1971 War: A Political Failure and International Conspiracy?
The 1971 war a sad and great loss….But not due to the Indian armed forces valor !!!
By Sethi Mushtaq
The 1971 war a sad and great loss…. But not for Indian armed forces valor !!!
This was not won by India nor was lost by Pakistan due to the Indian army’s valiance. There were Geo-political and strategic reasons for this surrender of the Pakistani Jawans.
a) The Eastern wing was facing an insurgency of a separatist nature, due to political conflicts which arose after the general election held that year, in both the wings of Pakistan. This was taken as an advantage by the Indians and they stemmed it further by arming and funding the insurgents. The Indians army took this as a golden opportunity and attacked the Eastern wing.
b) While the Pakistan army was facing the full lethally armed, Indian supported militant rebels, Mukhti Bahini, the cowards were attacking them from the rear.
c) Geographically, the two wings stood separated by the sea at a huge distance of approx 1000 miles apart. Therefore creating a severe handicaps, logistically to the Pakistan army for sending reinforcement as well as fighting material. Whereas, India had its borders enjoined and with the greatest of logistic advantage and the full support of the internally armed local rebels of the Eastern wing, they sandwiched the Pakistani force stationed there. They were made to fight the Indians at the front line while the rebels attacked from the rear. In this scenario it was tactically and technically not possible for the marooned and short of supply Pakistani soldiers to continue with the fight. Thus being left with no other option, they laid down their arms and surrendered to the enemies (not one but two, India and the rebels, Mukti Bahni’s).
Pakistan was let down by its so-called Ally the USA. They had promised to send in the seventh Fleet to remove the Indian blockade at the sea separating the two wings and aid the Marooned Pakistani soldiers. Alas !but it never did turn up at all !!!
Though it is to some extent correct that the army had morally degenerated after taking over command in the former East Pakistan(Ref Hamood-ur-Rehman report Introduction) .But it would be unfair to over look the back ground and the circumstances which led to the allegations on them…Since some refer to the Hamoodur Rehman inquiry report in support of this blame laying it squarely on the Pakistan Army. I took out some time to briefly go through it. The Chapter two of the report under reference clearly throws the onus of the initiative on the Awami League Militants atrocities unleashed upon non-Bengali’s and holds these atrocities committed as responsible for the sad and heinous alleged crimes by the forces led by the senior army officials…. In a way it states that it was due to these horrific details and tales which were carried by victims who had managed to escaped Awami leagues militants heinous crimes and wrath and had arrived safely to the then West Pakistan.That the mindset of the forces sent from the West naturally were affected and led to a reprisal of sort. I append below the contents of chapter two of the inquiry report under reference for your perusal:
Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report
Alleged atrocities by the Pakistan Army
As is well-known, the conduct of the Pakistani army, while engaged in counter-insurgency measures is East Pakistan since March 1971, has come in for a lot of criticism from several quarters. We had occasion to deal with the subject in Paragraphs 5-8 of Chapter II of Part V of the main report. We have examined this question further in the light of fresh evidence recorded by us.
Misdeeds of the Awami League Militants:
2. It is necessary that this painful chapter of the events in East Pakistan be looked at in its proper perspective. Let it not be forgotten that the initiative in resorting to violence and cruelty was taken by the militants of the Awami League, during the month of March, 1971, following General Yahya Khan’s announcement of the 1st of March regarding the postponement of the session of the National Assembly scheduled for the 3rd of March 1971. It will be recalled that from the 1st of March to the 3rd of March 1971, the Awami League had taken complete control of East Pakistan, paralysing the authority of the federal government. There is reliable evidence to show that during this period the miscreants indulged in large scale massacres and rape against pro-Pakistan elements, in the towns of Dacca, Narayanganj, Chittagong, Chandraghona, Rangamati, Khulna, Dinajpur, Ghafargaoa, Kushtia, Ishurdi, Noakhali, Sylhet, Maulvi Bazaar, Rangpur, Saidpur, Jessore, Barisal, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Pabna, Sirajgonj, Comilla, Brahman Baria, Bogra, Naugaon, Santahar, and several other smaller places.
3. Harrowing tales of these atrocities were narrated by the large number of West Pakistanis and Biharis who were able to escape from these places and reach the safety of West Pakistan. For days on end, all through the troubled month of March 1971, swarms of terrorised non-Bengalis lay at the Army-controlled Dacca airport awaiting their turn to be taken to the safety of West Pakistan. Families of West Pakistani officers and other ranks serving with East Bengal units were subjected to inhuman treatment, and a large number of West Pakistani officers were butchered by the erstwhile Bengali colleagues.
4. These atrocities were completely blacked out at the time by the Government of Pakistan for fear of retaliation by the Bengali’s living in West Pakistan. The Federal Government did issue a White Paper in this behalf in August 1971, but unfortunately it did not create much impact for the reason that it was highly belated, and adequate publicity was not given to it in the national and international press.
5. However, recently, a renowned journalist of high-standing, Mr. Qutubuddin Aziz, has taken pains to marshal the evidence in a publication called “Blood and Tears.” The book contains the harrowing tales of inhuman crimes committed on the helpless Biharis, West Pakistanis and patriotic Bengalis living in East Pakistan during that period.According to various estimates mentioned by Mr. Qutubuddin Aziz, between 100,000 and 500,000 persons were slaughtered during this period by the Awami League militants.
6. As far as we can judge, Mr Qutubuddin Aziz has made use of authentic personal accounts furnished by the repatriates whose families, have actually suffered at the hands of the Awami League militants. He has also extensively referred to the contemporary accounts of foreign correspondents then stationed in East Pakistan. The plight of the non-Bengali elements still living in Bangladesh and the insistence of that Government on their large-scale repatriation to Pakistan, are factors which appear to confirm the correctness of the allegations made against the Awami League in this behalf.
Provocation of the Army
7. We mention these facts not in justification of the atrocities or other crimes alleged to have been committed by the Pakistani Army during its operations in East Pakistan, but only to put the record straight and to enable the allegations to be judged in their correct perspective. The crimes committed by the Awami League miscreants were bound to arouse anger and bitterness in the minds of the troops, especially when they were not confined to barracks during these weeks immediately preceding the military action, but were also subjected to the severest of humiliations. They had seen their comrades insulted, deprived of food and ration, and even killed without rhyme or reason. Tales of wholesale slaughter of families of West Pakistani officers and personnel of several units had also reached the soldiers who were after all only human, and reacted violently in the process of restoring the authority of the Central Government
I share the depressive feeling with all for the sad loss and for what transpired prior to it.But there are certain reflections given the back drop of this huge loss and tragedy are really not what they appear to be if viewed from another perspective.Lets not forget that every coin has two sides to it and each carry’s a different picture.Z.A Bhutto,may had acted in self interest in the aftermath of the election results.However the facts reveal that even if he had conceded to the demands of the Awami League leadership.The separation would have had still taken place as it was pre-destined according to the plans envisaged much earlier by the Awami league chief Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman.I personally feel that politicians of the west were entrapped into situation that they should in history be held responsible for something which would have taken place regardless of the pretext created for it to happen. I am appending below an excerpt and its link which would to some extent briefly explain my aforesaid contention.
Agartala conspiracy was real: Mujib planned secession in 1969-Traitor’s daughter confesses.
For the past 39 years politicians and the “Blame Pakistan first” crowd have blamed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for saying “Humm iddhar tum uddhar” (a quote which has since been refuted as bogus), and blamed the Pakistan Army for the attack on the Mukti Bahni militants on March 23rd as the reason for the creation of Bangladesh.
Ms. Hasina Mujib the daughter of Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman has now confessed that Sheikh Mujib had planned to secede from Pakistan in 1969–two years before the March 23rd “Military Action” against Bharati (aka Indian) saboteurs and their misguided supporters in Dhaka. General Mankeshaw wrote a book in which has claimed that he recruited 80,000 Hindus to create the Mukti Bahni. These terrorists were dressed up in Pakistan Army uniform and raped and pillaged Bengalis. They also were dressed up as civilians carrying out acts of sabotage against the civil and military government of Pakistan.
Sheikh Hasina Mujib’s confession shed new light on the events of March 23rd, 1971 because it proves that the Agartala Conspiracy was a real conspiracy sponsored by Bharat against Pakistan. President Ayub Khan had indicted Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman as a traitor
Just to refresh memories: it was on 1 March,that Gen.Yahya Khan announced the indefinite postponement of the opening of parliament. The following day Sheikh Rahman called a general strike, which resulted in riots in the east. To this came al…so the mutiny of Bangali elements within the Pakistani military: on 3 March 1971, for example, even the Bengali officers of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) stationed at Tejgaon Air Base, near Dacca, threatened to mutiny. Later in the month, the Awami League went so far to declare independence of East Pakistan, as Bangladesh.
The Pakistan Army (PA) was already on the move, sending reinforcements to East Pakistan onboard Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing 707s and PAF Lockheed C-130B Hercules transports. In total, within the following weeks three PA divisions were transported to Dacca, the capital of East Pakistan, mainly via Colombo, in Sri Lanka. This airlift was reportedly supported by C-130s of the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) and Türk Havva KuvvetlerI/Turkish Air Force (THK), but it seems that actually Iran used this opportunity to donate all of its four older C-130Bs to PAF – despite an US arms embargo imposed on Pakistan. The heavy equipment of the Pakistani divisions followed, transported by a convoy of ships, escorted by warships of the Pakistani Navy (PN).
On 25 March 1971, Martial Law Administrator in the East, General Tikka Khan, was ordered to “sort things out”, and arrest the sheikh. Their first immediate problem was a mutiny of Bangali PA troops, lead by Maj. Rafiq-ul-Islam, which brought a part of Chittagong and several towns nearby under control. Already on 26 March, a PA column advancing from Chittagong towards Kumira was ambushed and 70 PA officers and soldiers killed, causing the others to flee in panic. Without knowing what was going on, PA Maj.Gen. Khadim Hussain Raja flew in a PAF Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette III helicopter attempting to find the missing column: his helicopter came under fire and was damaged several times, after which the search was cancelled.
The PA’s reaction was swift: reinforcements were deployed from Dacca to the naval base of Chittagong by C-130s and helicopters, on 26 and 27 March, and two columns moved out, one towards Agrabad Road, the other towards Halishahar. The later, moving along the coastline, was also ambushed and suffered heavy casualties, its scattered survivors then being beaten to death in local villages. It was not before 28 March that the local PA commanders re-established control over their troops and continued advance – partially with support of naval artillery bombardment. Two days later the Pakistani forces, with support of Canadair Sabre F.Mk.6s and North American F-86F Sabres from No.14 Squadron PAF (the sole Pakistan Air Force unit based in East Pakistan, originally equipped with 19 Sabres, two T-33As, three Pilatus PC-3 light transports, a single DHC-3 Otter and at least four SA.316B Alouette III helicopters, and based at Tejgaon AB, near Dacca) overran Halishahar after hours-long hand-to-hand battle. By 2 April also the “Bangla Desh” Radio Station in Chittagong was captured by Pakistani troops, in operation code-named “Searchlight”. PA’s mop up operations continued for the following four days. The stream of PIA commercial flights to Dacca via Colombo, with Pakistani soldiers on board, continued: by mid-April two full PA divisions were deployed to East Pakistan.
After stabilizing the situation in Chittagong and the surrounding area, and reinforced by additional troops, on 2 May, Gen. Tikka ordered advance on Ramgarh, Cox’s Bazar and Kaptai. Combining several conventional columns with heliborne deployment of commandos behind enemy lines, the PA troops advanced swiftly and crushed the mutineers, forcing the survivors to flee over the border to India. In the final action, between 26 May and 6 June, the last territory under Bengali control was mopped up and the PA was now back in control of East Pakistan. Having crushed the revolt in East Pakistan.
By April 1971, the locals began fighting back, forcing West Pakistan to send additional reinforcements and intensify the campaign against mutineers, meanwhile directly supported by India and known as Mukti Bahini (better known in the West as “Mukhti Bakhini”) – or “Freedom Battalion/Force/Army”.
Mukti Bahini were not “just another” insurgent force: on the contrary, their original core consisted of defectors from the former East Bengal Regiments of the Pakistani Army, who reached the Indian soil and also those Hindus who had fled East Pakistan and crossed over to India and had returned after having received complete training in the art of guerrilla warfare. They were soon reinforced by a considerable number of volunteers, mainly students, then during April and May, Pakistan had purged Bengalis from the armed forces. Many others defected, while those who remained were not trusted. Result was that the combat effectiveness of Pakistani units suffered considerably:
Once in India, together with other volunteers from East Pakistan, they were trained and organized into six new East Bengal Regiments, in June 1971. By November 1971, the Mukti Bahini was reinforced by addition of three artillery batteries, …as well as a small flying service (operating two Aérospatiale SA.316B Alouette III helicopters, one DeHavilland Canada DHC-3 Otter and a single Douglas DC-3 Dakota transport). They were counting up to 85.000 and their order of battle during the war in December was as follows:
- K Force/Brigade, consisting of 10th and 11th East Bengal Regiment and No.3 Field Battery- S Force/Brigade, consisting of 2nd and 4th East Bengal Regiment, and No.1 Field Battery- Z Force/Brigade, consisting of 1st, 3rd, and 8th East Bengal Regiment, and No.2 field Battery.
Sheikh Mujib-ur Rehmans 6 points demand was probably the reason or hesitancy to accept him as the Prime Minister:
Personally,if I had been in place of Yahya Khan.I would have accepted the results which came out from the elections.The Awami league in the elections, held on 17 December 1970, won 298 out of 310 seats in the east, and 167 seats in the national parliament.By all fairness he should have been the Prime Minister of the undivided Pakistan.I personally agree injustice was not done in this regard.However,it appears that the demand which By 1966 the leading political figure in East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had put forward the six-point programme that proposed the establishment of a federal Pakistan, with central government having very limited powers could have had something to do with this reservation pertaining to the hesitancy of the acceptance.It is said that the Yahya regime immediately put pressure on the sheikh to come to an agreement, but he refused: on 1 March,Yahya Khan announced the indefinite postponement of the opening of parliament. The following day Sheikh Rahman called a general strike, which resulted in riots in the east. To this came also the mutiny of Bengali elements within the Pakistani military: on 3 March 1971, for example, even the Bengali officers of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) stationed at Tejgaon Air Base, near Dacca, threatened to mutiny. Later in the month, the Awami League went so far to declare independence of East Pakistan, as Bangladesh.
Besides, the elections pretext, there were deeper political conspiracies which were mainly resultant in this separation coming around.
I understand, Yahya had hoped that Pakistan’s good relations to China and the USA would enable him to counter …any threat from India. If war came he could use the Chinese to tie down large parts of the Indian Army, and eventual gains India could make in the west could be traded against any losses in the east. Equally, he expected to receive military aid from different Moslem countries
This was a dangerous miscalculation: the Chinese declared they would fully support the Pakistani people in safeguarding state sovereignty, but provided no full support for the unity and integrity of the nation Islamabad wanted. China was not going to get involved in a war against India. Most of the other Islamic countries provided only minimal or no help at all. As the sub-continent drifted towards war the regime in Islamabad was clearly on its own, facing India that was stronger in military sense than ever before.
Under US pressure, meanwhile, India was becoming increasingly isolated at the UN: up to the end of July the USSR attempted maintaining a balanced approach to New Delhi and Islamabad in an effort to increase her influence on the sub-continent. When the USA and China openly moved toward closer mutual relations and both supported the Pakistani position, Moscow concluded Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with New Delhi, on 9 August 1971, providing a much needed support for Indian position at the UN. From that moment onwards, the Soviet Union opposed every proposal that could allow a political settlement regarding the future of East Pakistan.
India considered the situation in East Pakistan as most dangerous threat to her security. Although many observers disputed corresponding Indian reports, thousands, and then millions of refugees streamed over the border in 1971, putting additional strain on a country that already had enough social and economic difficulties on its own. An attempt to send the refugees back was impossible, and as diplomacy failed India was left to her own resources. That could only mean war.
India contemplated military action already in May, but decided to wait until its Army was trained to fight in the flat conditions of East Pakistan. Moreover, by delaying action for months, the high Himalaya Passes would be blocked off, preventing Chinese intervention. In addition, on 9 August 1971, an agreement with the Soviet Union was reached to keep Chinese busy as well.
On 4 December 1971 , the United States moved a draft resolution calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of Indian forces, which was vetoed by Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thereafter, another six resolutions including one by China were introduced calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of forces, some of which were accepted by Pakistan. However, due to behind the scene political machinations by India and her allies their passage and implementation was stalled till Dhaka fell on 16 December 1971 and the cease-fire had been perfidiously converted to surrender.”
Flawed national and operational strategy proved to; be disastrous for Pakistan , both politically and militarily. Power, national and operational strategy, the methodology of crisis and conflict management
However, I agree and conclude; it was a very sad loss and could have been avoided provided the leaderships of both the wings had dealt with it wisely!
But mind you now no such situation exists in case the Indians think they can defeat Pakistan if God forbid a war gets started for any reason between these nuclear states.