US papers on Kashmir reveal Zia’s admission to Desai

Mizanur Rahman Khan, Dhaka | Update:

Morarji Desai, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Henry Kissinger. Photo: Collected

Some revealing facts regarding 1970's Kashmir have just hit the website of the US Department of State, coinciding with the Indian decision to scrap the special status to a densely militarized valley of the world and bifurcate it into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The declassification of the 8 August US diplomatic documents shed light on a Machiavellian Pakistani admission that they were doing politics and used the Kashmir card against India as an apparent propaganda tool.


Archer Kent Blood, who is famous for his 1971 'Blood telegram', on 15 February 1979 met the then Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in India.

PM Desai had claimed to Blood: “Indo-Pak relations are plagued by the fact that Pakistanis have been trained for 30 years to hate India; Zia himself had said that to him when they met at Nairobi.'' Zia had also told him not be troubled if he sometimes publicly voiced Pakistan's claim to Kashmir; he had to do it for internal reasons.''


General Ziaul Haque had staged a coup called 'operation fair play' in the early hours of 5 July 1977 that toppled the Prime Minister ZA Bhutto on a plea that the 'ruling party had failed to tie the knot with the opposition'. Bhutto was hanged on 4 April 1979. The said Blood cable had showed that Desai, who pleaded clemency to Zia, was curious to know about the fate of Bhutto and both are agreed that he would be executed.

On the virtual negation of Pakistani position, Blood noted that ''In the PM's (Desai) view, Zia remains basically straightforward and well-meaning.''

Greatest danger: Kissinger
The new declassified materials mention Kissinger's remark on Kashmir. Henry Kissinger, national security adviser during the Nixon presidency, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on 21 January 1980, stated that: “It is extremely unlikely that the Soviet Union would attack Pakistan over the opposition of India. The real threat will therefore develop if the Soviet Union and India cooperate. We must of course do our best to prevent this from occurring. But the greatest danger is that India may seek with Soviet cooperation to dismember its neighbor by splitting off Baluchistan and the Northwest Province and occupying Kashmir. Both India and the Soviet Union would then be surrounded by weak client states.”

Kissinger in 2012 said at Delhi, American attitude towards the Kashmir problem would always be in accordance with 'the merits of the case'. President Obama, only a week before he was elected in 2008, said that solving Kashmir’s struggle for the self-determination issue would be among his “critical tasks”. But he was indeed forgetful throughout his presidency.

On 22 July, at a joint media meet at the White House with visiting Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, President Trump stunned India by saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought his "mediation/arbitration" on the Kashmir issue. Modi declined.

In 1948, India raised the Kashmir issue in the UN which passed a resolution for holding a referendum to settle the status of the territory. It never came into reality. In 1951, an election held in the India-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir favoured accession to India. Since then, India had pleaded that it made referendum unnecessary. On the contrary, the UN and Pakistan say that the UN resolution mandated a referendum throughout the former princely state.

According to Dennis Kux, author of India and the United States: Estranged Democracies 1941-1991, Khrushchev ''dropped the Soviet neutrality on Kashmir to proclaim support for India's position'' during his 1955 Srinagar visit. Kux also noted that the Soviet shift made it harder for the ''UN to reengage itself actively in efforts to settle the Kashmir dispute.''

''No to no-war'' and ''playing with fire''

In another diplomatic cable (3453) from Islamabad, dated 9 April 1977, the embassy informed Washington: “In case anyone has been holding his breath, we must report that PM Bhutto has rejected Indian Foreign Minister AB Vajpayee's recent renewal of India's long-standing offer of a no-war pact.


Speaking to newsmen at Lahore airport on 8 April, Bhutto stated that without the settlement of the Kashmir issue or the provision for a self-executing or mandatory machinery, a no-war pact would mean acceptance of the status-quo. As Bhutto noted, this position is a reiteration of a line the Paks have consistently taken toward the no-war pact offer.”

According to telegram 18920 from New Delhi, 8 December 1978 which reported his 6 December comments in the Lok Sabha, Vajpayee “warned Pakistan that it would be playing with fire if it talked of self-determination in Kashmir.''

Indira defends Simla agreement

According to telegram 16280 from New Delhi to Washington dated 8 September 1979 which reported another one of Zia's provocative assertion on Kashmir at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, held from 3-9 September 1979 in Havana. The declassified documents stated that Ziaul discussed Kashmir and took a “particularly hard line. He asserted that there was a secret agreement between Mrs. Gandhi and Bhutto at Simla, and that Bhutto had in effect sold out Kashmir to India.”


In a letter to the US President Jimmy Carter on 12 March 1980, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wrote: ''Pakistan's insistence on referring to the Kashmir question in international fora in a propagandist and agitational manner, most recently in the Islamic Foreign Ministers' meeting in Islamabad, can hardly be said to conform to the spirit of the Simla Agreement. Nor can it bring about a better climate in the relationship between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, we shall pursue our objective of normalizing relations with Pakistan.''


The Simla agreement was signed between Indira and Bhutto on 2 July 1972. It is believed that the treaty was ''much more than a peace treaty'' which was designed to normalize the situation of the subcontinent by troops' withdrawal and an exchange of PoWs and also to help the ease the intra great power tensions in the backdrop of Bangladesh's war of liberation.


Section 5 of the Simla treaty stated: ''In Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control resulting from the cease-fire of December 17th, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side.''

The treaty concluded that both the governments agree that their representatives will meet to reach ''a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir.''
According to NDTV, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India's Ambassador to the US, said the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opined ''this issue has to be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan in keeping with the agreements that the two countries have signed: the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration."

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