Of broken promises, dry powder kegs
There is nothing unusual about the pot calling the kettle black. It was prevalent even during Biblical times. In the Gospel of Matthew 7:3, Jesus, during a discourse on judgementalism, asks, while delivering the Sermon on the Mount: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
It is through this prism that Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif’s statement vis-à-vis India must be viewed. On 3rd January, Asif said that, “India wants to keep us busy in a low-intensity war or low-intensity engagement on our eastern border. They are pursuing the same tactics of keeping our forces busy on all fronts.” He then added: “In the past six-seven months, we have tried to better our ties with India so that peace can prevail. But it seems that they do not understand this language… I believe, we will now communicate with India in the language they understand”.
History teaches us that neither men nor nations learn much from the past. Despite having suffered crushing military victories not once, but on four occasions, at Indian hands, Pakistan has not learnt a lesson. And since it has not learnt from the mistakes of the past, it is doomed to repeat them. Perhaps, it’s time to remind Pakistan that India took 93,000 prisoners during the 1971 war that led to the liberation of Bangladesh. The text of the surrender agreement is now public property, jointly owned by the Governments of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The document is on display in the National Museum in New Delhi. It reads: “The Pakistan Eastern Command agree to surrender all Pakistan Armed Forces in Bangladesh to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of Indian and Bangladesh forces in the Eastern Theatre. This surrender includes all Pakistan land, air and naval forces as also all paramilitary forces and civil armed forces. These forces will lay down their arms and surrender at the places where they are currently located to the nearest regular troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora.
“The Pakistan Eastern Command shall come under the orders of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora as soon as the instrument has been signed. Disobedience of orders will be regarded as a breach of the surrender terms and will be dealt with in accordance with the accepted laws and usages of war. The decision of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora will be final, should any doubt arise as to the meaning of interpretation of the surrender terms.”
A year later, India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement, a comprehensive blueprint for good neighbourly relations. Under the Simla Agreement, both countries agreed to abjure conflict and confrontation, which had marred relations in the past, and to work towards the establishment of durable peace, friendship and cooperation.
The Simla Agreement emphasised respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; respect for each others unity, political independence; sovereign equality; and abjuring hostile propaganda. Many of these clauses have been repeatedly violated Pakistani leaders.
The Simla Agreement also commits both countries to build the foundations of a cooperative relationship with special focus on people to people contacts and uphold the inviolability of the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir, which is an most important confidence-building measuer between India and Pakistan as well as a key to durable peace.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the Line of Control, resulting from the 1971 ceasefire, was to be respected by both sides without prejudice as well as serve as the recognised position of either side. Neither side was to seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations. Both sides had also undertaken to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of the LoC.
But President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who had signed the Simla agreement from the Pakistani side, not only reneged on his vow to Indira Gandhi but did so a lot earlier than some had anticipated. From then onwards, all Pakistani Governments, including that of General Zia-ul-Haq, who first overthrew Bhutto in July 1977 and then executed him in April 1979, have maintained that the promise attributed by India to ZA Bhutto was never made.