Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Washington Seminar on Agra Summit

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Washington Seminar on Agra Summit

Article excerpt


The American Institute of International Studies (AIIS), a California-based think tank, held a seminar in Washington, DC on Aug. 8 to discuss the outcome of the July Musharraf-Vajpayee summit in the Indian city of Agra. Scheduled speakers at the seminar included Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution, the Stimson Institute's Michael Krepton, and Bruce Robertson of the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Institute. While Deputy Chief of Mission Zamir Akram represented the Pakistan Embassy, there was no showing from the Indian Embassy.

Opening the seminar, AIIS President Syed R. Mahmood said that the Institute's primary objective was to help build peace in South Asia by providing channels of communication between India and Pakistan. Emphasizing the need for peace between two nuclear powers home to over a billion impoverished people, he urged individuals, groups and governments all over the world interested in the promotion of peace to help India and Pakistan resolve their disputes and disagreements through peaceful means. He offered the AIIS platform for this purpose.

Stephen Cohen saw the Agra summit as opening up possibilities for a better understanding between New Delhi and Islamabad, as well as increasing tensions between them. He found the climate in India more conducive to a relatively open discussion on the Kashmir question and other bilateral issues. "There is no debate on the subject in Pakistan," said Cohen. "Public opinion is the same as the official position."

This, in his opinion, does not contribute to a fruitful dialogue on conflict resolution. Cohen regretted that there was insufficient preparation for the Agra parleys, and hoped the United States would continue to play "its discreet role behind the scenes" to bring India and Pakistan to the negotiating table.

Michael Krepon wished the Musharraf-Vajpayee talks had been more "structured." "Open-ended meetings with no defined agenda do not produce results," he said, "unless the parties have a will to pursue mutual agreements even after the talks--as happened at the Reykjavik summit in 1985 between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S."

According to Krepon, there are three major issues that should be addressed in order to establish a sustainable peace in the subcontinent: 1) a mutually agreed resolution of the Kashmir issue; 2) nuclear nonproliferation; and 3) effective curtailment of terrorism. In his view, a climate of mutual trust is essential, and this could develop if India and Pakistan are willing to forget the past and bury the hatchet. Any small beginning in this direction, he said, would be welcome. Krepon expressed his alarm at the growth of the religious right in Pakistan. …

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