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How Kalam avoided J&K issue with Musharraf

Source: PTI
April 21, 2008 11:17 IST
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While foreign office mandarins were a little apprehensive about the meeting between A P J Abdul Kalam and Pervez Musharraf, the scientist president turned out to be an astute diplomat giving no opportunity to the Pakistani military ruler to rake up the Kashmir issue.

Details of what transpired at the 30-minute meeting have been revealed by P M Nair, who served as secretary to Kalam from 2002 to 2007, in his book The Kalam Effect: My years with the President.

Musharraf was on a day's visit on April 17, 2005, to witness the India-Pakistan one-day cricket match.

During his brief stay, one of his appointments was with Kalam. Nair says he told the president ahead of the meeting that Musharraf will certainly raise the Kashmir issue with him and he should be prepared for the same.

"Don't worry, I shall deal with it," Kalam said reassuringly, leaving Nair wondering how he would deal with an issue which could nettle the best of diplomats, and had derailed the summit meeting at Agra.

In excerpts of the book made available to PTI, Nair says the meeting took after an eventful day in which the Pakistanis had won the match.

Musharraf's remark about M S Dhoni's long hair had drawn loud applause from cricket enthusiasts.

At 7.30 pm, Musharraf arrived in a cavalcade of cars and was led to the North Drawing Room on the first floor of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Kalam ushered Musharraf to a seat and sat next to him. The Indian and Pakistani officials occupied their appointed places.

After pleasantries were exchanged, Kalam began. "Mr.President, like India you also have a lot of rural areas" and then put a poser, "Don't you think we should both do whatever is possible to develop them on priority?"

"Yes", said Musharraf. Without wasting time, Kalam got down to explaining one of his favourite subjects.

"Mr President, I will tell you something about PURA very briefly. PURA means Providing Urban Facilities in Rural Areas," Kalam told the general.

As if on cue, a plasma screen came alive and the description of what PURA was and what it could achieve lasted 26 minutes.

Musharraf evinced keen interest and when it was over, smiled and said, "Thank you, Mr President. India is lucky to have a scientist president like you."

Hand shakes followed and both leaders bid adieu.

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