At Simla Bhutto and Indira were cautious in handling the situation. Both were aware of the people who would question their political prudence in dealing with the problems. While Indira feared a vocal parliament and an unfriendly opposition, Bhutto had to be more careful about the situation at home. Official level talks were held but no side was prepared to budge; various formats were discussed but without result. In the evening of the first day Mrs Gandhi hosted a dinner but none spoke on the issues. Everybody at Simla appeared depressed.
On July 1, 1972, Bhutto and Indira held a meeting with their respective delegations — prominent among them were Indian foreign minister Swaran Singh, and Foreign Secretary Triloki Nath Kaul; Pakistan’s Secretary General Foreign Affairs, Aziz Ahmad, and Foreign Secretary, Aftab Ahmad — presumably to find some mechanism or the basis of further talks in a bid to break the ice. At the end, it appeared that no result had been achieved. By now it had become evident that the summit was moving towards a deadlock. Bhutto sensed it immediately and spelled out his intentions clearly: “We are not going to shut it.”
July 2, presumably the last day meant for the summit, was a hectic day as members of both the teams worked hard to draft a declaration denoting the outcome: whether it was to be a deadlock or whether there would be some breakthrough. The main point was preparation of the text of the declaration.
In the evening a dinner had been hosted; as soon as it finished both the leaders set off for a stroll on the breezy lawns of Simla Governor House. It was a one-to-one meeting. After some time, the two leaders returned to the main hall and called the officials. Here too, no one was allowed to join. The text of the agreement had been vaguely drafted earlier and now a final touch was to be given. India’s P N Dhar and Pakistan’s Aziz Ahmad sat over the draft. A document was read out to both the leaders and, after making some changes, this was finally accepted and consequently set for signatures. Finally, the rest of the participants were called in to witness the ceremony. The accord was signed at 40 minutes past midnight on the morning of July 3, 1972, (erroneously mentioned in historical documents as July 2).
The most important point in the accord was that no settlement had been reached on the Kashmir issue, but it mentioned ‘a final solution of Jammu and Kashmir’ as one of the outstanding questions for settlement. Secondly, it stated that ‘the Line of Control resulting from the ceasefire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognised position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations’.
The agreement did not make any mention of POWs; however, after the second agreement signed at Delhi, two years later, India released over 93,000 POWs including 195 accused of war crimes.
At Simla, the 17-point agreement reaffirmed the principles and purposes of the Charter of United Nations to ‘govern the relations between the two countries.’ It also emphasised the importance of the use of peaceful means, ‘…the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means by bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them. Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organisation, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peace and harmonious relations’.
A more important issue, which was the point of delay between the two leaders, was ‘the basic issues and causes of conflict which have bedevilled the relations between the two countries for the last 25 years shall be resolved by peaceful means’ — an obvious pointer to the Kashmir dispute. It was also agreed that ‘Indian and Pakistani forces shall be withdrawn to their sides of the international border … the withdrawals shall commence upon entry into force of this agreement and shall be completed within a period of 30 days. The agreement will have to be ratified by both the countries and will come into force as soon as documents of ratification are exchanged’.
It also mentioned such steps that could restore and normalise relations between the two countries other than political issues. These were: ‘cooperation in communications, postal & telegraphic services, facilitaing sea, land (including border posts) and air links and over-flights. Appropriate steps shall be taken to promote travel facilities for the nationals of the (two) countries. Trade and cooperation in economic and other agreed fields will be resumed as far as possible. Exchange in the fields of science and culture will be promoted.’
How did both the leaders agree to reach the agreement in the last moments and what brought such a sudden change in their policy which could not be resolved in three days? This was an intriguing mystery and political observers and analysts mulled over this question for quite some time.