November 19, 2019, marked the 102nd birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and one of the key agreements signed by her was the 1972 Simla Agreement.
The Simla Agreement was signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on 2 July 1972, following a full-blown war between India and Pakistan in 1971.
Objectives of the Simla Agreement:
- To pave the way for diplomatic recognition of Bangladesh by Pakistan.
- To put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred their relations
- To work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of durable peace in the subcontinent
Key Provisions of Agreement:
- Principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the two countries.
- Two countries resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.
- The agreement converted the cease-fire line of 17 December 1971 into the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan and it was agreed that ‘neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations’
- Respecting each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty and noninterference in each other's internal affairs.
- To refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of each other.
- Both governments will take all steps within their power to prevent hostile propaganda directed against each other.
- Withdrawal of Troops from International Border and exchanging prisoners of war.
A disadvantageous peace:
- It gave Pakistan everything it wanted: the territory it lost to India in the war and the safe return of all its soldiers without one of them being held responsible for the genocidal campaign unleashed in what is now Bangladesh.
- Nothing in the Agreement pinned Pakistan down to future good behavior and it soon became a nuclear state giving training to terrorists.
- What the Simla agreement failed to achieve for India could well have been obtained through the 1973 Delhi Agreement signed by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But nothing substantial was achieved here also.
The Delhi Agreement was a trilateral agreement signed between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh on 28 August 1973; and ratified only by India and Pakistan.
It allowed the repatriation of prisoners of war and interned officials held in the three countries after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
If ever there was an inflection point in India’s relations with Pakistan, it was the moment when India had Pakistan on its knees during the 1971 war, holding over 15,000 square kilometers of its territory and 93,000 its soldiers — nearly a quarter of its army — as prisoners of war. It is mystifying why India so easily returned both.
India ought to have rightly insisted that an international tribunal to try prisoners of war who had contributed to the well-documented genocide in Bangladesh. This would have also eroded the credibility of the Pakistani Army, eliminated it as a political force and led to more enduring peace in the region.