Bangladesh War of Independence 1971

(Indo-Pakistani War)

[ 1971 ]

In December 1970 Pakistan held general elections, its first since independence. The Awami League, headed by East Pakistan's popular Bengali leader Mujibur Rahman (Sheikh Mujib; 1920-75), won a majority of seats in the new assembly, but West Pakistan's chief martial law administrator and president, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, refused to honour the democratic choice of his nation's majority. At the end of March 1971, after failed negotiations in which Mujib demanded virtual independence for East Pakistan, Yahya Khan ordered a military massacre in Dhaka (Dacca). Though Mujib was arrested and flown to prison in West Pakistan, he called upon his followers in the east to rise up and proclaim their independence as Bangladesh ("Land of the Bengalis"). No fewer than 10 million refugees fled East Pakistan across the border to India in the ensuing eight months of martial rule and sporadic firing by West Pakistan's army. Soon after the monsoon stopped, India's army moved up to the Bangladesh border and by early December advanced virtually unopposed to Dhaka, which was surrendered in mid-December 1971. Mujib, released by President Bhutto, who had taken over from the disgraced Yahya Khan, flew home to a hero's welcome and in January 1972 became the first prime minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

India's stunning victory over Pakistan in the Bangladesh war was achieved in part because of Soviet military support and diplomatic assurances. The Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation, signed in 1971 by India with the Soviet Union, gave India the arms it used in the war. With the birth of Bangladesh, India's position in South Asia became dominant, and its foreign policy, which remained officially nonaligned, tilted toward the Soviet Union.

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The origins of the third Indo-Pakistani conflict (1971) were different from the previous conflicts. The Pakistani failure to accommodate demands for autonomy in East Pakistan in 1970 led to secessionist demands in 1971 (see The Rise of Indira Gandhi, ch. 1). In March 1971, Pakistan's armed forces launched a fierce campaign to suppress the resistance movement that had emerged but encountered unexpected mass defections among East Pakistani soldiers and police. The Pakistani forces regrouped and reasserted their authority over most of East Pakistan by May.

As a result of these military actions, thousands of East Pakistanis died at the hands of the Pakistani army. Resistance fighters and nearly 10 million refugees fled to sanctuary in West Bengal, the adjacent Indian state. By midsummer, the Indian leadership, in the absence of a political solution to the East Pakistan crisis, had fashioned a strategy designed to assist the establishment of the independent nation of Bangladesh. As part of this strategy, in August 1971, India signed a twenty-year Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation with the Soviet Union. One of the treaty's clauses implied that each nation was expected to come to the assistance of the other in the event of a threat to national security such as that occurring in the 1965 war with Pakistan. Simultaneously, India organized, trained, and provided sanctuary to the Mukti Bahini (meaning Liberation Force in Bengali), the East Pakistani armed resistance fighters.

Unable to deter India's activities in the eastern sector, on December 3, 1971, Pakistan launched an air attack in the western sector on a number of Indian airfields, including Ambala in Haryana, Amritsar in Punjab, and Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir. The attacks did not succeed in inflicting substantial damage. The Indian air force retaliated the next day and quickly achieved air superiority. On the ground, the strategy in the eastern sector marked a significant departure from previous Indian battle plans and tactics, which had emphasized set-piece battles and slow advances. The strategy adopted was a swift, three-pronged assault of nine infantry divisions with attached armored units and close air support that rapidly converged on Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan. Lieutenant General Sagat Singh, who commanded the eighth, twenty-third, and fifty-seventh divisions, led the Indian thrust into East Pakistan. As these forces attacked Pakistani formations, the Indian air force rapidly destroyed the small air contingent in East Pakistan and put the Dhaka airfield out of commission. In the meantime, the Indian navy effectively blockaded East Pakistan. Dhaka fell to combined Indian and Mukti Bahini forces on December 16, bringing a quick end to the war.

Action in the western sector was divided into four segments, from the cease-fire line in Jammu and Kashmir to the marshes of the Rann of Kutch in northwestern Gujarat. On the evening of December 3, the Pakistani army launched ground operations in Kashmir and Punjab. It also started an armored operation in Rajasthan. In Kashmir, the operations were concentrated on two key points, Punch and Chhamb. The Chhamb area witnessed a particularly intense battle where the Pakistanis forced the Indians to withdraw from their positions. In other parts of Kashmir, the Indians made some small gains along the cease-fire line. The major Indian counteroffensive came in the Sialkot-Shakargarh area south and west of Chhamb. There, two Pakistani tank regiments, equipped with United States-made Patton tanks, confronted the Indian First Armored Corps, which had British Centurion tanks. In what proved to be the largest tank battle of the war, both sides suffered considerable casualties.

Though the Indian conduct of the land war on the western front was somewhat timid, the role of the Indian air force was both extensive and daring. During the fourteen-day war, the air force's Western Command conducted some 4,000 sorties. There was little retaliation by Pakistan's air force, partly because of the paucity of non-Bengali technical personnel. Additionally, this lack of retaliation reflected the deliberate decision of the Pakistan Air Force headquarters to conserve its forces because of heavy losses incurred in the early days of the war.

<span></span><span></span><span></span><span></span><span></span><span></span><table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">India</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1971</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1971</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1260000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">700000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">20000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Pakistan</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1971</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1971</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">400000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">84000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">4000</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Total Casualties 24000 Killed and Wounded
Casualties Killed / Wounded
Military Casualties Killed 24000 /Wounded
Civilian Casualties Killed / Wounded
Note
Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
India and Pakistan 1971 1971 View
Weapon Name Weapon Class Weapon Class Type
T-72 Vehicle Armoured Fighting Vehicle
M113 Vehicle Armoured Fighting Vehicle
BTR-60 Vehicle Armoured Fighting Vehicle
M4 Sherman Vehicle Armoured Fighting Vehicle
M47 Patton Vehicle Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Bofors 40 mm gun Vehicle Towed Artillery
M40 recoilless rifle Manportable Rifles
L16 81mm mortar Manportable Mortars
PIAT Manportable Rocket Launcher

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts