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Reliance pushed for India-Pak peace talks: Sanjaya Baru's book

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 - 8:15am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Buried deep inside the pages of Sanjaya Baru's controversial book, The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, are startling revelations about the contours of settlement of Kashmir issue. Also the claim that peace process between India and Pakistan was pushed by the corporate group Reliance, who wanted an assurance from Islamabad that they would not bomb their refinery in Jamnagar Gujarat.

With the book being released amidst election campaign for the 16th Lok Sabha, these revelations were lost in the cacophony of a debate on "cipher" prime minister Manmohan Singh and the "power centres", referred to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Prime minister's back-channel envoy Satinder Lambah and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's advisor Tariq Aziz, who met several times had laid down a four-step framework agreement, approved by the political heads. The formula had so far been in the realm of speculation in the diplomatic corridors, with former Pakistan foreign minister Mehmood Ahmed Kasuri spilling beans a couple of years ago, saying both countries had reached almost close to the settlement of six-decade old Kashmir problem, that has rocked the relations and resulted four wars between the two countries. From India's side, there was always a hush-hush with the ministry of external affairs denying there was any roadmap in its records.

Baru writes that Lambah's meetings with prime minister Singh were always kept secret, with only the PM's second personal secretary Jaideep Sarkar in loop. Sarkar would often take leave officially from office, on the pretext of preparing his son for exams or reporting sick, to accompany Lambah to meet his Pakistani interlocutors either in Islamabad or at a third place to prepare ground for the agreement and the summit meetings.

According to the framework agreement, the first step, would be to make the LoC just 'a line on a map' and allow men, material and trade between the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir, so that life returns to pre-Partition era, when people could travel without visa, permits to each other's villages and cities.

The second step would be to strengthen local self-governments on both side of the LoC, so that people can elect their own governments, if necessary under international supervision. That means elections on both sides would be supervised by an international body rather than the Election Commission of India. The third step, which was the trickiest, entailed the creation of 'joint' or 'cooperative' institutions under the charge of Kashmiri leaders to coordinate policies on matters of common interest. This joint mechanism involving governments and elected representatives of both sides would take decisions on everything except foreign affairs and defence which would be handled by New Delhi and Islamabad respectively. And if all these steps worked well to restore peace, the fourth and final element would be the 'agreed withdrawal' of troops on both sides.

Baru claims that Singh followed the path laid down by his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his January 2004 visit of Islamabad. Vajpayee had entrusted the back-channel contacts to R K Mishra, who also doubled up as chairman of Dhirubhai Ambani's aide. Manmohan Singh wanted Musharraf to own and propagate the Kashmir 'peace formula'. He was under the impression that it would be tough for Musharraf to sell this formula in his own country. But it turned out that Singh had underestimated the resistance from within his own party and also from two key ministers, Pranab Mukherjee and A K Antony, and national security advisor M K Narayanan. The road map was finally buried after Musharraf ruled ended in 2008 and has been waiting since then to be resurrected.




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