An Indian former diplomat provides insights into the events that resulted in the breakdown of the Agra Summit in 2001

In his upcoming book titled ‘Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship Between India and Pakistan’, Ambassador Ajay Bisaria, who was a key aide to Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his tenure as prime minister, sheds light on the events surrounding the collapse of the Agra Summit in 2001. According to Bisaria, the summit’s failure was primarily due to Pakistan’s then-President Pervez Musharraf’s outspoken stance on Kashmir, his perceived reluctance to address terrorism, and his insistence on linking progress in overall bilateral relations to the Kashmir issue, rather than LK Advani’s hardline approach.

During the Summit’s second day, Musharraf’s meeting with editors of major media outlets resulted in what Bisaria describes as a public airing of his hawkish views on Kashmir, equating terrorists with freedom fighters. This public telecast, Bisaria contends, gave the impression to observers that Pakistan was imposing its hardline positions on India while New Delhi’s stance remained unclear.

Bisaria recounts a moment of dismay with Brajesh Mishra, Vajpayee’s principal secretary and National Security Advisor, as they watched Musharraf’s televised remarks from the makeshift Prime Minister’s Office in Agra. Mishra felt the need to inform Vajpayee, who was engaged in talks with Musharraf at the time, about the developments outside the meeting room. Bisaria drafted a note informing Vajpayee of Musharraf’s remarks and delivered it to him during the summit.

Upon receiving the note, Vajpayee expressed his displeasure to Musharraf, stating that his behavior was hindering the progress of the talks. Despite being playfully accused by colleagues of sabotaging the Agra initiative, Bisaria emphasizes the crucial role played by Musharraf’s public stance in derailing the summit.

Bisaria also addresses the narrative that emerged following the summit, suggesting that while Vajpayee and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh were open to understanding and were amenable to Pakistan’s proposed joint statement linking progress in bilateral ties to the Kashmir issue, Advani vetoed it due to his opposition to any progress with Islamabad. Bisaria argues that this narrative does not accurately reflect the reality of the situation.

Additionally, Bisaria highlights Jaswant Singh’s negotiations with then-Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar regarding the draft statement, indicating that Vajpayee consulted with his cabinet colleagues after reviewing the negotiated paper.

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