US President Donald Trump’s remark on Kashmir has once again brought India and Pakistan’s troubled past to the limelight. On Sunday, Trump casually let slip that PM Modi had sought his intervention in the Kashmir issue. His statement came in interaction with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on a state visit to the United States.
As India woke up to the news, it sent ripples through political corridors. The opposition chose to make the issue it’s a new source of attack on the Modi government. Pandemonium reigned in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as opposition leaders demanded an answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the US president’s remark.
As the opposition ramped up the attack on the government, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha that Modi had never made any such request to Trump and stressed that all outstanding issues with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally.
Leader after leader, across the political divide, cited the Simla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1999 to stress that Kashmir is a bilateral issue. While Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said Simla and Lahore accords signed between India and Pakistan provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally, Rahul Gandhi said PM Modi had betrayed the accords. Adding to the Congress attack, Randeep Surjewala said no one had dared to breach them. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury wondered what this meant for India’s agreements with Pakistan?
But what are these accords and what do they say?
SIMLA AGREEMENT, 1972
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi. (Photo: Bhutto.org)
The Simla Agreement was signed by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on July 2, 1972, in the capital of Himachal Pradesh. The agreement was a peace treaty signed by the two nations after the end of the 1971 Bangladesh war. Bangladesh had been a part of Pakistan since the 1947 Partition. In 1971, it waged a war of independence against Pakistan. India entered the war as an ally of Bangladesh which transformed the war into an Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The agreement was ratified by the parliaments of both the nations in the same year.
The Simla Agreement sought to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of prisoners of war (PoWs).
- The agreement resolved that the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship.
- Established a mutual commitment to the peaceful resolution of all issues through direct bilateral approaches.
- Said that both sides shall always respect each other’s national unity, territorial integrity, political independence and sovereign equality.
- It 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”.
Most importantly, the Simla Agreement established that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. India has, many times, cited the Simla Agreement to deny any third-party intervention in the Kashmir dispute, including that of the United Nations.
LAHORE DECLARATION, 1999
Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif shake hands after the signing of the Lahore Declaration in 1999. (Photo: Reuters)
The Lahore Declaration was a bilateral agreement and governance treaty between India and Pakistan. The treaty was signed on 21 February 1999, at the conclusion of a historic summit in Lahore, and ratified by the parliaments of both countries the same year. The declaration was signed by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
The accord was vital to Indo-Pak relations at it came at a time when both countries had established themselves as atomic powers through publicly performed nuclear tests in 1998. Under the terms of the treaty, a mutual understanding was reached towards the development of atomic arsenals and to avoid accidental and unauthorised operational use of nuclear weapons.
It signalled a major breakthrough in overcoming the historically strained bilateral relations between the two nations.
- It recognized that the nuclear dimension of the security environment of the two countries adds to their responsibility for avoidance of conflict between them.
- Committed both to the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and the universally accepted principles of peaceful co-existence.
- Committed both countries to the objectives of universal nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
- Reiterated the determination of both countries to implementing the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit.
- Was meant to intensify India and Pakistan’s composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda.
The treaty stressed on India and Pakistan’s resolve to combat terrorism and mutual non-interference in internal affairs.
As leaders await a response from PM Modi, the row has certainly stirred about the conversation about geopolitics and Kashmir dispute in the international world.