A return to the Simla Agreement

This week seems to have brought about a change in Pakistani thinking. For the first time in a long time, I sense that Pakistan pushing the Simla Agreement as framework for bilateral discussions.

Pakistan does well to accept the Simla Accord as a frame of reference for talks with India although some rightwing politicians have at times denounced it as an unequal treaty dictated by a victor to the vanquished. The Accord is a part of the corpus of international law bearing on the Kashmir dispute. The last time Pakistan and India faced each other at the International Court of Justice the court made a clear reference to the Simla Accord as a basis of negotiated settlement of bilateral disputes between the two. In fact, it is on the strength of the text of the Accord that Pakistan and the international community are today asking India to engage in dialogue, cross-border infiltration or no cross-border infiltration.The Daily Times.

Ironically, the discussions at Agra failed because Pakistan was unwilling to accept that there was ‘cross-border’ infiltration going on in Kashmir, and Musharraf was neurotic to the words Simla and Lahore. Pakistan was also averse to discussing a whole package of issues, and wanted to focus on Kashmir alone. In the post 9/11 world, Pakistan has come around to vacating its position on these issues.

There is need for caution though, as the words “Simla Agreement” could be thrown in as a carrot to bring India to the negotiating table while Pakistan continues to ‘lend diplomatic, political and moral’ support to the jehadi outfits in Kashmir, and make every international meeting a platform for raising its ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir. If talks with India break down, Pakistan could blame the failure on Indian intransigence and use the international community to put pressure on India.

Also, every Pakistani regime that has signed any agreement to improve relations with India has met with an untimely end – or vice versa. Successor regimes have usually disowned agreements made by their immediate predecessors.

So there is a need to be very circumspect before any ‘talks’ begin, and more so if there appear to be real negotiations behind the talks.