The Smila agreement is the agreement signed by the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Prime minister of India, and late Mr. Bhutto, former president of Pakistan, on 3rd July, 1972. It was an attempt at finding away for resolving the various problems created by the Indo-Pak war of Dec., 1971, and for placing Indo-Pak relations on a new Dias of peace and cooperation. It was in this spirit that president Bhutto came to India, it was in this spirit that the agreement was signed, and it is in this spirit that it should be judged.
The agreement provides, first, for the return of Pak territories occupied by India during the war, in exchange for territories taken by Pakistan. As India had taken a much larger chunk of Pak territory, the provision has been regarded as a definite loss to India, a complete betrayal of our national interests. But in this connection, it should be remembered that territorial expansion has never been the aim or ambition of India. India was never aggressive, and it never wanted even an inch of Pak territory. This was repeatedly made clear from time to time by India leaders, Including late Mr. Nehru and Mrs. Gandhi.
As regards Kashmir, the agreement provides for the actual line of control as on Dec.17, 1971, when cease-fire was declared by India. In other words, India shall be within its rights to obtain from Pakistan the two posts in Tithwal sector which were overrun by Pakistani force after December 17.This is a positive gain for us. What is of prime importance in respect of Kashmir is the understanding that neither side shall unilaterally alter the position, irrespective of natural differences and legal interpretations. Both sides have further undertaken to refrain from threat of the use of force in violation of the line.
Coming to the question of the prisoners of war, there is no denying that according to the terms of the agreement India had to return about 6000 Pakistani nationals taken into custody on the western front. But we also received back our own civilians and troops in Pakistan’s custody. For all practical purposes, men for men are a fair exchange. If late president Bhutto was so anxious to secure the release of his men in India custody, we could not ignore the fate of our soldiers and civilians who were in Pak hand.
The agreement also makes it clear that the principle of bilateralism insisted upon by India was accepted by the late president. The agreement provides that the two countries would try to resolve the problems between them through mutual negotiations and discussions, without any third party’s interface. This implies that the Kashmir issue would henceforth be the subject only to negotiation between India and Pakistan, and that the issue would no longer be raised in the U.N.O., or any other international forum. It means that at no stage would Pakistan approach China, the U.S.A. or any third country, for intervention. This was what India wanted, and this is what she could achieve through the Simla agreement.
But difficulties have cropped up in the way of its implementation. It was only after a long and difficult process of negotiation that the stipulated exchange of territories and prisoners of war could be brought about. Hostile propaganda both in India and Pakistan also came in the way of the spirit of peace and cooperation envisaged by the agreement. When in may 1974, India conducted a successful nuclear explosion in Rajasthan; Pakistan regarded it as a threat to her and refused to hold further negotiations. But the wise and patient leadership of our beloved prime minister, Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, succeeded in bringing Pakistan to the conference table once again. Communication links were restored. Aeroplanes of both the countries once again flew over each other’s territory. Ambassadors were exchanged, and trade links established once again. Direct train links also were established.
However, certain events in Pakistan made the people think that the Simla Agreement had failed. Zia-Ul-Haq, the military dictator of Pakistan, entered into a massive arms deal with the U.S.A. It almost meant the meant the establishment of U.S.A. military bases just on the borders of India. In that country, there was much hostile propaganda against India. The Kashmir issue was referred to by Pakistan in the U.N. General Assembly session, in October, 1987. No doubt president Zia visited India and agreement was reached regarding the establishment of Joint Indo-Pak commission. But there is also the securing of F-16 fighter aircrafts fitted with the latest electronic gadgets. All this is against the letter and spirit of the Simla agreement.
However, with the coming of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto into power the situation initially took a turn for the better. Democratic rights of the people of Pakistan were restored. Her approach to India seemed to be much friendlier than that of the military regime. The prime ministers and other top dignitaries of the two countries exchanged visits. But differences soon cropped up. Pak trained subversives entered into India in large numbers, and terrorism increased by leaps and bounds. Mrs. Bhutto tried her best to politicize the issue.
After the fall of Mrs. Bhutto’s government, the new rulers of Pakistan have followed a more aggressive and hostile policy towards India. They have raised the “Kashmir bogey” in a number of international forums, and advocated the cause of independent Kashmir. Infiltration of Pak-trained terrorists into Kashmir has been stepped up. There have been frequent border skirmishes, and it has seemed that the two are heading towards another war.
Let us hope the spirit of the Simla agreement would once against determine the relations of the two countries. A number of countries of the world including Muslim countries have come out openly in support of the Simla agreement. Let us hope this time the new government would work for the success of the Simla agreement.