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All you need to know about Simla Agreement

14th December, 2022 Mains

Opinion: The Shimla Agreement Was A Strategic Blunder



On July 2, 1972, the Simla Agreement, also known as the Simla Accord, was signed between Indian PM Indira Gandhi and Pakistani president Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at Shimla in Himachal Pradesh.

The Simla Agreement was signed following the India-Pakistan war of 1971. It was a formal agreement to end the hostilities between the countries and lay down a comprehensive plan for peaceful relations.

The war started due to Pakistan’s campaign of genocide against the Bengali population in East Pakistan. India lent support to the refugees of the genocide and sought to prevent Pakistan from entering India. Pakistan lost East Pakistan which became an independent country, now known as Bangladesh. India helped to liberate Dhaka, which became the capital of Bangladesh. 

Relations between India and Pakistan seemed to have reached a point of no return. However, ultimately better sense prevailed and the agreement was signed at the Barnes Court — now the Raj Bhavan — in Shimla. It was signed in haste after six months of the war.


Background of the Shimla Agreement 

The Shimla agreement of 1972 was more than just a peace treaty, it was the result of the India-Pakistan war of 1971 and sought to countermand the effect of such war. It practically wrecked the relations between India and Pakistan to be irreparable. The India Pakistan war of 1971, cost Pakistan to lose East Pakistan from West Pakistan and become an independent country now popularly known as Bangladesh. The war started as a result of Pakistan’s genocide over the Bengali population in East Pakistan. India lent support to the refugees of the genocide, India wanted to prevent Pakistan from entering India while liberating Dhaka.


Significance of Shimla as the venue for the agreement

The agreement was signed at the Barnes Court in Shimla, now the Raj Bhavan. The agreement was signed in such haste on the night of July 2nd, right after Bhutto made a declaration in a press conference that talks had failed. Shimla has been politically a very important city in the history of India’s struggle towards a sovereign state. Long before the Shimla Agreement, two other events made it so popular. Shimla Accord and the Shimla Convention.

The Shimla Accord then known as Simla witnessed the signing of an accord between India which was then a British colony, China, and Tibet on 3rd July 1914. The accord was for the to divide Tibet into inner and outer Tibet while China was to abstain from annexing outer Tibet. Between India and China, it was the introduction of the McMahone Line since both countries had disputes on un-demarcated borders.

The following event was the Simla Conference of 1945. The Conference was the reason for the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946, it was the first step towards the possibility of an Independent India. Held on 25th and 26th June 1945 with 21 delegates. The agenda of the conference was to establish a provincial national government with the Executive council solely composed of Indians, governed by the Government of India Act of 1935. However, it failed due to the objections and tensions Mohamed Ali Jinnah had with the Congress and its nominating Muslims to the Executive council.

After which was the Shimla Agreement, a result of the Indo-Pak war of 1971.


Principles and objectives of the Shimla Agreement 

There were certain significant principles that both the countries were to abide by in order to modulate relations between both the countries.



  • They made commitments to have a direct bilateral approach to resolve issues peacefully.
  • A special focus on people-to-people contacts was made for which they had to build a foundation of cooperative relations.
  • Both countries were supposed to take measures not to violate the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir which helps maintain peace among India and Pakistan and acts as a significant CBM.

Apart from these, there were comprehensive to the agreement meant for India and Pakistan as discussed below:



  • Put an end to conflict and confrontation,
  • Promotion of friendly and harmonious relations, 
  • Establishing peace and welfare of the state,
  • Respect for each other’s political Independence, sovereignty, integrity, and unity,
  • Not to disturb each other’s internal affairs,
  • Refrain from hostile propaganda. 


Six key clauses of the Shimla Agreement 

  1. Relations between both countries were to be governed by the principles and  purposes of the UN Charter.
  • Differences between both countries to be resolved through peaceful means and bilateral negotiations, neither side can unilaterally alter the situation in case of a pending final settlement which might render detrimental to maintaining peaceful and friendly relations.
  • The commitment of both countries to co-exist as per the Charter of the United Nations, they agreed to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of each other. Peacefully, respecting each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and not interfering in each other’s internal affairs, is to act as a prerequisite to reconciliation, good neighbourliness and peace.
  • Issues and reasons for conflicts between both countries have strained their relations for the last 25 years. Such issues must be settled peacefully.
  • There must be mutual recognition and honour for each country’s national unity, territorial integrity, political independence, and sovereign equality.
  1. Both governments take steps in their power to prevent hostile propaganda against each other and to encourage spreading such information which would develop friendly relations among India and Pakistan.
  2. To actively bring back and regulate relations among the two countries there had to be steps taken. Such as:
  • Efforts to bring back communications by the way of post, telegraph, air links including flights and border posts.
  • Taking appropriate measures to encourage travel resources for the nationals of the other country.
  • They were to work on bringing back trade and cooperation in economic and other fields as well.
  • Initiatives to encourage exchange of the knowledge in science and culture.
  1. Delegates from both countries take action to meet occasionally and discuss necessary details. For the purpose of initiating peace both the governments agreed that:
  • The Indian and Pakistani forces pull back to stay at their side of the international border.
  • The Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir as a result of the December 17, 1971 ceasefire, the countries agreed to honour it without any prejudices and stay on their sides. Neither of the countries can unilaterally alter the Line of Control no matter any mutual differences and legal interpretations occur between them. Both the countries promise to stay away from using any force or threat that may violate the Line of Control.
  • Right after the entry into the Agreement, the withdrawals will commence and shall be completed in 30 days thereof.
  1. The agreement will come into force with effect from when the Instrument of Ratification will be exchanged, subject to its ratification by both countries as per their Constitutional procedures.
  2. While the representatives of either side will come together often to discuss upcoming modalities and arrangements to bring peace and stability as well as a final settlement on the Jammu and Kashmir issue, the release of POWs. They are also to renew diplomatic relations. Both governments’ heads would meet at a mutually agreed time convenient to both in the future.

Terms of the Treaty

The accord contained the steps to be taken to ensure the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. The agreement was signed in Barnes Court (Raj Bhavan) at Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. The terms of the treaty were as follows:

  • The Charter of the UN shall govern relations between India and Pakistan.
  • Any differences shall be settled by peaceful means and through bilateral negotiations.
  • Both countries shall respect the territorial integrity of each other and not interfere in the internal matters of each other.
  • Forces shall be withdrawn to each other’s side of the international border.
  • The ceasefire line of 17 December, 1971 (after the Bangladesh War) shall be respected (and reiterated as the Line of Control).
  • The treaty also had some other terms like renewing communications, telegraph, postal, airline relations, etc. It also talked about having exchanges in the field of culture and science.

India released 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war (POWs) who were captured after the Bangladesh war.

Effect of the Agreement

While India returned the 93,000 prisoners of war in an organised manner as promised by Indira Gandhi, Pakistan was to work on converting the Line of Control to an international border. India returned the prisoners of war along with the territories that it captured. The prisoners of war were mostly militants as well as few civilians, reports suggest they were mostly women and children. There was supposedly a meeting between Bhutto and Indira Gandhi, where Bhutto promised to turn the Line of Control to an International Border although at the time of finalising the Agreement such meeting’s happening was denied and repudiated.

There was no mention of the existence of such a meeting. Both India and Pakistan were busy focusing on their internal affairs and the promise made by Pakistan was never executed.


Did both parties to the agreement follow it?

This Agreement determined the relations between both the countries. India faithfully observed the Shimla Agreement and abided by what was mutually agreed upon to improve the relations. Pakistan did not keep its word and continued to unsettle India on the Kashmir issue. There was a severe war-like situation between both countries around Kargil in 1999. Pakistani soldiers invaded Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir as well the lines of the Line of Control. A very critical war condition that lasted more than 60 days, until the involvement of the Indian Air Force drove Pakistani troops back to the territory. The effect of this war situation was yet another peace treaty, the Lahore declaration to maintain peace and stability.


Critical analysis 

The Agreement was looked down upon strategically by many and it was seen as a mistake from India’s point of view by Indira Gandhi. She was criticised widely for signing the Agreement without resolving the Kashmir issue. Pakistan claimed Kashmir so strongly that complications between India and Pakistan would have been inevitable. This was seen as another reason to criticise the signing of the Agreement by Indira Gandhi. It was called purposeless and impractical. Indira Gandhi could not use the victory of India in the 1971 war which was military surrender by Pakistan, to bring peace and stability amongst India and Pakistan.  Many addressed it as the treaty that was a mistake by Indira Gandhi since it backfired with the Kargil war situation of 1999 even after the surrender of POWs and territories by India. What was understood was that India had believed Pakistan was going to abide by the Agreement and demonstrate friendly conduct to foster peace and stability although Pakistan proved otherwise. Pakistan ought not to be underestimated since it has always been in a state of conflict over Jammu and Kashmir. India’s win in the Indo-Pak war of 1971 brought a lot of advantages to it, all that was lost by this agreement, perceived as false promises made by Bhutto. Pakistani leaders had a history of not keeping their word. India seemed to have missed the factor before signing the Agreement. The Agreement was criticised to have laughable expectations from Pakistan considering Bhutto never kept his word. Even if India returned territories it seized in the war and all the prisoners of war, the loss of the eastern part of Pakistan led to non-reconcilable relations between the countries.


Shimla and Kashmir issue

India and Pakistan have always had a dispute with the determination of which country Kashmir belongs to. The Shimla Agreement, although signed in the name of the Bangladesh/East Pakistan dispute, ended directly at the Kashmir dispute. Many perceived the Agreement to have instigated Pakistan to make Kashmir its Bangladesh. The Indo-Pak war in 1971 resulted in the military surrender of Pakistan and the loss of East Pakistan as a territory that put India supposedly in a powerful position. This affected Pakistan, they began working on the strategy to pressurize India by targeting Kashmir. Pakistan did not want to lose Kashmir as well. Pakistan strongly claimed its right over Kashmir, but never directly confronted India, even after signing the Shimla agreement. Thus the Shimla agreement only pushed Pakistan towards claiming Kashmir as its own, making the dispute active all over again.


Relation between the Shimla and the Delhi Agreement

The Delhi Agreement was followed by the Shimla Agreement, signed in 1973. It was a trilateral agreement between Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. The Agreement mainly focused on the repatriation of prisoners of war and civilians held in the three countries after the Bangladesh liberation war. Ratified by India and Pakistan only, although signed by all three countries. It was specifically required to repatriate Bengali bureaucrats and military personnel held up in West Pakistan to be moved to Bangladesh. India was to relocate 6,500 prisoners of war and military personnel while Bangladesh agreed to relocate mainly the Urdu-speaking Community of Pakistan. Pakistan did not properly settle the community in Pakistan after the Agreement due to which some of the prisoners of war were deserted and helpless.

Significance of the accord

Both countries made commitments to have a direct bilateral approach to resolve issues peacefully under the Simla Accord.

The agreement emphasised the importance of people-to-people contacts, which was meant to build a foundation of cooperative relations.

As per the agreement, both India and Pakistan had to take measures to not violate the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir to help maintain peace.

The Simla Agreement contained a set of guiding principles that both countries agreed to follow while managing relations with each other. The agreement emphasised on respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of the other country, respect for the unity of both the countries, political independence, sovereign equality, and abjuring all hostile propaganda. 


The Shimla Agreement and the subsequent Delhi Agreement gave Pakistan all it wanted: lost territories, soldiers and no trials for war crimes during and before the war. Sadly, India could not even negotiate the release of her own 54 POWs in Pakistani custody whose families continue to remain in despair.

There is an overwhelming perception that agreeing to the terms set by Pakistan was a huge strategic blunder. Also, the Indian Army was nowhere in the negotiation process. Both the agreements have not prevented the relationship between the two countries from deteriorating and has become a roller coaster ride with huge scope for a potential conflict under the nuclear umbrella.

The Shimla Agreement teaches a lot on the importance of bilateral agreements which seems to be the solution for the longest time for the conflicts between belligerent countries. The Shimla agreement is a perfect example of a bilateral agreement in the international purview but it is a failed agreement because it could not achieve any of India’s objectives fully, be it maintaining peace or resolving the Kashmir issues. If anything, it may have triggered the Pakistan army to claim Kashmir since they lost Bangladesh.