Time to revisit Simla Agreement

The spirit can be relived, not the events
Time to revisit Simla Agreement

Much  has been written, and said, about the Bangladesh's liberation war. There is a mix of fact and fiction that has been brought into the discourse. Some of the commentators in India have written as if they had the perfect crystal ball that told them everything. This is the tragedy of some of the Indian commentary writers that they pick up fiction over facts and push their narrative, devoid of historical truths and facts of the time that they talk about.

Pakistani commentators, however, were cautious  not to write much, for the year 1971 and  Bangladesh's liberation war is a permanent stigma for the country and the two-nation theory that it had propounded before and after its creation. There were incidents when Pakistanis did not allow any commemoration of the event. If India has not learnt  lessons from what happened in 1971 – some have gone to the extent of saying that the Simla accord of July 1972 was a devastating blunder by the then Indian government for it did not capitalize on its victory and released more than 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war without getting anything in return.

Everything that happened in the then East Pakistan, that became Bangladesh on December 16, 1971, was due to self-serving military rulers and politicians of Pakistan. They thought that the US support to them had given them a license to do anything they like.

But the end result was  that and Pakistan lost one  part of its territory – East Pakistan – forever. The Indians mistook it as the ultimate victory over Pakistan and thought that the neighbouring country would never dare to challenge India, and  also led themselves into self-belief that Kashmir chapter was closed forever. Simla Agreement was revered as the last word.

As and when Pakistan raised issue of Kashmir at the international fora, India accused Pakistan of violating the Simla Agreement because of this clause: "To uphold the inviolability of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, which is a most important CBM between India and Pakistan , and a key to durable peace." Pakistan did not desist from raising Kashmir issue at multilateral forums. The spirit of the Agreement was violated incessantly.

The Simla Agreement  provided a ground for setting up good neighbourly relations. The impact of the Simla Agreement on Kashmir  was immense. It was only after the Simla Agreement that the erstwhile ceasefire line was delineated as Line of Control, and the political dialogue started between Delhi and Kashmir leadership. The Sheikh-Indira accord, better known as Beg-Parthasarathy accord brought Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah back to power in February 1975.

Sheikh Abdullah was given power even when his party did not have a single member in the Legislative Assembly. Congress made a political sacrifice in the hope that the things would stabilize in Kashmir where Plebiscite Front ( read National Conference) had become a permanent source of irritation. Sheikh Abdullah and his followers also realised that Pakistan has suffered a lot in theory and action.

It also dawned on them very clearly that Pakistan has backtracked from its commitment to Muslims ( Bangladesh proved that). Politically conscious Kashmiris knew where their fate lay, but the Centre squandered away all what it had gained  by  U-turn of its commitments.

Now Pakistan is complaining that India has violated the spirit of the Simla Agreement. It is referring to the clause that read: "That the two countries also resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them. Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organization or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations."

These commentaries from Pakistan have emanated after the August 5, 2019, decisions of the Government of India; abrogating special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its division into the two union territories.

To put it bluntly, Pakistan has no right to remind India of all this. Islamabad and Rawalpindi need to re-read these lines, and Pakistan should analyze it honestly why the things went wrong. It needs to look into the mirror. The images, so reflected, will tell it that how much it is responsible for the deterioration of the relations. Now, however, some signs of thaw have emerged after right kind of noises were made at Islamabad Security Dialogue and which were accordingly responded to by India.

Much has happened since July 1972 , all the wrongs cannot be reversed but a new chapter can be scripted. For that it is imperative for India and Pakistan to sit together, rediscover the spirit of Simla Agreement or any other mechanism for the overall peace in the region. The prism , however, has to be 2021. The spirit can be relived , not the events.

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