Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reneged on his commitment to Indira Gandhi much earlier than some had anticipated.
Shortly after the shining victory in the 1971 Bangladesh war, Indira Gandhi embarked on the more arduous task of restoring peace with India’s western neighbour. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, prime minister of what was earlier only the western wing of the larger Pakistan, needed a settlement a lot more acutely. Both sides knew, however, that their objectives were conflicting and therefore difficult to achieve. Gandhi wanted a final solution of the Kashmir issue once and for all. Bhutto aimed at getting back the 93,000 prisoners of war and 5,000 square kilometres of his country’s territory under Indian possession.
Consequently, there were intense “preparatory” negotiations between Gandhi’s trusted aide, D.P. Dhar, and Aziz Ahmed, a hardline Pakistani foreign secretary so liked by Bhutto that he was made minister of state for both foreign affairs and defence, controlled by the Pakistani prime minister himself. Only much later it became known that these conversations were preceded by “informal talks in London” between Gandhi’s principal aide, P.N. Haksar, and two of Bhutto’s emissaries. Before the two prime ministers met at Shimla in the last week of June 1972, Dhar and Ahmed had agreed on two points: to convert the UN-sponsored Ceasefire Line in Jammu and Kashmir into the Line of Control to be “respected” by both sides, and settling all disputes through peaceful and bilateral means.
In Shimla, Pakistan was tersely told that while India would readily return all Pakistani territory it had captured during the war, nothing of the kind would be done in relation to the areas in Kashmir that had been won. As for the 93,000 PoWs, Gandhi told Bhutto, politely but firmly, that they could not be returned without the consent of Bangladesh, which had not yet been recognised by Pakistan, and was determined to put at least 195 Pakistani officers and men “on trial for war crimes”. (It was a year later that, as a result of a trilateral agreement between India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the PoWs were sent home without anyone having to face a trial.)
On recognising the LoC in J&K as a permanent border between India and Pakistan and thus settling the Kashmir problem on the basis of status quo, Bhutto’s position was that no ruler of Pakistan could accept this and hope to “survive”. At the same time, he pleaded that he could not go back “empty handed”. Of course, he promised to “forget the past and forge an entirely continued…
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