The Mantle of implementing the Tashkent Agreement fell on Prime Minister Indra Gandhi. She took several steps to normalize relations with Pakistan. On 15 August 1968, she offered to sign a “No-War” Pact with Pakistan. She also proposed the creation of a Joint-Machinery for going into the outstanding issues between the two countries. General Yahya Khan succeeded Ayub Khan on 3 March 1969. The march of events in 1970 overshadowed the important steps taken by her to normalize relations between the two neighbors.
Events and Circumstances Leading To War
The creation of Pakistan, a nation in two separate parts – West Pakistan and East Pakistan. They were separated by 1,200 miles of Himalayan peaks and Indian Territories was a “Geographical Aberration”. Since 1947, West Pakistan had subjected and dominated East Pakistan, politically and economically. Though West Pakistan was geographically bigger in size, East Pakistan had larger population. Yet the later was treated as a colony by the former.
Birth of Awami League
When India was divided in 1947, the basis for separation was religion. But the common religion, Islam, could not unite the Urdu speaking West Pakistan with the Bengali speaking East Pakistan. In 1949, Pakistan adopted Urdu as the national language and the people of East Pakistan resisted the move without success. The result was the birth of Awami League. In 1956, the league demanded due share in the political and economic life of Pakistan. Next year, the East Pakistan Assembly adopted a resolution demanding autonomy. 13 years of Military rule kindled in East Pakistan a desire and demand for democracy.
Military Regime in Pak, 1969
In 1969, Field Marshall Ayub Khan was ousted from power, thanks to Bhutto agitations. A Military coup led by General Yahya Khan resulted in military dictatorship in Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party led the opposition and demanded establishment of democracy with autonomy in West Pakistan. Such a demand gained momentum. Simultaneously, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman launched a campaign for democracy with autonomy in East Pakistan. India’s general support for these democratic movements was interpreted as interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan. Mujibur Rehman was accused of being an agent of the Government of India. He was implicated in the Agarthala conspiracy case.
Pak Elections, 1970
Sandwiched between the democratic demand of Bhutto in West Pakistan and autonomy agitation by Mujibur Rehman in East Pakistan, General Yahya Khan announced general elections in Pakistan on 5 October 1970. Indian welcomed the announcement. When Chittagong was worst hit by cyclones in November 1970, India offered air-force relief to East Pakistan. But the Yahya Military Regime spurned India’s humanitarian offer and postponed the elections to 7 December to the disappointment of the East Pakistanis. Eventually election was held as announced in December 1970. Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League won a landslide victory in both the Provincial Assembly and in the National Assembly of Pakistan.
Indian Plane Hijacked, Jan, 1971
Soon after the elections, protracted were held in Dhaka among General Yahya Khan, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to finalize the future political arrangements. As negotiations were in progress, an Indian Airlines aircraft was hi-jacked to Lahore and destroyed by Pak agents and Kashmir militants (Jan, 1971). India suspended over flights of all Pakistan aircrafts- both civilian and military- from 3 Jan 1971. Tension between the two countries escalated.
Liberation Movement in East Pak, March 28, 1971
Following the breakdown of the tripartite negotiation, Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League launched a massive mass civil disobedience movement on 8 March 1971 in East Pakistan. The peaceful protest was ruthlessly repressed. The army was let loose on the unarmed people. The Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan suppressed the popular uprising curfew and use of force. On 15 March Mujibur Rehman declared independence of Bangladesh. He was promptly arrested in the midnight of 21-22 March and flown to West Pakistan. However, his senior colleagues managed to escape, went underground, and constituted the Provincial Government of Bangladesh on 28 March 1971.
Reign of Terror
A reign of terror was let loose in East Pakistan. The Pak Military oppression of its own citizens in East Pakistan continued unabated. Village were destroyed, crops burnt and innocent people were killed. The indiscriminate slaughter degenerated to genocide. The army in barbaric brutalities
As military crackdown escalated the peaceful protest turned to armed struggle. The youth wing of the Awami League spear-headed the armed insurrection. The situation became volatile when Mujibur Rehman was given death sentence in a trail for high treason, though the sentence was not executed. The freedom fighters constituted themselves into a guerrilla liberation army and fought against the Pakistan armed forces. Bengali defectors from the Pak army joined hands with the Youth Wing of Awami League. The secessionist movement spread like wild fire. There was civil war in East Pakistan.
India’s Support, April 1971
India was supportive of the struggle for democracy in Pakistan. When the birth of the republic was announced on 17 April 1971 by the Awami League Government in exile, India welcomed it. General President Yahya Khan gave a call to his people to be prepared for war against India. For the next eight months, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi followed a four-pronged strategy to meet the situation:
1) To give sanctuary to the Bangladesh Government in exile;
2) To provide food, clothing, shelter and medicine aid to refugees;
3) To keep the army in red alert to meet any eventually;
4) To complete the military operation, if necessary, before the big powers intervene.
Indo-Soviet Treaty, Aug, 1971
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi established contacts with all major powers of the world, visited the USSR, USA and Germany to persuade these countries to pressurize Pakistan to stop massacre of East Pakistanis and restore normally. When the western response was negative, Indira Gandhi signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of peace, friendship and co-operation on 7 August, 1971. The Treaty, in essence, provided for defense co-operation and mutual defense assistance in case either party being subjected to threats to their territorial security. “It was one of the best kept secrets in Indo-Soviet relations”.
U.N. Resolution, Oct, 1971
The US President, Richard Nixon, supported the Pak regime. The US Secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, visited India, met Indira Gandhi and discussed her from supporting the secession struggle. But she refused to budge as she considered the US attitude “normally justifiable and politically unacceptable”. Indo-Soviet treaty added fuel to fire. The US General Assembly a resolution on the East Pakistan crisis. The Assembly in October 1971 voted against stance the liberation struggle and against India. Stung by the unsupportive stand of the West, Indira Gandhi supported the struggle with redoubled resolve, courage and determination
Influx of Refugees
The refugee’s factor loomed large and was real. In order to escape from the “reign of terror” millions of refugees crossed the border and poured into India. All of them were accommodated on the border districts of Assam, Meghalaya, Bihar, Bengal and Tripura. They were provided with food, clothing, shelter and medical aid. The refugees had been housed and fed by India for nearly a year.
ON 3 Dec 1971, General Yahya Khan ordered a preemptive strike on Indian Air Force bases in Indian Punjab and in Jammu and Kashmir. Eight military air fields in western India were attacked. Next day Pakistan notified that she was in a state of war with India. Indian army led by the Chief of the Army Staff, General Manekshaw launched counter-attack on Pakistan air fields
Emergency was declared in India. Indian army swung into action in East Pakistan. Ably led by Lt.General J.S.Aurora, the army joined by Mukar Bahini, pushed through East Bengal, reached the capital Dacca and surrounded the Pakistan garrison. On the Western front, the Pakistani army attempt to cross Kashmir was frustrated. The US tried to avert the defeat of Pak forces through the UN Security Council resolutions, but they were vetoed by the Soviet Union. China did not intervene as expected by Pakistan. Western powers stopped short of diplomatic support to Pakistan. On 9th Dec US President Nixon ordered the US 7th fleet into the Bay of Bengal, led by the air craft carrier Enterprise, under the pretext of evacuating American and European citizens from East Pakistan. Indira Gandhi resolutely stood her stand. On her request, Soviet Union dispatched its fleet from Vladivostok to the Bay of Bengal.
On 13 Nov, General Maneckshaw issued an ultimatum to his Pakistan counterpart. On 16 Dec, the Pak Army was in East Pakistan, Lt.General Aurora, surrounded and defeated the Pak army. About 93 thousand Pak troops were then brought to India as Prisoners of War (POW’s). Dacca surrendered on 17 Dec. India declared unilateral cease fire in the Western Sector. Pakistan agreed to the cease fire and released unconditionally Mujibur Rehman on 8 Jan, 1972. Four days later, Mujibur Rehman assumed power in Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi with humility heartily thanked the defense forces for diligently discharging their duty, pledged the nation’s help to the people of Bangladesh, and extended a hand of friendship to the neighbor Pakistan
Impact of War
The War of 1971 produced far-reaching impact in the South Asian subcontinent, India and Pakistan.
1) The War radically altered the sub-continental structure. In the place of 2 countries, there emerged 3 independent sovereigns’ states-India, Pakistan and Bangladesh;
2) The war was a personal triumph for Indira Gandhi. Gender barrier was broken and she was hailed as heroine. Durga, Shakti, Liberator of Bangladesh, and Express of India;
3) The War wiped out the sad memory of 1962 defeat in the India-China war and restored India’s self-respect and pride;
4) The War had an indelible impact on India’s Muslim minority.
5) It delivered a death blow to the Tow –Nation theory and the underlying principle of religion as the basic factor of a nation;
6) It demonstrated the inherent strength of Indian Secularism;
7) The War had strengthened India to assert its independence in international relations.
8) It also imposed a heavy burden on the Indian economy;
9) A new- state Bangladesh – had been created as the result of a popular mandate;
10) Pakistan came under a civilian rule under Z.A.Bhutto after a lapse of nearly fourteen years;
11) The refugee problem was smoothly solved, all the ten million refugees were sent back home;
12) As a fall – out of the war, the congress won a majority in all the states in elections held in March 1972.
Simla Agreement, 1972
The Indo-Pak war ended but peace had to be restored. Pakistan was not reconciled to the humiliating defeat it suffered in the war. It was yet to accord recognition to Bangladesh. The problem of Prisoners of War remained to be solved. On 31 Dec, 1971, Prime Minister Inidra Gandhi called for negotiations with Pakistan. In Jan, 1972, the new Prime Minster of Pakistan Z.A.Bhutto expressed his willingness for talks with his Indian counterpart. The emissary level talks were held in April 1972 at Mushri. There the Simla Summait was held at the hill station of Simla from 28 June to 3 July 1972.
From the beginning of the Simla Summit, Indira Gandhi was keen on finding a solution to the irresolvable Kashmir problem. She insisted on a full settlement of all problems between India and Pakistan. Several draft treaty proposals were prepared calling for bilateralism the exclusion of third parties, the renunciation of force, and the conversion of the Kashmir cease fire line into an international boundary and the resolution of the Kashmir issue. After 5 days of hiccups, wrangling and mutual concessions, on 3 July 1972, Bhutto and Indira Gandhi signed the historic Simla Agreement
The crucial clauses of the Simla Agreement are:
1) India had agreed to return 5,000 square miles of occupied Pakistan territory, sans some strategic points in Kashmir, mainly in Kargil sector.
2) India had also agreed to return the 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War with the approval of the Bangladesh Government.
3) India and Pakistan would restrain in future from use of force.
4) All outstanding issues between the two countries would be resolved bilaterally.
5) Indian and Pakistani forces shall be withdrawn to their respective side of the international border.
6) In Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control from the cease fire date of 17 Dec, 1971, shall be respected by both sides. Mutual, recognition of the Line Of Control (LOC) was a major breakthrough
Pros and Cons
The Simla Agreement was praised as well as blamed. It was praised because:
1) It proposed for peaceful settlement of all Indo-Pak issues and disputes through bilateral negotiations.
2) The repudiating of the use of force for settlement of disputes amounted to a no- war pact.
3) The provision for troop’s withdrawal disengagement on the borders.
4) The agreement over the line of actual control and ceasefire rendered the presence of U.N. Observations in Kashmir redundant.
5) The clause for ratification of the Agreement by both sides gave it a legal base.
6) The Simla Agreement was made without any outside help
The Agreement was blamed because:
1) It failed to resolve the immediate repatriation of the Prisoners of War (POW’s).
2) It mentioned Kashmir but failed to find a final settlement of Kashmir issue.
3 ) It had nor clinched a direct no-war pact.
4) It had not made any provisions for joint machinery for effectively handling the Indo-Pak relations.
5) The Agreement was at a best a piecemeal hotchpotch arrangement for it failed to secure a package deal to solve pending issues.
6) It envisaged no guarantee that Pakistan would reduce its military expenditure. However, it must be pointed out that the Simla Agreement provided the basis for all subsequently talks, dialogues and negotiations between India and Pakistan. In this sense, the year 1972 may b e called a year of triumph.
After the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, Indira Gandhi’s position seemed unassailable. Her war victory won the admiration of all. She was the undisputed leader of her party, government and the nation. Congress was solidly behind her. Her government was stable with a two thirds majority in the Lok Shaba and the country hailed her as its heroine. She was at the power and eulogized as “The Greatest leader India had ever had”.
Keywords: Indra Gandhi, First women Prime Minister of India, Kitchen Cabinet, Punjabi Suba, Food Crises, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indo Pak war of 1971, Simla Agreement
Diane Cynthiya Miller