NEW DELHI – India’s former External Affairs secretary Maharaja Krishna (MR) Rasgotrarevealed that Pakistan and India had agreed on a peace and no-war treaty and were on the verge of signing it in July 1984 before President Zia-ul-Haq, who had even dismissed any need to discuss Jammu Kashmir, backtracked on advice of American lawmakers.
In his autobiography – ALife in Diplomacy, Rasgotrarecalls then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was leaving on a visit to the US, gave him a free handahead of his visit to Islamabad. “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 about,” he quoted Indira as saying.
“She (Indira) only wanted to know if there is a grain of sincerity in General Zia,” said Rasgotra, who served as the secretary since 1982 to 1985. The former secretary called on him (Zia) at the President’s House in Islamabad, President Zia, with the humility and charm he was known for, was standing in the verandah close to where he would get out of the car and welcomed him with a big hug.
He claimed that during the talks, to India’s ‘willingness’ to talk about Jammu Kashmir, Zia’s response was noteworthy. “RasgotraSahib, what is there to talk about Kashmir? You have Kashmir and we cannot take it. I want you and (then foreign affairs secretary) NiazNaik to work on a “treaty of peace” and “good neighbourliness” including a no war pact,” he quoted the then Pakistani president as saying.
He said that progress was made in discussions on the agreement, to the extent that in March 1984, NiazNaik 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 11 articles of the treaty’s operative part,” and both the 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 the July meeting never took place.”According to Rasgotra, there were two reasons why Zia changed his mind – andthe primary one was the advice of his American well-wishers.
“While awaiting the president’s return from the UAE, Naik had telegraphed the text to (then) Foreign Affairs Minister SahabzadaYaqubAli Khan who was on a visit in Washington DC. Yaqub shared the text with his friends in Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, who strongly advised him against signing a treaty of that kind with India,” he wrote.
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 “asking me why we were coercing Pakistan into signing an anti-American treaty!”The other reason was India’s current troubles in Punjab “in which Zia-ulHaq saw an opportunity to ‘weaken’ India by supporting a ‘violent secessionist’ campaign by Sikh community lead by Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale,” he said.
On Zia himself, Rasgotra said that he reported to Prime Minister Indira after his first visit and meeting that “he had seemed anxious to win India’s goodwill, I had my doubts about his sincerity,” he said. Ina report of his meeting with (another) then president Pervez Musharraf in 2000 (attached as an appendix to this book), said that this ruler was shrewd, and perhaps also not without cunning but he was not wily like Gen Zia.
“Nor does he (Musharraf) possess the bluff exuberance of Gen Ayub Khan,” he said. On his recommendations, he said that his gut impression was that Pakistan “will give up sponsorship of violence” only when India can demonstrate, in actual deeds, that we can hurt them in (Azad) Jammu Kashmir the same way they are hurting us in our side of the disputed state.”