Wednesday, July 4, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Plaque replaces Indira’s portrait
S. P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 3
Eleven days before the arrival of the Pakistani President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, in Delhi for peace talks between the two countries, the historic Simla Accord between India and Pakistan completes 29 years today.

The memories of the 1972 accord signed by the then Indian Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, and her Pakistani counterpart Z.A. Bhutto are still fresh in the minds of the people here because the “Barnes Court” (now Raj Bhavan) was the venue of the historic accord following the Indo-Pakistan war.

The accord supposedly brought peace between the two countries after three wars when it was signed on July 3, 1972.

The small table which was shared by Mrs Gandhi and Mr Bhutto for signing the accord has been preserved in the drawing room of Raj Bhavan. Two photographs — one showing the delegations of the two countries sitting across the table and holding discussions and the other Premiers of the two countries signing the historic document — are placed on the table. Flags of both countries are also on the table.

After BJP Governors occupied Raj Bhavan the picture of Mrs Gandhi on the wall behind the table was removed. The photo was there for the past several years. It was removed shortly after Mr Vishnu Kant Shastri came as Governor here. It has been replaced by a metal plaque of a flying pigeon carrying an olive branch, signifying peace.

Other photographs relating to the summit are also on the walls. A photo shows Mrs Gandhi, Mr Bhutto and Mr Swaran Singh standing together in the porch of the “Barnes Court”. There is another photo of Mrs Gandhi, Mr Bhutto and Mrs Benazir Bhutto.

The “Summit Hall” in the “Ellerselie”, now the state secretariat, where parleys between delegations of the two countries took place, is now being used for Cabinet meetings.

Mr Bhutto, who had come here along with his daughter Benazir, stayed in the “Barnes Court”, which was the state guest house at that time. They stayed in the upper storey of the building, while the negotiating table was next to the billiards room on the ground floor.

In her biography, “Daughter of the East, Ms Benazir Bhutto has narrated the turns and twists which preceded the signing of the Simla Accord on July 3,1972. My father wanted me to be there. Whatever the result, this meeting will be a turning point in Pakistan’s history, he told me the week after I returned from my junior year at Harvard for the summer vacation,” she writes.

Ms Bhutto says she was told on July 2, by for father to begin packing as they were returning to Islamabad the day after without any agreement. He said he would go back to Pakistan with no agreement than with one “imposed” by India. A gloom fell over the exhausted delegation in Himachal Bhavan. However, a ray of hope came at the dinner that evening and the accord was signed shortly after midnight at 12.40 am when Pakistani officials chanted in their coded language “larka hai-larka hai” (a boy is born).

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