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Prelims Capsule


India Pakistan 1971 War 50th Anniversary – How India became involved in Bangladesh Liberation War?

India Pakistan 1971 War 50th Anniversary – How India became involved in Bangladesh Liberation War?


  • GS 1 || History || Post Independence History || Challenges After Independence

Why in the news?

India Pakistan 1971 War 50th Anniversary


  • 50 years ago, on the eve of December 3, 1971, Pakistan launched a series of air strikes against Indian air bases in the Western Sector, thus signalling the official beginning of the third Indo-Pak War.
  • This war would lead to the creation of a new country, Bangladesh.

About 1971 the Bangladesh Liberation War

  • The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was the first war between the countries that did not involve fighting over the Kashmir region. At this time, the Dominion of Pakistan was divided into West Pakistan and East Pakistan (initially East Bengal). These two regions were separated by the larger nation of India.
  • Fought under the leadership of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi and chief of army staff (COAS), General Sam Manekshaw, the war ended in less than two weeks with a decisive victory for India, and resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, which was then known as East Pakistan.

Bangladesh Liberation War 1971: Altruism or Power politics?

  • Taking Away the Fear of a Two-Front War: The rebellion in East Pakistan gave India the opportunity to split up Pakistan and eliminate the threat of a two-front war in any future conflict. Despite the fact that the eastern front was mainly idle in 1965, it absorbed significant military resources that could have been better used in the western theatre.
  • Preventing the Awami League from siding with India: India realised that a long civil war in East Pakistan would radicalise the Bengali population. This could result in the pro-India Awami League being marginalised, and the movement’s leadership shifting to left-wing pro-China parties like the Bhashani-led National Awami Party and the Communist Party.
  • Negating Internal Security Threat: Guerrilla warfare, inspired by Maoist ideology, was the most common method of resistance to the Pakistani military. If India had not interfered in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1947, it may have harmed India’s internal security interests, particularly given the Naxalite movement that was raging in eastern India at the time.
  • Defending Against the Communal Threat: By July-August 1971, 90% of the migrants were Hindus living in West Bengal border regions with strong Muslim populations. As a result, if India did not move immediately to assure their return, there was a real risk of communal bloodshed.

India’s involvement in the conflict:

  • Strategic Factors: The presence of hostile West Pakistan and East Pakistan on both sides of India’s borders posed a strategic issue. This was exacerbated by the 1962 conflict, which created uncertainty in Sino-Indian relations. As a result, the intervention in 1971 was necessary to protect long-term strategic interests.
  • Migrant Problem: On the internal front, the ongoing influx of migrants from East Pakistan has caused a slew of issues in the Border States. The resources were sparse, and there was a constant battle between natives and refugees over how to use them. There were also several ethnic and societal concerns as a result of the influx of refugees.
  • Economic Factors: The country spent a significant amount of money on the economic front in order to accommodate the refugees. India, being a closed economy, was unable to obtain long-term spending capital and hence required a long-term solution to the problem. Furthermore, having a hostile East Pakistan hampered the expansion of the country’s north-eastern region due to inadequate connections. West Pakistan’s attacks on northwestern India, as well as Mukti Vahini’s request for assistance, forced India to join the battle to liberate Bangladesh.
  • Humanitarian Reason: Finally, the atrocities committed against East Pakistani nationals compelled India to join in the fight on humanitarian grounds in order to avoid a large-scale crisis.

Bangladesh was established as a People’s Republic:

  • Bangladesh surrendered: Pakistani troops in Bangladesh surrendered after two weeks of battle and ceding territory to West Pakistan.
  • Pakistani troops: India took 93,000 Pakistani troops as prisoners of war (PoW) as a result of the capitulation.
  • The People’s Republic of Bangladesh was born as a result of this capitulation. The war claimed the most lives of any Indo-Pakistani battle to date.

How did the war end?

  • On December 3, 1971, Pakistan launched pre-emptive strikes against Indian airfields, including those in Agra. The same evening, Indira Gandhi announced on the radio that the strikes were viewed as a declaration of war against India. This was India’s entry into the conflict.
  • India retaliated: India launched retaliatory airstrikes on Pakistan. Pakistan was attacked from all sides, with coordinated air, land, and sea operations.
  • The conflict lasted only 13 days, ending on December 16, 1971, when the Pakistani army surrendered to the Eastern Front.
  • Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the commanding officer of the Indian Eastern Command, and Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi, his Pakistani counterpart, signed an Instrument of Surrender.
  • Largest surrender: India took over over 90000 POWs after the capitulation, making it the largest surrender since WWII. Among them were some Bengali nationals who had remained loyal to West Pakistan.
  • Success for India: war was a resounding success for India, establishing India’s military superiority over Pakistan.
  • Pakistan defeat: Pakistan suffered a humiliating defeat, and over half of its population was forced to flee the country. Bangladesh was established as a new country. Pakistan released Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh.
  • Shimla Agreement: In 1972, India and Pakistan signed the Shimla Agreement, which recognised Bangladesh’s independence rather than the return of Pakistani POWs.
  • Freedom Award: The Bangladesh government presented Indira Gandhi with the Bangladesh Freedom Award posthumously in July 2011.

Shimla Agreement (1972):

  • Peace deal: The Simla Agreement, signed on July 2, 1972, by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was much more than a peace deal trying to undo the effects of the 1971 war (i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of PoWs).
  • Comprehensive plan: was a comprehensive plan for India and Pakistan to have excellent neighbourly ties.
  • The Simla Agreement committed both countries to avoid the conflict and antagonism that had previously blighted relations and to work toward the development of long-term peace, friendship, and collaboration.
  • Mutually agreed-upon guiding principles: The Simla Agreement provides a set of mutually agreed-upon guiding principles that both India and Pakistan will follow in handling their bilateral relations. These emphasize:
    • Respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
    • Non-interference in one another’s personal lives.
    • Unity and political independence are based on mutual respect.
    • Sovereign equality, as well as the avoidance of antagonistic propaganda.

Outcomes of the war:

  • After war ends in year 1971 with Pakistan was divided into West Pakistan and East Pakistan (initially East Bengal)-
    • The RAW and the Tamil Nadu state government were suspected of promoting the funding and training of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist insurgent force, in the 1970s and 1980s.
    • In 1987, confronted with rising discontent among its own Tamils and a tide of refugees, India became the first country to participate directly in the conflict.
    • After the Sri Lankan government used an economic embargo and military assaults to reclaim control of the northern Jaffna district, India supplied food and medicine by air and sea.
  • India intervene:
    • Because the Sri Lankan civil war posed a threat to India’s unity, national interests, and territorial integrity, India had no choice but to intervene.
  • Outcomes:
    • The peace pact gave Tamil districts some regional autonomy, with a body in charge of the regional council, and called on Tamil militant groups to lay down their arms.
    • In addition, India was to send a peacekeeping force to Sri Lanka, known as the IPKF, to enforce the disarmament and keep an eye on the regional council.
    • The agreement was broken apart over the issue of representations. As a result, the LTTE is currently involved in a military battle with the Indian Army.

Mains oriented question:

The 1971 campaign met India’s strategic goals while also projecting a humanitarian image for domestic and international consumption. Comment. (200 words)