National Interest: Accidentally, in history
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He struck an instant equation with Nawaz Sharif. With their shared mother tongue, and Gujral's facility with Urdu poetry, the two shared trust and warmth. They had a summit meeting at an island resort (Kurumba Village) close to the Maldivian capital of Male. To make sure nobody got frustrated with their inability to reach any substantive agreement, Gujral kept it going with Ali Sardar Jafri's famous line, "guftagu bandh na ho, baat se baat chale..." (may our conversation never end, may one thing lead to another). Later, if you asked Gujral what he would regard as the greatest tribute to him, he would say nothing made him happier than when Vajpayee told him he had repeated the same line to Sharif at their summit in Lahore and how his Pakistani counterpart marvelled at such "incredible continuity" in Indian policy. This, though Gujral and Vajpayee represented totally contrary ideological streams.
THERE was one significant and scary juncture in India's foreign policy under his charge that he has left unexplained. In fact, the eternal debate is about just how scary that moment was. It was during V.P. Singh's government in the summer of 1990, when India and Pakistan came close to war over Kashmir. Benazir Bhutto, feeling pressured by her army, was making speeches of the kind that would make Hafiz Saeed look relatively moderate. She was threatening to cut Jagmohan, then governor of Kashmir, into little pieces: jag-jag, mo-mo, han-han, she said making chopping motions from one hand on the other arm at a Muzaffarabad rally. She repeated her late father's favourite rant of waging a 1,000-year war against India. V.P. Singh responded in Parliament by asking if Pakistan would last 1,000 hours. It's an aside, but I made a semi-facetious calculation in India Today (in partnership with defence expert Ravi Rikhye) to show how expensive a 1,000-hour (nearly 45-day) war would be, and even if India won decisively, how little it would achieve. But this story really opened up much later.
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