HT THIS DAY: December 27, 1962 — Swaran Singh wants all irritations ended; Rawalpindi talks open today Pakistan for priority to Kashmir question

Published on Dec 26, 2021 06:46 PM IST

Sardar Swaran Singh was accompanied by Commonwealth Secretary Gundevia and six other delegates. A small crowd including Mr Z A Bhutto, head of the Pakistani negotiating team, had gathered to welcome them despite a drizzle.

A screengrab of the Hindustan Times on December 27, 1962.
A screengrab of the Hindustan Times on December 27, 1962.

Rawalpindi: All references to Kashmir were severely avoided by Sardar Swaran Singh, leader of the Indian delegation to tomorrow’s Indo-Pakistan talks, in his airport chat with newsmen after his arrival here aboard an IAF plane a little before noon.

Sardar Swaran Singh was accompanied by Commonwealth Secretary Gundevia and six other delegates. A small crowd including Mr Z. A. Bhutto, head of the Pakistani negotiating team, had gathered to welcome them despite a drizzle.

Recalling how the two outstanding irritants, the canal waters dispute and the border issue, had already been removed amicably in the three years since he last visited Rawalpindi, Sardar Swaran Singh stressed that an overall sett1ement at this stage would be “welcome not only to vast populations of our two countries, but also to men of goodwill and peace throughout Asia and Africa.”

He said India was “entering these talks in all sincerity.”

The fate of waiting for the other to take the first step would depend primarily on the urgency with which India was prepared to view the Kashmir issue.

India’s attitude was formally conveyed by Sardar Swaran Singh in the evening when he separately called on President Ayub Khan, Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali and Mr Bhutto.

Pak demand

His impromptu statement at the airport indicated that his instructions were to discuss the entire gambit of the Indo-Pakistan relations without preconditions and to find “mutually satisfactory and beneficial” solutions for the “many unsolved problems” still festering relations between the two countries.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has repeatedly declared, and this was reaffirmed today by its Foreign Office spokesman, that prior consideration must be given to the Kashmir question.

Pakistan was prepared to discuss any proposal other than plebiscite though he denied that either India or Pakistan had been approached by friendly countries with any specific plan.

He confirmed, however, that both the U.S. and British emissaries were received this afternoon by President Ayub Khan.

Only with an unexpected degree of tact and persuasive diplomacy can both sides succeed in bringing the wide gulf separating them and reconcile the overflexible stand of India with the rigid attitude adopted by Pakistan.

Sardar Swaran Singh later told a Press conference that India would consider and might agree to plebiscite as a solution of the Kashmir issue if the conference came to the conclusion, after discussing the views of both sides on the proposition, that it was the most suitable solution.

No proposal for a solution of the problem including plebiscite was ruled out at the talks. In fact, he reiterated, there was no precondition to the talks.

The aim of the talks, he said, was to find an honourable and mutually satisfactory solution to the issue.

Sardar Swaran Singh allayed Pakistani fears that India wanted to divert the course of the conference to issues other than Kashmir. He declared that the delegation had come to discuss Kashmir and not to dump it in other issues. If certain other issues between the two countries could not be discussed at the current talks or in a series of talks, India would wish to discuss them later, he said.

He denied that it was the intention of the Indian Government to prolong the discussion in order to delay the settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Charter of talks

Sardar Swaran Singh said the “charter” of the talks was a joint communique issued by President Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Nehru to make renewed efforts to resolve Kashmir and other matters.

It would be their endeavour at the talks to reach agreement on as many points as possible before President Ayub and Prime Minister Nehru meet, he said in reply to a question.

The Pakistan Government spokesman said Pakistan looked forward to India offering a solution better than plebiscite for the Kashmir dispute.

He was asked whether the Pakistan Government had any solution other than plebiscite.

The spokesman said the question of plebiscite had been dragging for a long time and the Indian Government had stated that it was no longer possible to hold a plebiscite.

The Pakistan Government, he said, had asked the Indian Government to tell them a better and more practicable solution and was looking forward to its reply.

Asked whether Pakistan’s readiness to consider other solutions did not detract on her rigid adherence to plebiscite, the spokesman said that it obviously implied that the adherence to plebiscite was not rigid.

Asked whether Pakistan would agree to attempting settlement of other differences with India along with the Kashmir issue, the spokesman said the joint communique referred to “Kashmir and other related matters.”

Once this Kashmir question was solved it was bound to generate a better atmosphere for better relations. The settlement of other issues would then become much easier.

He said in answer to another question that the words “other related matters” in the joint communique referred to matters relating to Kashmir and not any other matter affecting Indo-Pakistan relations.

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