Fragile ceasefire, faltering rupee

For Lal Bahadur Shastri, the last three months of 1965 required fire-fighting both at home and abroad

AFTER protracted and painful negotiations, the India-Pakistan ceasefire in the 1965 war came into effect in the wee hours of September 23. But its beginning was so bad as to discourage any hope that it would hold. Indeed, in his broadcast to the nation announcing the cessation of hostilities, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was constrained to remark: "Even after accepting the ceasefire, Pakistan had behaved in a most unworthy and atrocious manner by deliberately bombing the civilian population of Amritsar and by shooting down an unarmed plane carrying the Gujarat chief minister".

He also instructed the army chief, General J.N. Chaudhuri, that if the Pakistanis fired, violating the ceasefire, the Indian army should fire back. The instruction was timely, because Pakistan chose to start violating the ceasefire the very next day. The number of violations shot up so fast that on September 27, the UN Security Council found it necessary to hold an emergency meeting and pass a resolution demanding "that the parties urgently honour their commitments to the council to observe the ceasefire". Pakistan was unimpressed, and three days later, its foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto explained in London why. He declared that the India-Pakistan ceasefire was "tenuous" and that it "would remain tenuous unless the Kashmir problem was equitably settled".

Bhutto was in London, on his way back from New York where he had gone to address the UN General Assembly to rake up the Kashmir issue. He did not succeed in doing so, but had the satisfaction of delivering a long anti-India tirade. Thereafter, the dual process of ceasefire violations at home and the vilification of this country at the UN went on for months. The lowest depths were reached on October 26, when the Security Council met in response to Pakistan's request to consider "the fast-deteriorating situation inside Jammu and Kashmir". Disregarding the chair's repeated directive to stick to the agenda, Bhutto used such foul and vicious language against India that the Indian delegation, led by the usually imperturbable foreign minister Swaran Singh, walked out of the Council's meeting for the first and the last time.

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