Vijay Diwas or Victory Day is commemorated on December 16, marking the end of the 1971 Indo-Pak War and the liberation of Bangladesh. India declared victory on this day 51 years ago after Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender.
So, what led to the war, which was found for 13 days? We explain the history.
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Vijay Diwas: What led to the 1971 Indo-Pak war?
After the partition of India after the end of British rule in 1947, two independent countries were formed: India and Pakistan. The latter consisted of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (now Pakistan). The two Pakistanis had their share of trouble from the start due to a number of reasons – the most glaring of which was the geographical divide between them.
East Pakistan was often overlooked in terms of administration, as the highest posts were held by those in the West. There was also an issue of cultural conflict. For example, when Urdu, which is used in West Pakistan, became the official language of the country, it was seen as limiting the culture of the people of the East.
In the mid-1960s, leaders such as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is also known as the founder of Bangladesh (and the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina), began actively protesting these policies and helped form the Awami League. Soon their demand became one for freedom and more autonomy. The League ended up winning as many as 160 of East Pakistan’s 162 seats in the 1970 elections – winning no seats in the West.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party won 81 of West Pakistan’s 138 seats, but Mujib had a clear majority in the House to become prime minister. However, instead of recognizing the mandate, on March 25, 1971, the Pakistani army began a ruthless crackdown that saw the Bengalis massacred en masse.
March 26 is now marked as Bangladesh’s Independence Day.
Like the Bengali poet Daud Haider signed up The Indian Express, “At midnight on March 25, Pakistan unleashed genocide in Bangladesh. Refugees poured into India. India assisted Bangladesh in its struggle for freedom and one must salute the contribution of Indira Gandhi – as well as the Indian Army – in winning liberation for Bangladesh…Pakistan supremacy lasted two and a half decades – religion and the theory of two nations fell along the way.”
India’s role in the 1971 war
India had previously declared its support for the League. This was visible without direct intervention: it started on 15 May Operation Jackpotan operation to recruit, train, arm, equip, supply and advise Mukti Bahini fighters involved in guerrilla warfare against the Pakistan Army.
There was also a diplomatic plan. Former diplomat Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, who was seconded to Bangladesh in 1972, wrote in his book India and the Bangladesh Liberation War: The Definitive Story“the first task of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was to promote international sympathy and support for Bangladesh … Of course the Bangladeshis themselves did this very effectively, but we helped them in an important way.”
The second task was to “explain to the international community that the problem in East Bengal was not just an internal problem of Pakistan – that by expelling millions of refugees to India, Pakistan was exporting a domestic problem to India. And this threatened to destabilize the political situation in neighboring countries.”
“If India intervened without clearly justifying the action in foreign eyes, the accusation that it brought about the break-up of Pakistan would be confirmed and recognition of Bangladesh would be denied by most countries,” Dasgupta said.
But when the Pakistani Air Force launched pre-emptive strikes against western India (including Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipura, Ambala, Sirsa and Agra) on 3 December 1971, India formally declared war on 4 December.
Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said in a radio address, “We have no choice but to put our country on a war footing. Our brave officers and jawans are at their posts, mobilized for the defense of the country. A state of emergency has been declared for all of India. Every necessary step is taken and we are prepared for all eventualities.”
A decisive victory
The war, which was short and intense, was fought over 13 days on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. “The notable battles fought in the area of responsibility of the Southern Army were the famous battles of Longewala and Parbat Ali where Pakistan’s armored forces were destroyed by resolute Indian forces. The raid on the Pakistani city of Chachro, carried out by soldiers of the famous 10 Para Commando Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier General) Bhawani Singh, the former ruler of Jodhpur state, was another famous military action,” a government statement said. .
An important figure in this war was Indian Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw (pictured above), who is often mentioned in connection with this. His planning and strategy helped secure one of the fastest victories in recent military history.
This day, that year! pic.twitter.com/t9Tp73wvl2
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) December 16, 2021
On December 6, India formally recognized Bangladesh as an independent nation. Two days later, the Indian Navy launched an attack on Karachi. From 12 to 16 December, Indian troops pushed into Dhaka and entered the city, ending the war in total victory.
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Pakistan’s Eastern Commander, Lt. Gen. AAK Niazi, signed the Instrument of Surrender and capitulated to the Indian Eastern Commander, Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora.