It is not a story of once upon a time; it happened 50 years ago. Simla Agreement of July 2, 1972 promised to reshape Indo-Pak relations, and a quotable quote of all these years has been that there has been no full blown war between the two South Asian neighbours. But that achievement, if at all it is not the whole picture.
A closer look at the 50 years that have passed since shine light on Pakistan’s betrayal and sabotage of the Agreement time and again.
Its proxy war in J&K, Kargil war and attempts to grab Siachen glacier, offer some of the glaring examples that made it untrustworthy,.
This Agreement leaves nothing to celebrate. The principles and pledges underlined in the pact have developed various irreparable cracks, but its place in the history of Indo-Pak relations cannot be done away with because of the specific situation and the vision of a future of cooperation and permanent peace between the two countries, despite the fact that it was a pact between unequals – India was a victor, Pakistan had suffered a set of humiliating defeats – its eastern wing became an independent nation in its own right – Bangladesh.
Its army had signed surrender document on December 16, 1971, more than 93,000 of its soldiers had become PoWs, many areas of the West Pakistan were in the command and control of Indian army.
All the cards were in India’s hands and so was the vision of future, fostering permanent peace with Pakistan, which had become a sore thumb since the Partition, particularly in reference to Jammu and Kashmir – not only it was in occupation of a large chunk of the territory of the erstwhile princely state, but also kept on harping on the UN resolutions on Kashmir, a source of permanent irritation for India at the international stage.
It is embedded in the Indian nation’s mindset that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi offered things on platter to Pakistan, despite having all the advantages. They continue to feel bad that Indira Gandhi lost the opportunity, willingly to force a permanent solution to Kashmir issue on the Indian terms in Simla.
Their argument is not without logic. When considered in the backdrop of the loss of lives of soldiers and what Pakistan had been doing all along. Statesmanship is beyond reparations in terms of money and territory; it is all about the vision of future.
Sometimes it pays off, and at times this proves a near fatal stumble. Today, no one can deny in the world history the great vision and statesmanship displayed by India at a critical juncture when the Cold War psychology blurred the reason.
The Agreement has a special resonance for the people of Jammu and Kashmir even though no one wants to talk about it now and the relevance it sought to achieve at the time it was signed.
The history has lessons, therefore it is important to turn pages of history in the then and now frame to have better understanding of the situations and the outcome of the decisions taken at the time. Another striking fact about history is that it doesn’t traverse the scripted lines. Prejudging future is a fatal mistake.
Pakistan has violated all the pledges it had made in the Agreement. Had Pakistan followed the script of the Simla Agreement, today picture of Jammu and Kashmir would have been different on both sides of the Line of Control. The PoJK, and Gilgit-Baltistan would not have become Chinese colonies.
The Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir would have been spared of the proxy war launched by Pakistan, responsible for death and destruction of tens of thousands and displacement of communities.
With regard to Jammu and Kashmir, the Agreement had underlined that, “ In order to initiate the process of the establishment of durable peace, both the Governments agree that;
-India and Pakistani forces shall be withdrawn to their side of the of the international border .
-In Jammu and Kashmir , the line of control ( the current shape to the Line of Control was given in July 1972 after the ratification of Simla Agreement by both India and Pakistan) resulting from the cease-fire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognised position of either side . neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally , irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations . Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of this Line.”
If Simla Agreement is turning out to, what many believe, is smoke and mirrors story, the fault lies entirely with Pakistan. It was furious no end when India re-mainstreamed Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah whose Plebiscite Front in Kashmir had become a source of international embarrassment for Delhi.
The PF used to boycott elections and because of the connect that it had with certain sections, it denied legitimacy to the electoral exercises. Whatever has been written and spoken about Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in the past and now by his friends and critics, the fact remains, he is a compelling figure in Kashmir with its direct impact on the national and international dimensions for India.
Politically speaking, Sheikh-Indira accord, which facilitated Sheikh Abdullah’s return to power and his first speech after being sworn-in as Chief Minister ( not Prime Minister, the title he had until August 1953 when he was deposed and arrested) declaring J&K as an integral part of India caught attention of the international community.
This changed the dynamics of the international opinion about Kashmir to a great extent. The four-point formula of Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf which said goodbye to the UN resolutions (on Kashmir) and sought cooperation from India to resolve the issue can be traced to the changed realities in the post Simla accord, for it had dawned on him that neither the Kargil war nor Pakistan’s continuing proxy war and boom of artillery in Siachen glacier had changed the ground position.
In fact, the Agreement and Sheikh’s return to power, ushered in an era where the traditional pro-Pakistan elements Jamat-i-Islami found themselves pushed to margins. Indira had changed the complexion of Kashmir, once and for all.
Pakistan had got its more than 90,000 prisoners of war as a result of the Agreement, but it saw its narrative on Kashmir dying. The petty political games by Delhi in March 1977, repeated in 1984, ( incidentally on July 2 , the 12th anniversary of the Agreement) made positives turn into negatives.
Pakistan violated the spirit of the pact when it launched proxy war in Kashmir; trained and armed the youth to wage a war against the Indian state. It was back to its ill-considered and fatal“bleed India with a thousand cuts” theory propounded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, shrewd Pakistani politician when he was foreign minister in the Ayub Khan government. Incidentally Bhutto was signatory to Simla Agreement as President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in July 1972.
The lesson is that agreements can be refined through diplomatic vocabulary, in the hope that these would be followed in letter and spirit, as they say, but these gain meaning only if sincerity of purpose is there. The scope and scale of the pacts, as written on papers, should be followed with regular interactions. That did not happen.
Pakistan signed the papers but never accepted the humiliating defeat it suffered in 1971 which became a permanent sore point for it had lost East Pakistan. It was Pakistan’s self-inflicted defeat, for it never pondered why it lost the support of the Bengalis by trampling on the democratic outcome of the December 7, 1970 general elections.
Pakistan refused to learn a fundamental lesson that military clampdown never suppresses the inner sentiment and aspirations. Its military boots in east wing not only uprooted these boots forever but also the land that it had got as a result of its pursuance of two-nation theory.
Kashmir has witnessed the tragic consequences of the proxy war of Pakistan; thousands have perished. Perhaps Pakistan did not know that its actions of bulk export of terrorism will become its nemesis. This was, if studied closely, its attempt to unilaterally change the status of LOC, through infiltration of terrorists.
The infiltration is as much violation of the sanctity of the LoC as is the movement of troops. And what Pakistan did in Kargil in 1999 was the most brazen attack on the sanctity of the LoC, which the Indian army reversed through its grit, valour and determination.
India did incur the cost to secure the territories and Himalayan peaks which Pakistan had captured stealthily, but Pakistan suffered greater losses not only in terms of its soldiers, but also the international view - it cannot be trusted.
The lesson for India is that all agreements with Pakistan should be taken with a bagful of salt. Pakistan has lost its trustworthiness, no matter how much is the need for dialogue and diplomacy doctrine between the two nations to revive their relations to the normal times.
That cannot happen unless Pakistan accepts that it has to shut off its terror tap - that was the essence of the pact 50 years ago. Pakistan must re-read it and introspect why it is losing everything from its political stability to economy, and trust in the international community.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.