Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

Editors For Breakfast

Full transcript of the General's Breakfast Meeting with Indian Print and Electronic Media Agra.

Editors For Breakfast
Editors For Breakfast

Opening Statement:

First of all let me say it is indeed my pleasure to be in the company of such luminaries as the High Commissioner is saying and that certainly you are. I see most of you or have heard most of you or read most of you, so it is really my pleasure indeed that you have joined me for this breakfast. I am grateful to my High Commissioner who arranged this breakfast , meeting.

I think this is a very historic event that we are passing through. We can, I would say, really convert it into a historic one for India and Pakistan. And I have certainly come here with this idea that we need to convert our relations, we need to turn the comer, we need to certainly improve our relations for the sake of this region. I am extremely conscious that this is the only region which is economically deprived, which is not collaborating for economic well-being of the people, and all this happening because of just one thing i.e. the Indo-Pak conflict, the Indo-Pak differences, tensions. So therefore, quite clearly any sane person would like this conflict or differences or tensions: removed. 

I come here with this in mind. But I today would like to emphasize one thing certainly which must be understood and which is nothing great that I am saying. Every country has its principles, has its stands, has its dignity and honour to guard. In this regard we do understand India is the biggest country. India is the most populous country but Pakistan is not a small country We are also at I think 6th or 7th position in the world.

But the point I would like to make is that whether small or big every country has its honour and dignity to guard and I may like to add that it falls upon the bigger partner to ensure the honour and dignity of the smaller partners to be guarded. Now the other point I would like to make is that I try to be a realist. I do not believe in living in a make believe world. We must confront realities as they are. We must not brush them under the carpet or like an ostrich live in its own world, not seeing what is happening around or presuming or imagining that we are not seeing what is happening around. I don’t believe in this because I feel that if we do not face issues squarely, frontally, if we do not catch the bull by the horns and we don’t put the horse before the cart we hardly can move forward. 

If we keep sticking to our own positions rigidly we cannot move forward. So, therefore there is a degree of flexibility, open-mindedness, understanding of each other’s problems, that is the pre-requisite for any forward movement. Another thing that I would like to say about myself is that I believe in a sincere and an honest way of approaching things. I do believe in saying what I mean or saying, may I say, what I am thinking. So as I said in the past I do believe in maintaining balance between the mind, the heart and the tongue. What talk anywhere I mean it and I am prepared to face whatever I talk. So the issues which we will talk about are extremely important.

Having said that if we see the reality on ground, what is the reality that I am talking of ladies and gentlemen! Let’s not remain in any illusion that the main issue confronting us is Kashmir. I am not saying anything which is unrealistic or imaginary. That is the reality on ground whether we like it or not. There may be some compulsions on your part not to talk about it. There are definite compulsions on my part that I must talk about it, on Pakistan‘s part. So if India expects that I should ignore Kashmir then I better buy the Nehrvali Haveli back and stay there. 

So these are the facts of the matter. So what is the move forward. We spent 50 years fighting each other. I was extremely sorry when I heard day before yesterday a very old parents looking for their son who they think is a POW in Pakistan since 71. We would be mad to retain a POW for thirty years. I am a soldier. I would be the first man to release a POW if I know where a POW is. We have our own mothers. We have lost children in wars with you. So we understand and most of all I understand. I am a man in uniform. I have seen my officers and my soldiers die. So I certainly have sympathy with any parents who many have lost their son. So on that issue I will go back and personally get involved because I know that previously people have looked around and even a delegation went from here but still you are not believing and this issue is again and again being raised by you. So I said I will look into it and only then I will give a verdict that they are not there. Now if after that somebody keeps disbelieving me or Pakistan, it is just bad luck. There is no way of proving it otherwise. But I will certainly, irrespective of whatever talks are on this issue of POWs will personally look into it.

Now I digress from the main subject. Why such sad stories. Where did this POW come from. What was the issue involved. Why this human tragedy? This human tragedy is because of Kashmir. We have fought wars on Kashmir. What else we have fought wars over. You keep talking of Kargil. People keep talking of Siachen. What. is all this. Its all Kashmir. What is happening on the LOC? What is happening in the valley? Its all Kashmir. Where else is anything happening? So if I say we need to resolve this issue, I know you, are extremely sensitive, extremely allergic to the word ‘dispute’ .I really don’t know why. I think it very much is a dispute. But, however, OK lets find some other word for it. Its certainly a dispute but in deference to your views I will call it an issue. OK, its an issue but if anyone says no its not an issue that is wrong.

Let me talk of your media which am seeing for the last two three days. Whenever I have time I switch on TV and watch it. I was seeing your Information Minister talk on the TV and she was talking of every thing. She spoke of everything. She said that the Prime Minister, myself and the delegation spoke of cross border terrorism, nuclear issue, POW issue, but she did not say a word on Kashmir. She did not speak on Kashmir. Ladies and Gentlemen! , the most part of the meeting was spent on discussing Kashmir. So I am just wondering where are we? What we want to do? Should we end up. I keep :,. talking of Kashmir. You keep talking of cross border terrorism and confidence building. What confidence building? CB is the issue of Kashmir. That is the biggest confidence building measure. Is a CBM possible when we are fighting just across the border and killing each other and have CBM on opening the routes, trade, economy, culture. How can this be? Is this practical? I think its just not practical. I can’t live in this make believe world. I can’t live in this illusion. That’s what I said. I said I try to be a realist. Lets see the realities. I am not saying anything which is not real. I am not saying a word which is wrong.

So. this is what you as media people should see. I feel maybe there is some restraint on the media, on government personalities here, on use of word Kashmir or even discussing it, talking of it. I am really reasonably sure that there is a constraint. We don’t even want to address it. We don’t want to talk about it. So this is the reality. I think now I personally feel that the time is there, an environment has been built, a hype has been created because of this visit, not only in Pakistan and India but the worldwide and I think the public of India, may I say, and also the public in Pakistan really are looking for a move forward and a solution to our problems. And I think this is the right environment, I am reasonably sure of the need on both countries to address the core issues. They will go along on this I am sure.

Addressing the issue is not easy for me also. One must know. There are differences of opinion in Pakistan also, where some people are against this peaceful dialogue process and friendship with India. So I am prepared to move forward because I know 100% consensus will never be achieved. But I also at the same time expect that here the public should be told that the main issue between Pakistan and India is Kashmir . And also that I’ve never said that I refuse to talk’ on any 9ther issue. I’ve never said it. Please don’t project it on. the media. All that I’ve been saying is please understand Kashmir is the main issue, and I will carryon saying it whether anyone agrees or not. Because this is what we have killed each other for, and as I said I know much more than anyone else because I have fought the two wars. 

I’ve been in the Northern areas everywhere. In the sun I know what it is when one fights. So this is the issue. The public is prepared to accept that yes this is the issue. I am sure they are not going to create a hue and cry on our calling the Kashmir the issue and why are we trying to say that we want to resolve it. But if we have some kind of a constraint or restraint in our own minds then I am afraid it is very difficult to move forward. 

But however, I am saying as I learn in diplomacy through’ my Foreign Minister, Foreign Secretary and the High Commissioner, never close the door even in shut diplomacy. We will not close the door certainly. We must always continue with this process of dialogue which has been initiated very well, the dialogue which has been extremely fruitful, I must say, and is still going on. My meeting with the Prime Minister Vajpayee, I respect him, I honour him for his dignity, for his statesmanship, the decision that he took to invite me, the initiation of the dialogue process and also the understanding that he shows towards our concerns and, the dignity, the method, the way that he adopts to put across his own views. 

But we need to translate all that into some form, and that we are trying to do. You have to pray that ’we’ succeed. I have to meet the Prime Minister again. There was an interaction at the officials level at night, till very late, I think till four 0’ clock in the morning. These interactions are taking place. I cannot say anything more than that. Certain things have to be ironed out and I believe they can be ironed out by me and the Prime Minister. I am an optimist. I will always remain an optimist. Lets hope for the best. I thank you very much.

Chandan Mitra: You have been saying that Kashmir is the core issue. It is the issue, OK fine. But can this really give us anything unless a solution is opted. So till we know what is the solution that you have in mind for this dispute mere recognition of the fact that this is a dispute will not probably get us anywhere. Could we hear you once again?

Musharraf: Yes, certainly we should not at this stage, get bogged down in getting involved in the solutions because then we would not proceed further. What I would like to say is one can’t Jump from the first zero run to 10 run. Lets go step by step. Step one was the initiation of the dialogue and again I would like to give all the credit to Prime Minister Vajpayee for his statesmanship, for having invited me. This is a great act, a courageous and a bold step. I recognise it: That was step one. Now step two. I feel this acceptance that Kashmir is an issue, it must be resolved, and may I say when I say it must be resolved obviously there are three parties to it. It is Pakistan India and also Kashmiris. Can we resolve Kashmir if we decide to resolve it without their wishes, without some way of ascertaining their views? Can we do something for them over their heads? So this acceptance of the main issue is step two. One can then after entering into dialogue move further. This requires just boldness and courage to accept the reality. Nothing more than that. This is not such a difficult step to take. This is the reality. You just accept the reality. Then we are entering now into troubled waters. I do understand that we are entering now into the area: of what is the solution. How do we move forward. This I feel we all know and I don’t want to discuss the solution. There are a number of solutions, but maybe at the step two one could negate certain solutions if possible. Obviously national consensus will be required. Can we negate certain solutions that these are not the solutions? Would one keep saying stated positions and all that lets leave this.

So negation of some solutions, if possible, again national consensus as I said is required on both sides. For me, I would like to take the nation along, and certainly this is required by Mr. Vajpayee also. Having done that we have come a little, one more run forward and then we go on to discussing, OK. negate it. Now in the area that we are left with, .are the possibilities. So I think these are the steps. Step one we have taken. Step two, I would say, can be taken today. Step three can be taken later and step four will be more later. That’s what I have to say.

Malini Parthasarthy: If you are moving toward a mechanism of the dialogue, the way you are, it does not let you, what to talk of step two, take effect. But if you are moving towards a mechanism like a joint working group or something, would not that help to focus subject towards making headway in this direction?

Yes certainly it can. But as I said this is step two, I am calling step one, I hope you are on the same grid on steps. Step one is what we have initiated. Step two is the acceptance of the issue, the reality. I said that can be taken immediately, that can be taken. today. But if you are asking if that facilitates step three?

The mechanism, yes, the step forward.

Certainly in this acceptance of reality we must also include what is the way forward. A structure, for a process of dialogue, future dialogue and also, may I say, may be we need to put urgency required if! whatever want to do if we want to move on a fast track. So the structure is required, an urgency should be agreed on. That is how we proceed and we will come to step III then.

I wanted to say that there is another theory. I don’t know whether you have considered it or not. There were certain Acts which led to the Partition of British India, and two separate countries--- India and Pakistan---came into being. Under this Act the states were given certain choices what to do and whom to join, whether they should join India or Pakistan. What do you think of this Act. Didn’t Kashmir become a part of India under this very Act.

A. We are getting involved in contentious issues.

Q. I told you the theory?

A. Certainly. UN has a ruling over this. In the 1948 Resolution Kashmir is recognised to be a dispute which needs to be resolved through .plebiscite. That is very clear. We say that we should stick to this Resolution. We want to stick to self-determination and plebiscite. This is an international resolution and India agreed to this. Right up to 1958 we were, in agreement on that, if I am not wrong. Is that correct? In 1958 we heard that no, Kashmir is a part of India. Otherwise right for over ten years this was an accepted dispute which had to be resolved through plebiscite and self-determination.

Vinod Mehta: Mr. President, I just wanted to reassure you, and I think I speak for everybody in the media that there are no institutional constraints in discussions on Kashmir in the media. We often use your favourite word when it comes to Kashmir here in the media when we say that it is the core issue. We use it quite frequently. There is a wide variety of opinions on Kashmir in the Indian media. Perhaps you have not had the opportunity to see that but I think we are a step ahead of the Indian Government in that respect. The thing that I really wanted to ask you is that would you be satisfied in this Summit if step one was taken and formalised in some way, if we accepted your views, supposing we also use the word ‘main issue’, formalise the joint working group, you are meeting with the Prime Minister of India in September-October, he accepted your invitation, would you wait or you want step-two to be taken in Agra today? Would you be satisfied if a complex step- one wherein a negotiating process, a dialogue process was started. Step-two Mr. President is going to initially cause problems. You are a great realist. I think if in the Summit we can agree on a dialogue, have an elaborate dialogue you can even suggest a time- frame, working group, whatever it is, and perhaps if you can leave stage-II to September-October meeting you are likely to have with our Prime Minister?

You mean acceptance of the issue or the ‘main issue’ or core issue’, are you talking about that?

Vinod Mehta: We concede that Kashmir is the main issue between us. Nobody is questioning that.

I hope the government agrees with your statement. Yes I will be happy with that if we accept, if we give a framework where we accept the reality on ground. We accept what the issue is and have a framework. I will be satisfied. Now these steps are confusing. Are you. talking of the negation part? I accept what you say. I am saying step two is accepting what you are saying. In step one I have given the credit to the Prime Minister for inviting me.

Shekhar Gupta: Let me have a clarification of my own. On behalf of all of us I say that not only there are no constraints an any of us on saying anything about Kashmir ever. We say this being very. honourable journalists that never, ever in my 25 years of reporting most troubled problems of India have I felt the, restraint and none of us has. The second thing is that please don’t take us so seriously. Our government does not take us so seriously so it is very rare that our government and we agree on anything. We think we have more wisdom than all the rest of them as all journalists do and they think we are fools. So I think it is very difficult to apply the understanding that you see .. 


Nalini Singh: Mr. President I want to take this discussion a little bit away from step-one, step two or whatever you have in mind because you have been articulating your positions in the various interviews. I have two brief questions. 


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