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Vajpayee and I were humiliated in Agra: Musharraf

Source: PTI
Last updated on: September 27, 2006 16:41 IST
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Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is of the view that both he and the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been "humiliated" at the Agra summit in 2001 "by someone above" the two of them. Writing about the failed summit in his book 'In The Line of Fire' released on Monday, Musharraf discloses that twice he had decided to cut short his stay in Agra after the Indians had "backed out" of what had been agreed earlier.

However, he had been persuaded by his diplomats not to do so. According to the General's account of the events in Agra, after two prolonged interactions with Vajpayee, a "balanced" joint declaration acceptable to both of them was drafted.

It contained a condemnation of terrorism and recognition that Kashmir needed to be resolved. "The signing ceremony was scheduled for the afternoon (of July 17) in the hotel J P Palace where Prime Minister Vajpayee was staying and where we held our dialogue.

Preparations in the hotel were complete, down to the table and two chairs where we would sit for the signing ceremony," he writes. Barely an hour later he had been informed by his Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar that "the Indians have backed out" as their Cabinet had rejected the draft. There was no Indian Cabinet in Agra and "I became very angry, and my impulse was to leave for Islamabad immediately".

After being cooled down by his diplomats, Musharraf says he allowed them to try for a redraft and cancelled his visit to Ajmer that evening.

"The redrafting took another two to three hours of intense haggling over words and sentences. But ultimately my team returned, signalling success. They showed me the new draft which I approved," he writes adding that he had told his wife that the Agra declaration would hit the headlines the next day.

"Yet this too was not to be. Just as I was about to leave for the signing ceremony I received a message that the Indians had backed out again. This was preposterous. I decided to leave immediately, but my foreign minister now persuaded me to call on Prime Minister Vajpayee before leaving. I consented to fulfill this diplomatic protocol, though much against my wishes," Musharraf says.

Recalling his meeting with Vajpayee at 11 pm, the General says, "I told him bluntly that there seem to be someone above the two of us who had the power to overrule us. I also said that today both of us had been humiliated.

He sat there, speechless. I left abruptly after thanking him in a brisk manner."

"Vajpayee failed to grasp the moment and lost his moment in history," he concludes.

Musharraf also claims that Pakistan was secretly paid millions of dollars by the United States Central Intelligence Agency for handing over 369 al Qaeda suspects though he does not say how much the CIA gave in return for the al Qaeda suspects that he ordered should be passed to the US.

Among the suspects surrendered to the US was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the 9/11 operation and many terror plots in the UK, including a planned attack on Heathrow, the plot never came to fruition.

Reacting to it, the US Department of Justice said, "We didn't know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most wanted list, not foreign governments."

The US government has strict rules banning such reward payments to foreigners involved in the war on terror. The CIA refused to divulge the size of its bounty payments, saying, "Our relationships with international leaders is not something we are prepared to talk about."

One senior CIA figure added, "Nor do we expect these leaders to do so." The Pakistan President's claim came a week after he said that the Bush Administration threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" if it did not cooperate with the US after the 9/11 attacks.

In the memoirs, Musharraf does not explain why his intelligence chiefs questioned al Qaeda's alleged operational mastermind for only three days before handing him over to the CIA when he was allegedly responsible for so many attacks inside Pakistan and he alone knew the identities of the key figures in Osama bin Laden's network.

Musharraf says that in the Heathrow plot in 2002, Mohammed planned to use flights leaving European airports belonging to the national airlines of the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Malta because of their lax security.

The signal for the hijackers to seize the plane was when the "fasten seat belt" sign was turned on as the aircraft was coming in to land at Heathrow. Al Qaeda had picked European Muslims, including a number of white converts, to fly the aircraft into terminal buildings and fuel dumps at London's main airport.

In the light of the revelations, the report said Pakistani intelligence chiefs are concerned that Musharraf may jeopardise their relationship with British intelligence agencies after claiming that a convicted terrorist was once an MI6, British external intelligence service, informer.

The President also outlines the role played by a former London public schoolboy, Omar Sheikh, in the kidnap and murder of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, in February 2002.

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