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Jaya Pradeep asked: What were the major signposts of the Simla Agreement of 1972? What is its relevance in the present scenario?

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  • Ashok K. Behuria replies: The Simla Agreement signed between India and Pakistan on July 2, 1972 was a signpost in the sense that it involved a commitment from Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues with India bilaterally. The text of the Agreement (clause ii) clearly stated:

    “That the two countries are 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, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peace and harmonious relations.”

    Until then, Pakistan emphasised on external mediation, either by any powerful country or by the United Nations. Therefore, it was regarded as a diplomatic victory for India following Pakistan's conclusive defeat in the 1971 war that led to its division and formation of Bangladesh.

    However, there is a strong view that India squandered away an opportunity to resolve the issue of Kashmir and, as is clear from the memoirs of diplomats and journalists covering the Simla summit, Bhutto displayed rare diplomatic ability to sway the negotiations in Pakistan's favour, and walked away with a verbal commitment to work sincerely towards converting the Line of Control or LoC (until then it was called ceasefire line or CFL) as the international border between India and Pakistan. It was not too long after the Agreement was signed that Bhutto, in a public speech, repudiated the Agreement and reportedly stated that as a Muslim he was not bound by the terms and conditions of an Agreement that he had signed with a Kafir.

    While Simla Agreement has been invoked by India on several occasions to remind Pakistan of its commitment to resolve outstanding issues bilaterally through peaceful means, Pakistan has violated the spirit of the Agreement not only by raking up bilateral issues in international fora, but also by using terror as an instrument to interfere in the internal affairs of India ever since. The decade long militancy (1989-1999) in Kashmir, the armed intrusion in Kargil and the ongoing Pakistani efforts to revive militancy in the Kashmir Valley demonstrate Pakistani intentions not to abide by the terms of the Simla Agreement. This is worrisome.

    However, the Indian efforts to engage Pakistan in a constructive dialogue, despite Pakistan's penchant for using terror as an instrument of its policy vis-à-vis India, may go a long way in reinforcing the spirit of the Simla Agreement and reaping international goodwill which may pressurise Pakistan to behave responsibly in future.