New Delhi, Apr 28: Though not a politician or a diplomat, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam dodged some critical issues like Kashmir during his tenure as President in such a manner that on one occasion even blunt-talking Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf could do little but listen to him in rapt silence.
In his book titled ''The Kalam Effect: My Years With The President,'' Dr Kalam's then secretary P M Nair, in one of the chapters, gives an account of General Musharraf's visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2005. "Gen Musharraf was visiting India. A visit by the President of Pakistan is always a significant event, and there was the usual hubbub in diplomatic circles, as also in the press. Among his appointments was a call on President Kalam."
Mr Nair says he went to Dr Kalam a day before the visit. "Sir, General Musharraf is calling on you tomorrow." "Yes I know," Dr Kalam replied and waited, wondering what Mr Nair was about to say.
''Certainly, sir, he will raise the Kashmir issue with you. You have to be prepared for the same.'' Dr Kalam paused for a moment, looked at him, smiled and said, ''Don't worry, I shall deal with it.'' Mr Nair further writes that ''his (Dr Kalam's) confidence was reassuring, yet I left his room wondering how he would deal with an issue which could nettle the best diplomats, and had derailed one famous summit meeting, the one at Agra. Besides being at the heart of several conflicts with that country (Pakistan).''
Evening came, after an eventful day in which a cricket match between the Pakistani and Indian teams was the highlight. The General's remark about the hair of star batsman (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni added colour to the news reports, says Mr Nair in the book. At 1930 hrs General Musharraf arrived in a cavalcade of cars and was led to the North Drawing Room on the first floor of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Dr Kalam received him in the state, ushered him to his seat and sat next to him. The Indian and Pakistani officials occupied their appointed places. The call began, slated for 30 minutes.
Smiles on both sides; pleasantries were exchanged. And Dr Kalam began. ''Mr President, like India you also have a lot of rural areas and don't you think we should both do whatever is possible to develop them on priority?'' What could General Musharraf say but 'Yes,'' writes Mr Nair.
And then Dr Kalam really began. ''Mr President, I will tell you something about PURA very briefly. PURA means Providing Urban Facilities in Rural Areas.'' The plasma screen came alive and the description of what PURA was and what it could achieve lasted a 'brief' 26 minutes, says Mr Nair.
General 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.'' Handshakes followed and adieu. Scientists can be diplomats too, concludes Mr Nair.