Donald Trump’s offer to help India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir issue has snowballed into a major controversy after India refuted the US President’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a request in this regard. As the US administration tries to play down Trump’s remarks by terming the Kashmir issue a “bilateral” one for “both India and Pakistan to discuss”, the focus has shifted back on past “bilateral agreements”, including the 1972 Simla Agreement (or Shimla Agreement) signed by the then premiers of India and Pakistan, Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for friendly relations between the two countries.
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. As ‘East Pakistan’ gained independence to become Bangladesh, India was left to deal with approximately 90,000 Pakistani soldiers captured during the war.
The Simla Agreement, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, was thus “much more than a peace treaty seeking to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war (i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of PoWs).” “It was a comprehensive blue print for good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan. Under the Simla Agreement both countries undertook 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 two countries not only agreed to put an end to “conflict and confrontation" but also work for the “promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of durable peace in the sub-continent, so that both countries may henceforth devote their resources and energies to the pressing talk of advancing the welfare of their peoples.”
In order to achieve this objective, both the governments agreed that that the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations would govern bilateral relations and differences would be resolved by “peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them."
Regarding Jammu and Kashmir, the two sides had agreed that the line of control “resulting from the cease-fire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations. Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of this Line.”
Both governments had also agreed that their respective Heads would meet again at a “mutually convenient time in the future the representatives of the two sides will meet to discuss further the modalities and arrangements for the establishment of durable peace and normalization of relations, including the questions of repatriation of prisoners of war and civilian internees, a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir and the resumption of diplomatic relations.”