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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Q & A: What next after Agra?
India and Pakistan failed to reach an agreement at the Agra summit, the first such meeting in two years. BBC News Online examines the fall-out.

Was the summit a failure?

The Agra summit failed to produce any agreement in the form of a joint statement or declaration, and this is being interpreted as a failure by some.

It is also apparent that India and Pakistan have failed to bridge their deep divisions, especially over the contentious issue of Kashmir.

But many feel that the fact that such an event took place at all is itself an achievement, and the likelihood of more such meetings is being seen as a positive outcome.

What was the summit meant to achieve?

The summit took place in the context of hostile relations between the two countries, particularly after a conflict between India and Pakistan-backed forces in Kargil in 1999.

Following the Pakistan coup later that year, the two countries have had minimal contact and, instead, frequently exchanged sharp words especially over Kashmir.

The Agra summit was seen as the first step towards resuming high-level contacts, beginning a dialogue and addressing some of their long-standing issues.

What are the sticking points?

India and Pakistan's divergent views on Kashmir appear to have been the central point of contention. Pakistan pushed for Kashmir to be declared the main issue confronting the two countries while India wanted it to be described as one of several outstanding issues.

The two countries also sparred over references to "cross-border terrorism" - alluding to Pakistan's alleged backing of Kashmiri militants - and to "the will of the Kashmiri people" - referring to the Kashmiri demand for self-determination.

The talks broke down once the differing points of view received a public hearing - through comments made by President Pervez Musharraf at a meeting with Indian journalists and a statement released by India containing remarks made by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee during the negotiations.

Once their stated positions became clear it was very difficult for either side to be seen to climb down in any subsequent declaration.

Why is Kashmir so important?

Kashmir is important because, apart from being strategically located, it lies at the core of each country's nationhood.

Islamabad says that Kashmir is rightfully part of Pakistan, as it is a Muslim majority state and the one outstanding issue dating back to the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

India argues that Kashmir is a legitimate part of India because its ruler acceded to it in 1947 and that, as a Muslim majority state in a Hindu majority country, Kashmir symbolises India's secular status.

India also fears that if it relinquishes its hold over Kashmir it could lead to a balkanisation of the country and jeopardise the security of the country's significant Muslim minority.

Should the rest of the world worry?

Yes, because India and Pakistan are the world's newest declared nuclear powers and Kashmir is seen as a potential nuclear flashpoint.

Several radical Islamist groups also have a presence in the region with links to the Saudi fugitive, Osama bin Laden, something which is deeply worrying to the United States and other western countries.

Can anyone else help resolve the issue?

Although the United Nations has been nominally involved in the Kashmir dispute, India strongly opposes any third party intervention in what it sees as a bilateral issue between Delhi and Islamabad.

Pakistan, on the other hand, welcomes any international mediation which, it believes, is the only way the dispute can be resolved.

See also:

17 Jul 01 | South Asia
Kashmir issue blocks summit deal
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