
did we delay? When Mr Musharraf went on addressing the press conference, we received the speech of Mr Vajpayee after 24 hours.
MR JASWANT SINGH: The first part of the question, for those of you that have not heard it, is ‘were there any differences in the Indian delegation, particularly amongst the ministerial colleagues of mine in regard to the text of the document
that was being discussed?’ The second part relates to, ‘why was Prime Minister Vajpayee’s statement in the plenary held back and not issued until almost 24 hours after it was made?’
To the first part about differences, let me set all your minds at rest. At a feverish pitch good friends in the media imagine all kinds of occurrences. Please do not let your fever rise to such levels. There were no differences between the ministerial colleagues
that constituted the delegation. This is a canard which I refute with all emphasis. It is a absurdity. These are my distinguished colleagues in the Cabinet. To suggest that we were working at cross purposes is really to belittle the high purpose which has
inspired all my ministerial colleagues in this task of finding an answer to the complex issue of India-Pak relations.
On the second aspect relating to ‘why was Prime Minister Vajpayee’s opening statement in the plenary held back, it was done for the obvious reason which I have specified. India does not believe that discussions or negotiations between two Heads of Government
are ever or can ever be conducted in public or through the press. We abided by that impeccably. However, when we found that there was a kind of approach from the other side of engaging with the media as an additionality to discussion, to which aspect I have
referred in my opening statement, it was found necessary that for the sake of the public of India the essence of what Prime Minister Vajpayee had emphasised and said be made also known to everybody.
QUESTION (MS ARUSA ALAM, PAKISTAN OBSERVER): You have very forcefully raised the so-called cross border terrorism issue. Not long ago your own Chief of Army Staff and authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have admitted that the LOC has been very
quiet. In the past Indians have been alleging that Pakistani troops fire and under the firing the infiltration takes place. When you have admitted yourself that LOC has been quiet for the last seven months, how can you blame Pakistan for cross border terrorism
at this point? First of all, why did cross border terrorism became the bone of contention in this historic Agra summit?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I must answer both these points. As it happens, I have the honour to be the Defence Minister of India as well. So, I do not have to go simply by what my gallant Chief of Army Staff says. I do know what is happening on the
Line of Control. It is not a question of timing: it is a question of clearly asserting that one of the beneficial consequences of the peace process that was launched by Prime Minister Vajpayee on the 23rd of November last has been relative quiet on the Line
of Control. There is secondly an illusion, or a misapprehension which is in fact tacitly admitted in your question itself that cross border firing across the LoC was engaged in by Pakistan to facilitate infiltration. Infiltration is, of course, facilitated
by that but it continues, notwithstanding the relative quiet that prevails. It is our hope that that achievement will continue.
QUESTION (MR JAYAKRISHNAN SIFY): You have outlined three points which you said are the difficulties between the two sides. General Musharraf had taken up a point where the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj had made
some remarks. He had objected to that. How much of that was a factor, or was that a factor at all?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I must clarify this again. I have heard reports that my good friend and distinguished colleague in the Cabinet, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Shrimati Sushma Swaraj somehow spoke on her own as it were, and
was not supposed to do so, and all kinds of other assumptions are made about her. She is the Minister of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India. When she speaks, she speaks with the authority of the Government of India. There is no question
of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting speaking out of turn, for that matter any Minister speaking out of turn, on matters of high policy. As to whether that had an affect on the discussions, negotiations, etc., – not at all because after all what
Sushmaji pointed out were aspects of what is public knowledge and were aspects that were emphasised by the Prime Minister subsequently also.
QUESTION (MS GEETA BAJAJ, EYE ON ASIA, USA): Mr. Minister, despite several wars and decades of hostility, India and Pakistan have been successful in hammering out the Shimla Accord in 1972 and the Lahore Declaration in 1999. At both times
there was a democratic leader in Pakistan. Now, many of us got a flavour of the offensive, straightforward strategy of General Pervez Musharraf on television yesterday. There was also an expectation that because he is a dictator he will be able to deliver
in case he does hammer out an accord with India. To what extent do you believe, Mr. Minister, that the fact that he is a dictator and he is used to getting his way perhaps got in the way or had an influence on the result of the Summit? Could you share your
views with us in terms of one-on-one kind of discussions at the delegation levels, if that aspect came through. I mean, whatever you can share with us.
MR JASWANT SINGH: Thank you very much for your long thesis. It is more a thesis than a question. Please understand that it is not for me to comment on the internal arrangements that Pakistan chooses to have for itself. I am certainly not going
to engage in a theoretical exercise of who is it better to deal with or negotiate with, one or other variety of governance.
QUESTION (MR JAYANT GHOSHAL, BARTAMAN PATRIKA): Do you think that yesterday’s breakfast meeting was a critical point that destroyed the atmosphere of the Summit? Secondly, since you are the Defence Minister also, do you apprehend escalation
of violence again on the border in Jammu and Kashmir? Yesterday also incidents took place.
MR JASWANT SINGH: On this much beaten about question of breakfast press meet, press interview by His Hxcellency General Pervez Musharraf sahab, I have already replied. When we are seized in complex negotiations, the objective being the high
purpose of lasting peace, amity and goodwill between India and Pakistan, then certainly we firstly do not and cannot negotiate and discuss through the media, much as you might, all ladies and gentlemen of the press, like it. Insofar as the other aspect of
incidents on the Line of Control go, I did say that there is relative peace on the LoC. I did not say there is total peace. These incidents happen It is regrettable. We deal with the incidents as they arrive.
QUESTION (MR VINOD SHARMA, HINDUSTAN TIMES): Since last evening we have been hearing from Mrs. Rao’s counterpart on the Pakistani delegation that the draft agreement, the so-called Agra Declaration or whatever, was discussed and agreed between the two Heads
of Delegation and between the two Foreign Ministers and at the eleventh hour it was sabotaged or discarded or whatever by a hidden hand. That is the statement coming from the counterpart of the spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs. What do you have
to say about this? Rashid Qureshi speaks for the President of Pakistan and he has been making these statements. Would you agree that right from the word go, be it in sartorial terms or be it in diplomatic terms, Pervez Musharraf treated this Summit as a media
event to score certain media mileage over India?
MR JASWANT SINGH: In both the aspects, I do not wish to comment on His Excellency General Pervez Musharraf sahab, the President of Pakistan, at all. So far as the official spokesman of the Government of Pakistan is concerned, I am sure you
will understand that it is not for me to engage in rebuttals, contradictions, clarifications or in any kind of bandying of words with the official spokesman. I refuse to engage in that kind of exercise – “The official spokesman said this, what do you have
to say?” The official spokesman will deal with it.
QUESTION (MR SATISH JACOB BBC): Prime Minister Vajpayee had been invited to Pakistan and we were told that he had accepted the invitation? Will he be going to Pakistan, and how soon?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I think that was one of the first questions asked, if I am not mistaken by Pamela Constable and I have already answered it. The invitation was extended by His Excellency, the President of Pakistan. The Prime Minister of India
has accepted that invitation. That fact remains in position. The dates of the visit, the convenience of the visit, etc., is now a matter of diplomatic arrangements and that will be dealt with in due time.
.QUESTION (MR IMTIAZ GUL, THE FRIDAY TIMES, LAHORE): You are calling Pakistan’s insistence on the centrality of Kashmir as a unifocal approach. But, as we understand, India is also pursuing almost the same approach by predominantly emphasising
on the issue of cross-border terrorism. With what expectation did you invite General Musharraf? Did you expect that he would be giving in on this issue as he described that the Indians are not accepting it as a dispute?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I must clarify this. There are two aspects of the question. Just as Pakistan is fixated upon the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, the distinguished questioner has suggested that we are fixated upon cross-border terrorism as
the only issue. No. Let me correct this. It is one fo the issues. It is a very imprtant issue. I had made clear in my prepared text that the two approaches differ here. Pakistan’s approach is that unless the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is addressed nothing
else will happen. India believes that in the totality of relationship between the two countries, all issues should be addressed simultaneously which is what really the composite dialogue process is all about. We believe and we continue to believe that as we
progress in increasing confidence and trust, and movement of people between our two countries, there can and will no doubt be movement in regard to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir as well. There was a second part of the question which was relating to the expectation.
So far as expectations are concerned, yes, certainly the invitation was inspired by the expectations of not the suggestion being that anyone should abandon the fixed positions of principle. Not at all. But the expectation was that there will be accommodation,
understanding and movement forward.
QUESTION (MR CHANDAN MITRA, PIONEER): Jaswantji, the build up to the Summit was not exactly propitious with a series of interviews being given by President Musharraf, which were fairly belligerent in tone. From your response also when you
had to clarify a number of points, it was very clear that both countries were fairly determined to stick to their respective positions on the eve of the Summit. So, looking back at this kind of build up and the fact that both countries were fairly adamant
on these two approaches that you spoke about, do you think the Submmit was held prematurely, and that there was inadequate preparation, and that it would have been better if the preparations had happened at the level of officials and some of these key issues
sorted out before the two leaders actually met?
MR JASWANT SINGH: So far as the first part, Chandan, your suggestion that I was belligerent in …
QUESTION (MR CHANDAN MITRA, PIONEER): I did not say you were belligerent, Mr. Minister.
MR JASWANT SINGH: But then I am glad that you do not think I was belligerent.
As to the press interviews that General Pervez Musharraf sahab chose to give prior to visiting India, surely that is his choice. It is his determination and we do not at all wish to comment on that except to say what I have in my press statement that it
is our belief, that we remain committed to it, that when it comes to discussions on bilateral and international issues, even if it did not involve Heads of Government and Heads of State, even if it involves officials of countries, we shall not negotiate through
the media. That is our commitment. I was very severely commented upon by a number of friends in the media that whereas in Pakistan there was almost two or three media events per day Mr. Vajpayee did not choose to give even one interview, and that I was remaining
silent. I was not remaining silent because I had lost my speech! I was remaining silent because it is not proper for me to keep on engaging in answers to questions that arise, or rebuttals. That is not how diplomacy is conducted. When I chose to speak, it
was only because a great many issues of importantce to India were suffering through default. It was an obligation that I had to the nation and to the Government to make clear certain issues.
As to whether there should have been preparation, we did suggest to Government of Pakistan that firstly let there be an exchange of officials prior to the Summit. We volunteered that we will send the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs to Islamabad
to sit with their counterparts to agree upon an agenda, and to prepare what is ordinarily done before such summits preparatory documents for the summit, so that all the preparatory work which is routine and which is normally done before such meetings is taken
care of. Consistently we received a response from Pakistan that they did not want such a visit to take place, that they did not want officials to visit Islamabad, that so far as the agenda is concerned they did not wish to fix an agenda in advance, that it
be left to the two Heads of Governments to determine the agenda when they meet. As hosts, we could only request our distinguished guests up to a point. We kept on uptill the last day almost, suggesting that it is better if there is preparatory work done and
an agenda is determined. I cannot dictate: I can only request.
QUESTION (MR CHRISTOPHER KRAMER, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD): Good Morning, Mr. Singh. What are we left with in terms of India-Pakistan engagement? There have been a number of suggestions about the kinds of meetings and the levels at which they
might take place. Say, over the next six months, what are the high levels at which do you expect the interaction exactly to be?
MR JASWANT SINGH: Permit me to somewhat alter the suggestion of alarm in your question about what are we left with. It suggests that everything has collapsed in India-Pak relations. No, that is not so. This is an ancient relationship. Pakistan
is our neighbour. I have made clear in the opening statement that I have given that India remains committed to working towards lasting peace, amity and co-operation with Pakistan and this high purpose which has inspired the Prime Minister’s public life will
continue to be our purpose. In practical terms, I have made clear that the invitation to the Prime Minister by His Excellency the President of Pakistan is in position. The invitation has been accepted. Through diplomatic methods a convenient date for such
a visit will take place. No doubt that there will be other opportunities at other levels to continue with interaction between the two countries.
QUESTION (MR SRINIVASAN JAIN, NDTV): During the negotiations, at any stage, at any level, was there an acceptance of the centrality of Kashmir in any sort of peace process between India and Pakistan? Of course, other issues would also have
been a part of that. But was there any acceptance that Kashmir would emerge as the central issue? Secondly, given the sort of serious differences that seemed to have emerged late last night when the talks eventually seemd to break down, what hopes you have?
What could be the basis for any future engagement with Pakistan, at least with this regime?
MR JASWANT SINGH: That Jammu and Kashmir is an issue which needs to be addressed has been recognised by India and so stated since, in fact, the Shimla Agreement. India remains firm on that. If some of you would go back to the text of Shimla
Agreement you would find a reference to that. India’s position has, therefore, remained constant. We recognise that it is an issue. We are committed to addressing the issue. I understand you enquired about the centrality. I have answered that in my prepared
text. Here we have a conceptual difference with Pakistan. We recognise it as an issue that needs to be addressed. We do not recognise it as the only issue. We do not certainly – I have answered this question and I do not wish to bore you with repeating the
same reply – accept it as the core issue and such other definition. But we accept it as an issue and we are committed to addressing it.
QUESTION (MR SRINIVASAN JAIN, NDTV): I had a second part of the question which was, what was really the basis for any future talks given the very serious differences.
MR JASWANT SINGH: Yes, and I have answered it. I have answered this to several other questioners earlier. I would not treat this as the end of the exercise. Our commitment to peace and dialogue, amity between the two countries remains. I have
said this earlier. The caravan of peace will continue on its march. I have no doubt in my mind that on some auspicious day, it will reach its destination.
QUESTION (MR PREM PRAKASH ANI): There was hardly any preparation for this Summit. Now that the invitation for Mr. Vajpayee has been accepted, can one expect that there would be preparation for that?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I followed your question. Please let me correct this because in the question there is a misimpression as if India did not prepare for it. I do not believe that. I have now held this responsibility for several years. I have
no difficulty in sharing with you that the officers of my Ministry have taken to despair as to how many demands are made on them about preparing for this visit! The Government of India or the Ministry of External Affairs or other Ministries were not lacking
in preparation for this visit, were not wanting preparation. We were fully prepared. All the members of the delegation were fully briefed. The documents that we had prepared had not been prepared impromptu. They had been prepared weeks in advance, discussed
at length between the ministerial colleagues and the delegation members. So, the preparation on India’s side was not lacking. All that I am pointing out is that when India suggested that let the officials of the two Governments meet, prepare some basic working
documents and arrive at a possible agenda for submission to the Heads of Government, we found sadly that Pakistan did not want it in that manner.
QUESTION ( RANJAN GUPTA CBS): How will you now characterise India-Pakistan relations after the talks? Are they better than before the talks, or worse? Considering that a tremendous amount of much-displayed bilateralism did not succeed, will
you go in for third party goodwill, third party mediation?
MR JASWANT SINGH: Yes, we have a better understanding of the Government of Pakistan and I would hope that they have a better understanding of the Government of India. Third party – ‘No.’ Two parties are more than adequate. Three is a crowd.
QUESTION (MS ADITI PHADNIS, BUSINESS STANDARD): Mr. Minister, you have acknowledged that there are conceptual differences between India and Pakistan on various issues. If there are conceptual differences, what is the space left for you to take
Indo-Pakistan relations forward?
MR JASWANT SINGH: There are conceptual differences, but I believe that India and Pakistan’s relations should not be defined by differences. They must be able to move beyond and transcend the differences for the sake of the welfare of the peoples
of the two countries.
So far as my responsibility as the Minister of External Affairs of India goes, I do interpret my responsibility as one of constant endeavour to attempt to bridge the gaps of understanding, to continue to endeavour to reconcile differences. That indeed is the
inspired thought that persuades the Prime Minister too.
QUESTION (MR SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN, TIMES OF INDIA): Would you use the word failure to describe the Agra Summit?
MR JASWANT SINGH: No.
QUESTION (MR SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN, TIMES OF INDIA): Once talks have broken down in terms of the text of the declaration, was there any attempt to reach an understanding on a very basic minimum text such as, ‘the President of Pakistan has come,
extended his invitation, the Prime Minister has agreed’ etc., something that would just be a minimum statement which could have been given and which might perhaps have given a better ending to this meeting, if as you said, you do not want to characterise it
as a failure?
MR JASWANT SINGH: No, I do not characterise it as a failure. I do term it as yet another step in our march towards finding lasting peace, amity and co-operation between the two countries. I do not wish to speculate what would have been better
and what would not have been better. That is now in the realm of past.
QUESTION (MR STEPHEN, LONDON TIMES): Sir, you continue to emphasise the totality of relationships and he, one central issue. You look to the precedents of Shimla Accord, and the history, and to the future, and you keep issues confidential
– whereas he talks in public. Can you do business with this man?
MR JASWANT SINGH: Well, I have just done business with him. I have to deal with the world as it is and not as it ought to be.
QUESTION (MR RAJA MOHAN, THE HINDU): Mr. Minister, you said, ‘three is a crowd’. One of the problems at the Summit was Pakistan’s attempt to bring a third party into the definition of the problem whether through the notion of self-determination,
whether through taking into account the wishes of the people. Was that one of the problems that did not allow the final declaration to come?
MR JASWANT SINGH: There are two aspects of your question Raja. If I went into the details of answering the second, I would teeter very close to confidentiality of discussion. Permit me not to indulge in any such fine balancing acts.
So far as the first which relates to ‘three is a crowd’, and was there any attempt to bring the third, no, there was not. India and Pakistan by themselves are enough to deal with India-Pakistan matters.
QUESTION (MR JAIRAM, INDO ASEAN NEWS SERVICE): Mr. Minister, what will be the implication of this Summit on the SAARC process? Is it destined to remain in a limbo for long?
MR JASWANT SINGH: I must make it clear that so far as SAARC is concerned, before the Summit the Foreign Secretary Mrs. Chokila Iyer was due to go in a special meeting of the Foreign Secretaries to intiate the SAARC process all afresh. Most
regrettably, just then the sad and tragic events invaded Nepal which has insisted on postponement of that visit. I have no doubt that the Foreign Secretary has now got fresh dates for the purpose and she would be going and it is my hope that the SAARC Summit,
subject of course to the convenience of the other member-countries and the host country Nepal where the meeting will take place.
QUESTION (MR SMITH, PRESS TRUST OF INDIA): I would like to know whether the talks achieved anything in real terms. Or, were they a futile exercise?
MR JASWANT SINGH: No, it is not a futile exercise. We remain committed. Real terms is your subjective way of putting it. Your real terms and my real terms might differ.
I have an aeroplane to catch which does not wait for me. But I will answer that question.
QUESTION (MS KATHY SOKO, KYOTO JOURNAL): It was not so long ago that M.J. Akbar had written in his book ‘Kashmir Behind the Veil’ quoting former statesman Jaiprakash Narain. He wrote in a confidential letter to Indira Gandhi many years ago
– “We profess democracy but rule by force in Kashmir. We profess secularism but that Hindu nationalism stampede us into trying to establish it by repression. Kashmir has distorted India’s image in the world as nothing has done. The problem exists not because
Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir but because there is deep and widespread political discontent among the people.” Now, I would like to ask you, Sir, in the year 2001, how would you characterise Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir?
MR JASWANT SINGH: First of all, I do not agree with what late Jaiprakash had written. That is his personal viewpoint. When you call Indian rule, please correct yourself. The State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Whatever
internal problems that India faces, we are committed to resolving both internal as also the aspect of cross-border terrorism.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, I am really in your hands. I have endeavoured as best as I could.
QUESTION: Some of your crucial allies, even elements within your ruling family, are opposed reviving talks with Pakistan. In the wake of this failure, will the Government have some rethinking on this? Will there be a chance for the Prime
Minister to meet the President in New York in the General Assembly Session?
MR JASWANT SINGH: Firstly, this is not a failure. Secondly, your suggestion that there is any difference of opinion within the National Democratic Alliance, No. What you described as the family, not there either. Will he meet the President
on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly? That will be determined in due time.