Tashkent Declaration

Since neither the US nor the UK wanted to take the lead, it was up to Soviet diplomacy to work toward a peace settlement after the war. Prime Minister Kosygin offered to help Pakistan and India work out their differences. Pakistan was hesitant at first, because the Soviet Union has been favoring India ever since Pakistan joined the Western alliances. However, Pakistan decided to accept the Soviet proposal not only because there was no other option, but also because Moscow has been less biased in recent years. In April 3, 1965, when Ayub Khan went to Moscow, his trip ended on a good note. The Soviet leaders were happy to hear that Pakistan planned to end the lease for Badaber. Also, Moscow had a reason to make sure that Pakistan and India stopped fighting each other. This would keep China and the Soviet Union from becoming too divided, with one side supporting Pakistan and the other supporting India.

Ayub Khan went to London and Washington in December 1965 before he went to Tashkent. Johnson told him that the United States and Pakistan could no longer work together. In the future, the US might help Pakistan financially, but that would depend on whether or not Pakistan was willing to cut ties with China. It was clear that Washington had decided to have less of an impact in South Asia.

From January 4–10, 1966, the Pakistan delegation to the Tashkent Conference was split on how hard to try to settle the Kashmir dispute. The Security Council resolution called for some work to be done in this area. It was not unreasonable to expect the Soviet Union to work toward that goal. Some people thought that Pakistan could get India to agree to set up a way to settle the dispute. Others thought that because the war was at a standstill, Pakistan could not take a strong negotiating position, and the Soviet Union could not be expected to put pressure on India to settle the Kashmir dispute. Ayub Khan himself was clear about how important it was to get out of the war quickly.

The Tashkent Declaration called for troops to go back to where they were on August 5, 1965, war prisoners to be sent home, and high commissioners to return to their jobs. The declaration said that the two sides would meet again “to talk about things that are directly important to both countries.” It did not say anything about the important Kashmir question. India was against Pakistan’s plan to include a clause that would force the dispute to be settled. Even though Prime Minister Shastri knew that a settlement would be good, he told Ayub Khan that as a “pygmy (Peoples of extremely low average height are referred to as “pygmies” in the field of anthropology.) succeeding a giant,” he could not change India’s position. Even the Soviets thought that the Kashmir issue was too “complicated” and that what Pakistan wanted was not possible. Kosygin had to work hard to come up with the vague phrase “the two sides will continue to meet at the highest level and at other levels to talk about issues that directly affect both countries.” Even though Ayub Khan’s decision to agree to this plan was reasonable given the situation, it caused a big tussle in Pakistan.

During the conflict, official Pakistani media created the impression that their forces had achieved a decisive win over India. It was not the first time official propaganda misled its citizens. Considering Pakistan’s relative success, it was already puzzling that Pakistan agreed to the ceasefire. It was even more puzzling that no progress was made on the Kashmir problem. The Tashkent Declaration was a letdown after all the hype the propaganda had generated. It left Ayub Khan vulnerable to unfounded claims that he had wasted military victories in negotiations. Later on, Bhutto used this myth to his advantage in politics by taking advantage of its prevalence.

Source: Pakistan’s Foreign Policy 1947–2019 Fifth Edition by Abdul Sattar


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