Triumph and tragedy at Tashkent
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With the signing of a peace agreement between India and Pakistan came the news of Lal Bahadur Shastri's passing
ON THE morning of January 10, there was a sea change in the atmosphere of Tashkent. The bickering, the blame game and intensely motivated accusations about the "impending collapse of the talks" had suddenly vanished. Instead, everyone seemed cheerful. For, word had spread fast that in the wee hours of the morning, the tireless Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin had brought about an agreement between Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan. It was to be called the "Tashkent Declaration", and signed in the afternoon by Shastri and Ayub, with Kosygin witnessing it. The text of the declaration was released only after it was signed, but there was striking unanimity among Indians, Pakistanis and Soviets that it was a "triumph of statesmanship".
At precisely 4 pm, the accord was signed, and a long, lavish and exuberant reception by the Soviet hosts followed. Shastri left early. Those who shook hands with him and saw him off testified later that his hold was firm, and he seemed calm and carefree. My colleagues and I had left much earlier to report and analyse the welcome accord. On careful reading, however, it seemed an arrangement only for the disengagement of troops that were too close for comfort and for the return of occupied territories. Major issues had been slurred over. This became even clearer when reactions started coming in from Delhi and Rawalpindi. The public in both countries was unhappy.
In India, the harshest criticism not only by the political class, but also by members of the PM's family, was focused on his decision to "give away" Haji Pir, which he had vowed never to do. Little did his critics know that Kosygin had explained to him the dire consequences of defying the UN Security Council's resolution insisting that the armed personnel of both countries "return to the positions they had occupied before August 5", when Pakistan's infiltrations into Kashmir were first detected.
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