July 2 1972 – Shimla Treaty Is Signed between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

 On July 2nd 1972, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Shimla Treaty which contained the principles which should govern future relations between both countries.

The Shimla treaty came shortly after the 1971 war the previous year, which saw the creation of a separate nation of Bangladesh. This land was earlier known as East Pakistan and was a provincial part of Pakistan. Even though the agreement came after a war, the Shimla agreement was more than just a request of withdrawal of troops and getting back prisoners of war. Under the Shimla Treaty, both countries committed to renounce the conflict which had blemished their relationship in the past and work together towards establishing peace, friendship and cooperation.

The Shimla Agreement contained a set of principles which would be mutually agreed upon by both India and Pakistan and which both countries would follow while conducting relations with each other. The principles included respect for each others national unity, political independence, sovereign equality, while not indulging in adverse propaganda.

During the Shimla agreement, Indira Gandhi insisted that an overall settlement be achieved which would cover some basic issues. This settlement would also include the Kashmir issue. Mrs. Gandhi was keen on getting back Indian territory occupied by Pakistan as well as prisoners of war before the talks reached the Kashmir debate. After this, India suggested that both countries focus on outstanding disputes if they wanted long lasting peace and that could only be done when the Kashmir issue was tackled.

Bhutto, on the other hand, wanted to address the Kashmir issue later. She demanded rather the release of prisoners of war and the trials of a few Pakistani officers charged with war crimes by Bangladesh to be dropped. Pakistan also demanded that India hand back Pakistani territory they were occupying in spite of the fact that Pakistan was illegally occupying Azad Kashmir since 1947. Hence, Pakistan tiptoed around the issue of Azad Kashmir when Indira Gandhi demanded back territory which India had occupied in 1971.

During talks about the Shimla Treaty, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto promised Indira Gandhi that Pakistan would accept the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir as the de facto border and not de-stabilize it. This was not formally entered in the agreement as Bhutto said that it may cause problems for him at that stage. Mrs. Gandhi accepted the promise and hence that part was never formally entered in the agreement. Later events would prove that Pakistan never stood by that promise.

Looking at the way things were progressing, it was assumed that such a program was doomed for failure. Bhutto said that he was “not going to shut the door”, which, if he did, would lock away Pakistani territory and prisoners of war in India. But surprisingly, things changed almost overnight and the challenges both leaders were facing disappeared. The Shimla Treaty was signed on July 2nd 1972. The reason for this sudden change is still unknown. The Prime Minister of India and President of Pakistan declared the signing of the Shimla Treaty as a new beginning in the relations between both countries.

By the end of signing the treaty, Indira Gandhi had got back for India 90,000 prisoners of war and a large chunk of Pakistani territory. There was widespread displeasure in India after the signing of the treaty and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, called it a “sell out”. Vajpayee said that Pakistan’s agreement to not use force was of no consequence since Pakistan had made similar promises in the past as well, but never adhered to them. He also went on to say that some sort of a secret understanding had been agreed upon between Indira Gandhi and Zulfkar Ali Bhutto during the signing of the treaty. 

Looking back between the relations between India and Pakistan, one can safely say that the Shimla Treaty did nothing much to preserve the relations between both countries which went on to deteriorate. The most recent was Operation Meghdoot in 1984 (in which India seized most of the inhospitable areas of the Saichen Glacier where the frontier had not been clearly defined in the agreement) and the Kargil war of 1999 (in which Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants had occupied positions on the Indian side of the LoC).


Also On This Day:

1757 - Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula is captured and assassinate by Muhammad Beg at the insistence of Miran, son of Mir Zafar.

1905 - Shantiswaroop Dhavan, former Governor of West Bengal, is born.

1970 - Pandit Kunjilal Dubey, freedom fighter, educationalist and politician, passes away.

1993 - ONGC is converted into a corporation by ordinance.

1997 - Screening for Hepatitis C is made mandatory all over India.

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