Vol. 6 | issue 7 | August 2012
ambassadors club k n bakshi
It’s a boy
The making of the Simla Agreement and the lessons we should learn
In the joint production that was the Simla summit, we had written the script so far; but, as the play evolved, the script came to be increasingly written and played out by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the large contingent of ‘performers’ he had carefully chosen to bring along with him. Bhutto, who had repeatedly spoken of a thousand-year war with India, was all sugar and honey, smiles and warmth, friendship and cooperation, peace and prosperity – in public or in private.
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But, the talks failed; there was no agreement. We returned to our hotel and were preparing to leave Simla the next day. There was only one official engagement left; the return banquet hosted by Bhutto. Much of the dinner proceeded in a very vocal silence. We were waiting for dessert when Mrs. Gandhi and Bhutto simply got up and walked out of the hall. Just like that! We didn’t know what was happening. We all stood up, not knowing what to do. Swaran Singh had the presence of mind to say something about sitting down after the two had left. And so we did. Dessert came. In between, PN Haksar and Rafi Raza got up and left the hall. Coffee was served. A few more from both sides joined the two leaders. The dinner came to an end. We trooped out of the hall into the foyer. Slowly, most people left. And then it happened.
The scene is still vivid in my memory. Benazir, PM’s Social Secretary Usha Bhagat, Bhutto’s Press Secretary Khalid Hassan, Nareshwar and I stood outside the room where the two leaders were meeting. Haskar Sahib came out of the room slowly walked towards us and started lighting his pipe. Usha Bhagat asked him: Haskar Sahib, ladki hui ki ladka? (Haksar sahib, is it a girl or a boy?) Haksar Sahib took his time, smiled a little, cleared his throat, and said “Ladka hua aur woh bhi MA pass”. (It is a boy – that too with a Master’s degree) We had reached an agreement.
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Unknown to us officials, a meeting had taken place between the PM and Bhutto in the late afternoon of July 2, 1972. No one else was present. There was nothing new in what Bhutto told the PM, but he conveyed it to her with an even greater passion than he demonstrated in public. In every turn of phrase, every gesture and expression, he emphasised that he wanted peace with India. He said, he was fully convinced that conflict cannot resolve anything, that the future lies only in cooperation, and that they have a historic duty to write a new chapter in bilateral relations. He played upon his relatively short (and short-lived) democratic credentials. He emphasised that he had just been elected as President; democracy was new in Pakistan; he had enemies all around him – in the armed forces, in the establishment, in the political opposition. They would kill him if he was seen to have capitulated. He underlined that he represented a defeated nation, and that he did not have any concessions to offer; on the other hand, India was the victor and only India could give any concessions. In conclusion, he asked Mrs. Gandhi to help him by showing statesmanship……..READ MORE