Role played by ‘G.P.’ in Indira–Sheikh Accord lauded

Pointing out that a solution to the Kashmir question should have been so long delayed is a matter of surprise only if we refuse to recognise the major political role played by implacable men holding absolute and rigid opinions, noted historian Mushirul Hasan recently lauded the role played by former bureaucrat G.P. (G. Parthasarathy) in bringing about the Indira–Sheikh Accord on Jammu and Kashmir in February 1975.

Delivering the second lecture in the series “Remembering G.P. in his birth centenary year” recently, Prof. Hassan recalled how former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was fed with the view that, besides Pakistan, Sheikh Abdullah was encouraging ‘separatist’ forces to question Kashmir’s accession to India. Though untrue, that view paved the way for the Sheikh’s arrest on August 8, 1953.

Kashmir’s internal and international situation underwent many vicissitudes since that arrest. G.P., the Special Envoy of Ms. Indira Gandhi on J&K, who had a remarkable ability to take a cool and detached but clear view of temperature-raising problems, advanced plausible and coherent arguments that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Mirza Afzal Beg, representing the Sheikh, finally concurred in the highly secret talks with G.P. which started on June 16, 1972 and ended over January 12-17, 1975 after 26 gruelling sessions, he said.

That G.P.- Beg Agreement covered a plethora of issues such as the applicability of Article 370 to J&K and the extension of Central Laws to the State. But, Prof. Hasan said, one issue remained intractable–the designation of the political head of the J&K Government. The Sheikh was insistent it should be Prime Minister, which was totally impossible. It took G.P. almost a month to get the Sheikh to accept Chief Minister. With that issue finally settled, both parties agreed that the final seal on the Accord should be through an Exchange of Letters and not a single Agreement signed by both the Prime Minister and the Sheikh. In this too, he said G.P. had a major role to play.

The Sheikh reiterated in his letter to Ms. Gandhi on February, 11, 1975 that the future of Jammu and Kashmir lay with India “because of the common ideals we share”. Ms. Gandhi, in her response, appreciated “the spirit in which you have expressed your agreement with the terms of the agreed conclusion”. However, she also underlined that “the clock cannot be put back and we have to take note of the realities of the situation. She told the Rajya Sabha that Pakistan had over played its hand. Jammu and Kashmir was no longer its trump card. Above all, the Accord ruled out plebicite in Kashmir, which was a cardinal G.P. achievement.