A no-war deal

Published February 27, 2016
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

THERE is a time for any international treaty to be concluded. Judging by some recent comments, the time has come for Pakistan and India to conclude a no-war pact. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif advocated it on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly as far back as in 1997. Addressing the same forum on Sept 30, 2015, he proposed restraint by both countries from “use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances”.

The record is instructive and bears recalling. It all began with a suggestion by Girja Shankar Bajpai, who was the secretary general of the Ministry of External Affairs, in a conversation with M. Ismail, the then Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi, towards the end of November 1949 that a joint no-war declaration should be made by the two countries.

Pakistan responded on Dec 3, with an aide-memoire that listed all the pending disputes between the two and suggested their reference to arbitration. As soon as an agreement would be reached, a joint declaration would be made that the two governments would in no case resort to waging war.


It began with a suggestion in 1949 that India and Pakistan make a joint no-war declaration.


On Dec 22, Jawaharlal Nehru handed over to Ismail the draft of a brief joint declaration. On Sept 26, 1950, Pakistani prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan put forward his proposal which incorporated Nehru’s draft almost verbatim but added an undertaking to “resort to arbitration of all points of difference” in their disputes.

On Sept 15, 1981, Pakistan issued a statement. Its last paragraph read: “On our part we are prepared to enter into immediate consultations with India for the purpose of exchanging mutual guarantees of non-aggression and non-use of force in the spirit of the Shimla agreement.”

In the correspondence which followed drafts were exchanged. India sent an aide-memoire to Pakistan on Dec 24, 1981, spelling out the elements. They included the Simla Pact and that “Both countries reiterate their firm commitment to the policy of non-alignment, the essence of which is non-involvement in great power confrontation.” Given Pakistan’s relationship with the United States, especially after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, this injected a new and controversial element.

Pakistan responded with an aide-memoire in January 1982 which included the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, explicit renunciation of war or “use of force or threat to use of force in any form whatever”. The two drafts were pre-eminently susceptible to reconciliation.

Pakistan presented the draft of a brief no-war pact in May 1982. India gave Pakistan its draft of an agreement on a joint commission on June 28 and followed up by presenting its draft of a treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation when foreign secretary M.K. Rasgotra went to Islamabad in August 1982.

It injected two controversial formulations on grant of bases to and alliances with a ‘Great Power’ (read: the US). It read: “The two governments reiterate their firm commitment to the policy of non-alignment and of their obligations as members of the Non-Aligned Movement which asserts non-involvement in Great Power confrontation and their military alliances or blocs in any form.

“The two governments mutually undertake not to give to any Great Power or to another state, whether or not in military alliance with them, any use of their territory or areas within their jurisdiction as a military base or for any other facilities of a similar character in whatever form, and particularly those which adversely affect the security interests of the other party.”

The foreign secretaries of both countries met in December 1982 to reconcile the rival drafts. Another new element was qualification of the obligation to resolve disputes bilaterally with the word ‘exclusively’ which had been dropped in Shimla in June 1982.

At Murree in May 1984 a breakthrough was in sight. It proved to be a mirage. The Zia-Rajiv summit in New Delhi in December 1985 imparted some momentum. On bilateralism, Pakistan proposed the Shimla foundation. On bases it proposed that “the two countries reiterate their commitment to the policy of non-alignment which asserts independence of foreign policy, coexistence between various political systems, [and] non-involvement in multilateral alliances in the context of Great Power conflicts. The two countries mutually agree that neither shall permit the use of its territory for aggression, hostile and subversive activities for the purpose of undermining each other’s security, political independence, territorial integrity and political order.”

In 2016 the quibbles on bilateralism, alliances and bases have lost relevance. Neither nuclear state intends to go to war with the other on Kashmir or any other country. A simple comprehensive no-war pact between them should suffice.

The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2016

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