Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah cautioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rushing to Islamabad as the "atmosphere is not conducive" for his visit to Pakistan. He was also afraid that there was a real fear that visit in these circumstances of "deep mistrust" may end as yet another diplomatic disaster like Agra summit of July 2001.
He said that this visit should be undertaken only after the 2007 elections outcome is known in Pakistan.
At the moment, there is a huge hope that once the two leaders meet, there would be something great coming out of it. Since Pakistan is undergoing troubled times and President Musharraf is under "lot of pressure from Jihadis that he should not concede anything to India on Kashmir, any hope-fulfilling outcome is unlikely."
"There is a groundswell of mistrust between the two nations. President Pervez Musharraf is having his own domestic political compulsions ahead of the 2007 polls in his country," Farooq Abdullah said. His argument was that Manmohan Singh should delay honouring his pledge to visit Islamabad made during his meeting with President Musharraf on the sidelines of Non-Aligned Movement summit in Cuban capital Havana on September 16.
Manmohan Singh had agreed to visit Pakistan on the invitation of President Musharraf. That was a sort of renewal of the invite that he had first made to Prime Minister during his visit to Delhi in April 2005.
Speaking in the backdrop of the atmosphere in the two countries ahead of next week's foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan in New Delhi, Farooq Abdullah a keen watcher of the international relations, told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview that "mistrust between the two countries needs to disappear before the Prime Minister visits Pakistan."
"Most importantly," Farooq Abdullah said, "the people in both, India and Pakistan, want something positive to emerge out of the summit at the leadership level. There is a lot of hope on that count. And if the leadership fails to live up to the expectations of the people, the people would lose hope."
Referring to the trouble in the tribal areas in Pakistan, Farooq Abdullah said: "These are troubled times for Pakistan."
The October 30 aerial strike on madrassa that left 80 people dead and Wednesday's suicide bombing at an army training centre, killing 35 soldiers were obviously the recent references that was on Farooq's mind while showcasing situation in Pakistan.
"Secondly, President Musharraf is under Jihad pressure to do something more on Kashmir, shun flexibility. He cannot afford to have an Agra like fiasco. If that is there, his position would weaken and the fundamentalists would take over. We should not do anything that would destabilise Musharraf," Farooq said.
Farooq Abdullah was a witness to the whole range of the complexities and diplomatic hype and its loud noise of flattening July 2001. He was Chief Minister that time.
"The best thing would be to wait for the outcome of the 2007 elections in Pakistan. There will be a new term, and new man having the mandate. It may be Mushrarraf. We should talk to them. That would be the right time for Indian Prime Minister to go there," he said.
On the Foreign Secretary level talks, he said that foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon was Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan. "He knows all the ins and outs of Pakistan."
The meeting, he said, would essentially draw the base line on which to build the trust.
He hoped that the solution would first come for Siachen glacier. That would convey to the people of the two countries and the world that, "we are serious in resolving the Kashmir issue."
"Other issues would follow. But, we should not expect dramatic or magical outcome in the first meeting."
However, he said as far as Confidence Building Measures are concerned, travelling of people on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir should be made more frequent and not restricted to the divided families alone.
"There is a cumbersome procedure- submitting of lists to each other, approvals and disapprovals which must be given up. The travel process should be made more liberal. I don't think the people are going to settle in each other's territory."