After a series of stunning advances in December 1971, Indian forces routed Pakistan and liberated Bangladesh in less than two weeks. It was one of India’s swiftest and most brilliant military campaigns that not only dismembered Pakistan, but became a lasting cause of humiliation for that country.
Triggered by the civil war in Pakistan — pitting the West Pakistan army against the large Bengali-speaking East Pakistanis demanding greater autonomy — India was swamped with 10 million Bengali refugees fleeing the crackdown in the east. Tensions reached a flashpoint when Pakistan President Yahya Khan ordered the attack on Indian air bases in Jammu and Punjab. In response, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared war at midnight, December 3.
Thirteen days later, Pakistani troops under Lieutenant General Ameer Abdullah Khan Niazi, surrendered. In charge of Pakistan’s Eastern Command, General Niazi was blamed for the defeat and was removed from the army in 1975. Though the Hamoodur Rehman Inquiry Commission set up in Pakistan after the war — parts of the report were officially released in 2001 — had recommended his court-martial, General Niazi did not face a trial.
Here we acquired a very rare video of the Pakistani Lieutenant General A K K Niazi surrendering to India with 94,000 Pakistani Armymen.
US President Richard Nixon almost attacked India
The US government had stalled surrender of Pakistani armed forces during the 1971 Liberation War by at least 19 hours, apart from ordering their naval fleet to attack Indian establishments, if necessary.
The Times of India reported the US moves based on a set of ‘freshly declassified top secret papers’ of the Indian foreign ministry.
The report published on the online edition of the daily said the papers show that “the US hostility … during the war with Pakistan was far more intense than known until now”.
Documents blame Richard Nixon for Pakistan tilt
The documents show that “the Nixon Administration had kept three battalions of marines on standby to deter India, and that the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target Indian Army facilities”.
The Times of India report also said that despite such inputs, then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi boldly went ahead with “her plan to liberate Bangladesh”.
India gave refuge to millions of Bangladeshi’s, who fled the country following the violent crackdown by the Pakistani forces on unarmed civilians on Mar 25, 1971. It also gave military and diplomatic assistance to the temporary government of Bangladesh.
The Indian prime minister played a key role in getting the temporary government accepted in the international diplomatic circles. She also toured many countries to this end despite opposition from the US. She also helped Bangladesh’s independence architect and the first Bangladeshi first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in rebuilding the war-torn nation.
Pakistan’s military commander for erstwhile East Pakistan Gen A A K Niazi surrendered on Dec 16, 1971 ending the nine-month fight for freedom, and an independent Bangladesh made its mark on the world map.
However, a six-page note prepared by India’s foreign ministry shows that the Pakistani military commander “told the American consul-general in Dhaka that he was willing to surrender.”
“The message was relayed to Washington, but it took the US 19 hours to relay it to New Delhi. Files suggest senior Indian diplomats suspected the delay was because Washington was possibly contemplating military action against India,” the report said.
The ministry note also said that then US government president Richard Nixon personally took the decision “to brand India as an ‘aggressor’ and to send the 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal”.
The note further says, the Indian embassy “feels (sic) that the bomber force aboard the Enterprise had the US president’s authority to undertake bombing of Indian Army’s communications, if necessary”.