Musharraf blames it on Advani

ISLAMABAD, AUG. 30. For the first time since the Agra Summit one and half months ago, the Pakistan military ruler and President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has virtually accused the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, of blocking the joint declaration between India and Pakistan.

In his address to the Northern Areas Legislative Council in Uiluil this morning, Gen. Musharraf maintained that the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, would have signed the joint declaration but for the pressure from the hard-liners within his Government.

The candid observations of Gen. Musharraf, on what according to him went wrong at Agra, has come after categorical assertions in the last three days that normalisation of ties between India and Pakistan was not possible till the Kashmir issue was resolved.

It is clear that Gen. Musharraf has stepped up his rhetoric on Kashmir after keeping a low profile since the Agra Summit. Even in the face of hard-hitting statements from various leaders, including the Prime Minister, from New Delhi, Pakistan chose not to join issue with India on what led to the failure to come out with a joint declaration-statement.

Gen. Musharraf told the Northern Areas Legislative Council that on July 16, the last day of the two-day summit, the Mr. Vajpayee had agreed on the draft declaration at 1.30 p.m. and was ready to sign it.

``I was certain that Vajpayee would sign the declaration in which the centrality of the Kashmir issue was agreed upon. But the hard-liners prevailed over the Indian Prime Minister'', he said. He said after finalisation of the mutually agreed declaration, he returned to his hotel to change the dress as he was proceed to Ajmer Sharif after the signing ceremony.

But soon after he reached his hotel, the Foreign Minister, Mr. Abdul Sattar informed him that things had gone wrong and the Indian side was saying that the Cabinet did not approve the declaration. ``I was astonished, as there was no Indian Cabinet in Agra except for two or three Ministers, including L.K. Advani''.

Gen. Musharraf told the Council that the Indians sent an amended draft later in the evening. ``We agreed to sign the second draft. We were told that the signing ceremony would take place within 15 minutes or so. But nothing happened''. He claimed that in the both the drafts the centrality of Kashmir issue was recognised.