Very many in India have nursed reservations about the “Agreement on Bilateral Relations Between the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan” signed at Shimla on July 2, 1972, by the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, and the President of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The Indian delegation was badly split. Mohammad Yunus, the family retainer, was furious with his friend P.N. Haksar who had negotiated the agreement. So was Mrs Gandhi’s principal secretary P.N. Dhar.
Little did they know that India’s Prime Minister was better aware of the play of politics than any of them. There was an unseen party at Shimla — the Soviet Union. Bhutto’s visit to Moscow earlier helped him. The Soviet Union, which had helped India a lot in 1971, was keen on a settlement between India and Pakistan and its re-emergence now, post-Tashkent, as a quiet mediator.
The agreement suited both sides admirably. It was the product of an understanding between the two leaders at the pinnacle of power. The diplomats did what they were told. On Pakistan’s side was the doughty Aziz Ahmed. Sadly, the last survivor of the parleys at Shimla, Abdul Sattar, breathed his last recently. This accomplished diplomat rose to be Pakistan’s foreign minister in which capacity he performed brilliantly at the summit at Agra in July 2001 between then President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee whose colleague L.K. Advani ensured that Vajpayee did not win the spurs and the summit failed.
This writer would like to pay a tribute to Sattar Sahib, a valued friend of nearly 40 years.
The Shimla pact has roughly three parts. One was to mop up the debris left by the war of 1971. The second was to ensure that the new Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir was respected by both sides. The third, in para six, envisaged that their countries’ “respective heads will meet again at a mutually convenient time in the future”. The remit was precisely defined: “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”.
This implied that a dispute existed which awaited “a final settlement”. India’s hawks baulked at this, holding that a Pakistan weakened by war should have been coerced to accept the LoC as a final border. Bhutto would have rejected this and the Soviet Union would have been furious at the failure.
However, as Pakistan’s foreign minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan admitted in the National Assembly in June 1986, neither side invoked para six to ask for talks. Later, India refused, citing the violence in Kashmir which had erupted. Its grievance about cross-LoC infiltration might have been seen as a valid concern, but not so its repeated invocation of the Shimla mantra that the two countries would “settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations”.
Abdul Sattar sahib revealed to this writer that on Pakistan’s insistence the word “exclusively” in India’s draft was dropped and these words were inserted: “or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon” by them.
There lurks a fatal flaw. India has insisted on bilateral talks since 1958 when Jawaharlal Nehru finally ruled out mediation. But when the two began to talk, it refused to settle except on its own terms — accept the status quo.
Is the second part of the Shimla pact in peril? The Jan Sangh opposed it in 1972. Its successor the BJP did likewise. A war far more deadly than any of its predecessors would be the only way the BJP could try to wrest away AJK.
There was an interesting rift. The RSS’ organ Organiser had an article on December 18, 2019, entitled “If Kartarpur happens, why not Sharda Peeth?” The writers, Ravinder Pandita and Akash Bhardwaj, asserted that Sharda Peeth is “one of the 18 highly revered Maha Shakti Peeth” for billions of Hindus. It is, however, situated within Azad Kashmir “barely 10 km from the Line of Control”. They urge that following the Kartarpur model India and Pakistan should “allow an easy passage for its pilgrims”.
Ravindra Pandita wrote to the chief justice of Azad Kashmir in January 2018 to ensure protection of temples and gurdwaras in Azad Kashmir. The court’s registrar replied, pointing out two cases in which the court had issued directions to that effect.
Organiser of November 17, 2019, had an article on “the new paradigm shift in the new redrawn map of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”. It omits the LoC altogether; it does not exist. The new map, drawn by the surveyor general of India, was issued by the home ministry last month. The entire Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are shown as Indian territory.
The Shimla Pact says that “neither side shall seek to alter it [the LoC] unilaterally” and to desist from use of force “in violation of the Line [Para 4(ii)].” The wisest course is for both sides to resolve the Kashmir dispute in earnest.
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