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CAB debate: Congress defended Nehru-Liaquat Pact to hold Pakistan accountable

During a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha on May 7, 1970, the then external affairs minister Dinesh Singh had defended the agreement, informing that India had repeatedly drawn Pakistan’s attention to “the plight of minorities there and urged them to ensure their security, full freedom and equality of rights”.

Updated: Dec 11, 2019, 09.53 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, has revived the controversy around the Nehru-Liaquat Agreement of 1950 which says that both India and Pakistan will protect the rights of minorities in their country. While Congress has been consistent on its stand of keeping the agreement alive to hold Pakistan accountable on the issue, BJP and its predecessor Jana Sangh were all along sceptical about the deal.

During a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha on May 7, 1970, the then external affairs minister Dinesh Singh had defended the agreement, informing that India had repeatedly drawn Pakistan’s attention to “the plight of minorities there and urged them to ensure their security, full freedom and equality of rights”.

Former president Pranab Mukherjee, then a member of the House, had also participated in the debate and sought to know what was stopping the government from rehabilitating the migrants from East Pakistan in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The minister differed with the suggestion that since migration from Pakistan had continued for 20 years, the pact should be considered as “dead”. “There is no difficulty for anybody to say that a particular pact is dead... But I do not see the advantage of absolving Pakistan of its responsibility after having entered into a solemn agreement. For us to say that it is dead will only make it easier for Pakistan to throw it away,” he said.

Indira Gandhi’s minister emphasised that the “solemn agreement” must be honoured. “That is why it would be very wrong of us to say that the agreement is dead… We must ensure its implementation by Pakistan and that is where we continue to lodge our protests and make requests to them,” Singh said.

The debate was significant since it was held a year before the 1971 Indo-Pak war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Incidentally, Jana Sangh MP Bhai Mahavir credited Sardar Patel for the Nehru-Liaquat pact, saying it came about “only after Sardar Patel once spoke in a language which Pakistan could understand and that language was that oneway traffic could not continue for all time, and if Pakistan did not behave, it would have to face the consequences”.

Singh contested Mahavir’s suggestion that India should push its minorities into Pakistan to counter what the neighbour was doing. “The member said coming of people from Pakistan cannot be a one-way traffic...we have to protect every Indian citizen. We cannot push away some of our minorities because Pakistan is pushing its minorities. It will be a tragic day for India.”

Singh accepted that minorities in Pakistan are facing persecution and that migration from the then (undivided) Pakistan has increased.

“The government shares the concern of the House over the noticeable increase in the volume of migration from East Pakistan. This year up to 29.4.1970 approximately 34,500 persons are reported to have reached India,” Singh said, adding India has lodged its protest with Pakistan over its “failure to ameliorate the continuing unhappy lot of the minority community in Pakistan”.

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