Did US nix an attempt by India and Pakistan to forge a lasting treaty of friendship in the eighties? Doubts have been expressed by many diplomats that Washington did not want a peaceful co existence between the neighbours during the cold war period. This theory has now gained strength with former foreign secretary M K Rasgotra claiming that but for American intervention New Delhi and Islamabad would have sealed a deal during 1984. Indira Gandhi was India’s premier then.
Acording to Rasgotra, US influenced the then Pakistan president Zia-ul -Haq from having an agreement with India. In his autobiography “A Life in Diplomacy,” Rasgotra, who was foreign secretary from 1982 to 85 recalls his conversation with Indira Gandhi who was leaving on a visit to the US, gave him a free hand, telling him, “You know it all and you can talk to them about any subject they want to talk about, including Kashmir and the no-war pact they are so keen on”. She only wanted to know if “there is a grain of sincerity” in General Zia.
As Rasgotra called on him at the President’s House in Islamabad, President Zia, was standing in the verandah close to where he would get out of the car and welcomed him with a big hug. During the talks, to India’s willingness to talk about Kashmir, Zia’s response was “Rasgotra sahib, what is there to talk about Kashmir? You have Kashmir and we cannot take it. I want you and Niaz Naik (Pakistani foreign secretary) to work on a Treaty of Peace and Good Neighbourliness including a No War Pact,” he quoted the Pakistani leader as saying.
He said progress was made in discussions on the agreement, to the extent that in March 1984, Niaz Naik himself proposed that the Indian draft of a Treaty of Peace and Friendship and Pakistan’s draft of a ‘No War Pact’ should be merged. By May 1984, there was “full agreement on all the six or seven clauses in the draft treaty’s preamble and also on nine out of the eleven articles of the treaty’s operative , and both sides reached agreement on these two too.
Accordingly Naik announced in the final plenary meeting of the two delegations that on clauses IV and V, he and I had reached an understanding to which he would obtain the president’s approval on his return from the UAE and we would all meet in Delhi in July to initial or sign the treaty. But that meeting, which would have changed the history not only of India and Pakistan but of South Asia, did not take place at all. According to Rasgotra, there were two reasons why Zia changed his mind – and the primary one was the advice of America.”
While awaiting the President’s return from the UAE, Naik had telegraphed the text to Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan who was visiting Washington DC. Khan took the text around to his friends in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, who strongly advised him against signing a treaty of that nature with India, claims the former top diplomat.
Rasgotra says he learnt of this from a Congressman friend of his, from his earlier stints in the US, and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They asked him why we were coercing Pakistan into signing an anti-American treaty!”
The other reason was troubles in Punjab in which Zia-ul Haq saw an opportunity to weaken India by supporting a violent secessionist campaign by Sikh extremist groups lead by Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale..says Rasgotra.
Rasgotra, in a report of his meeting with then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in 2000 (attached as an appendix to this book) , said this Pakistani ruler was “shrewd, and perhaps also not without cunning but he is not wily like Gen. Zia ul Haq. Nor does he possess the bluff exuberance of Gen. Mohammed Ayub Khan”.
Pakistan will give up sponsorship of violence only when India can demonstrate, in actual deeds, that we can hurt them in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) the same way they are hurting us in the Kashmir Valley, Rasgotra said.