Saturday, 2 July 2016

Shimla Agreement - Victory in War & Defeat in Diplomacy

Victory in War

After the Bangladesh liberated war, India held the significant landmass of Pakistan and had captured around 90,000 prisoners of war. Six months later, when the game of negotiation started at Shimla, India held all the cards to win the game. But still India is said to have lost the game when Indira Gandhi signed the Shimla agreement with Pakistani President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Let us retrospect if India really lost the game.

The Initiation of Talks
In Pakistan, Yahya Khan had resigned and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto stepped in to take his place. Bhutto told the former British prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home that he was keen to forge ‘an entirely new relationship with India’, beginning with a summit meeting with Mrs. Gandhi. The message was passed on, with the advice that in view of Pakistan’s wounded pride, the invitation should come from India.

The Indians were at first apprehensive, given Bhutto’s unpredictability and history of animosity against India. Confidants of the Pakistani president rushed to assure them of his good intentions. The journalist Mazhar Ali Khan, the editor of Dawn, told his fellow ex-communist the Indian Sajjad Zaheer that Bhutto was honestly trying to forget the past. New Delhi should work to strengthen his hand, otherwise, the army and the religious right would gang up to remove him, an outcome that would be disastrous for both India and Pakistan.

Zaheer and Khan had worked together in pre-Partition days as fellow activists of the Student Federation of India. Now, encouraged by their former fellow-traveller P. N. Haksar, they met in London in the third week of March 1972 to discuss the terms of a possible agreement between their two national leaders. Khan reported on these talks directly to Bhutto, while Zaheer conveyed
them via P. N. Haksar to Mrs. Gandhi.

The Talk
The Pakistani president was invited for a summit to be held in the old imperial summer capital of Simla in the last week of June 1972. He came accompanied by his daughter Benazir and a fairly large staff. First, the officials met, and then their leaders. The Indians wanted a comprehensive treaty to settle all outstanding problems including Kashmir, while the Pakistanis preferred a piecemeal approach. At a private meeting, Bhutto told Mrs. Gandhi that he could not go back to his people ‘empty-handed’.

The Pakistanis bargained hard. The Indians wanted a ‘no-war pact’; they had to settle for a mutual ‘renunciation of force’. The Indians asked for a ‘treaty’; what they finally got was an ‘agreement’. India said that they could wait for a more propitious moment to solve the Kashmir dispute, but asked for an agreement that the ‘line of control shall be respected by both sides’. Bhutto successfully pressed a caveat: ‘Without prejudice to the recognised position of either side’

However, Bhutto had apparently assured Mrs Gandhi that, once his position was more secure, he would persuade his people to accept conversion of the line of control into the international border.

Defeat in Diplomacy

The Clauses in Agreement
  1. India agreed to return the Pakistani territory it had occupied, except some strategic points in Kashmir, mainly in the Kargil sector, which were necessary to safeguard the strategic road link between Srinagar and Leh in Ladakh.
  2. In return, Pakistan agreed to respect the existing Line of Control in Kashmir and undertook not to alter it unilaterally by force or threat of force.
  3. The two countries also agreed to settle all their disputes through bilateral negotiations without any outside mediation by the UN or any other power.
  4. India also agreed to return the prisoners of war to Pakistan but this was to be contingent upon a Bangladesh– Pakistan agreement. This occurred the next year when Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in August 1973.
  5. In order to restore and normalize relations between the two countries step by step, it was agreed that: 
    1. Steps shall be taken to resume communications, postal, telegraphic, sea, land, including border posts, and air links, including overflghts
    2. Appropriate steps shall be taken to promote travel facilities for the nationals of the other country. 
    3. Trade and cooperation in economic and other agreed fields shall be resumed as far as possible. 
    4. Exchange in the fields of science and culture shall be promoted

(Check full text of agreement here)

Reactions after Treaty
The ink had hardly dried on the Simla Agreement when Bhutto reneged on this (admittedly informal) promise. On 14 July he spoke for three hours in the National Assembly of Pakistan, his text covering sixty-nine pages of closely printed foolscap paper. He talked of how he had fought ‘for the concept of one Pakistan from the age of 15’. He blamed Mujib, Yahya, and everyone but himself for the ‘unfortunate and tragic separation of East Pakistan’. Then he came to the topic that still divided Pakistan and India – the future of Jammu and Kashmir. As the victor in war, said Bhutto, ‘India had
all the cards in her hands’ – yet he had still forged an equal agreement from an unequal beginning. The Simla accord was a success, he argued, because Pakistan would get back its POWs and land held by Indian forces, and because it did ‘not compromise on the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir’. He offered the ‘solemn commitment of the people of Pakistan, that if tomorrow the people of Kashmir start a freedom movement, if tomorrow Sheikh Abdullah or Maulvi Farooq or others start a people’s movement, we will be with them’.

There was widespread displeasure in India after the signing of the treaty and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, called it a “sell out”. Vajpayee said that Pakistan’s agreement to not use force was of no consequence since Pakistan had made similar promises in the past as well, but never adhered to them. He also went on to say that some sort of a secret understanding had been agreed upon between Indira Gandhi and Zulfkar Ali Bhutto during the signing of the treaty. 

The justification Indira Gandhi offered to parliament in July 1972 for signing the Shimla Declaration was significant. She said: ‘All I know is that I must fight for peace and I must take those steps which will lead us to peace . . . The time has come when Asia must wake up to its destiny , must wake up to the real needs of its people, must stop fighting amongst ourselves, no matter what our previous quarrels, no matter what the previous hatred and bitterness. The time has come today when we must bury the past.’

Was it a failure?
Looking back between the relations between India and Pakistan, one can safely say that the Shimla Treaty did nothing much to preserve the relations between both countries which went on to deteriorate. The most recent was Operation Meghdoot in 1984 (in which India seized most of the inhospitable areas of the Saichen Glacier where the frontier had not been clearly defined in the agreement) and the Kargil war of 1999 (in which Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants had occupied positions on the Indian side of the LoC).

India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
India since Independence by Bipin Chandra

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