” War is a grave concern of the state, it must be thoroughly studied” states the basic philosophy of the great Sun Tzu the author of a classic military treatise “The Art of War”. This philosophy certainly holds true for the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war which was thoroughly studied first before its brilliant execution by the Indian defence forces.

This war was won not only by brilliant military strategies but also by some shrewd diplomacy by then Indian Prime minister Mrs Indira Gandhi resulting in the war being considered as one of the most efficiently fought wars lasting for exactly thirteen days. It is believed that for a war to occur an atmosphere has to be created and that is what exactly happened in subcontinent during the early 1970’s. The seed for the war was first sown when in 1970 during Pakistan’s general election an East Pakistan party Awami League won 167 seats out of 169 seats to claim right for a simple majority to form government.It was then that the great leader of Awami League Mr Sheikh Mujubir Rahman requested President of Pakistan Yahya Khan the right to form government which was unfortunately refused by then Pakistan Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This outright and unjust refusal lead to an environment of unrest in East Pakistan which compelled Yahya Khan to to send in the military to suppress this unrest. This crackdown in East Pakistan began on the 25th of March 1971 resulting in large number of migrations from East Pakistan into India. It was at this time that Mrs Gandhi saw this an opportunity to divide Pakistan and began planning for the war along with the then Indian Army chief General Sam Manekshaw.

The planning for this war basically consisted of a two pronged plan of action which was to combine cunning diplomacy with smart military tactics. Leading the way for cunning diplomacy was Mrs Gandhi herself with a real shrewd move to send family friend Mohammad Yunus to talk to the Arab world about the war. This move in effect was made in order to stop the Arab world from providing logistic support to Pakistan and as also to make sure Pakistan do not play the religion card to convince the Arab world to provide support as and when required. This move thereby making sure India gained a friend rather than an enemy thus showing the world  the shrewd politician Mrs Gandhi really was. Unfortunately during this time the world opinion was against India so yet again Mrs Gandhi took a brave step of taking a whirlwind tour of world capital to try and change the anti India sentiments. The result was that the charms of  Indira Gandhi over the western public and media worked like magic and a pro-India mood among western public was established which was really crucial to initiate the war. The real diplomatic master stroke was yet to come with the signing of Indian-Soviet Friendship Treaty on August 9th, 1971. The treaty could have been signed a couple of months earlier but being the ever shrewd politician Indira Gandhi was she signed the treaty at when she felt that the time was ripe. What she also knew was that signing the treaty with Russia would help India from the threat of America as well as from China.

As for the military tactics which was as brilliant as the diplomacy was it certainly was a well planned and coordinated operation by all the three forces i.e. army, navy and air force. The leader of  the Eastern Command was Lt General Jagjit Aurora was strategically brilliant especially in reading the mind of his opponent Lt General AA Niazi. What Niazi expected was for Aurora to make a move towards Dhaka using  roads and bridges. As a result Niazi placed bulk of his troops to defend roads and bridges which proved to be a fatal error in judgement. As Aurora proved to be to smart and decided to use the unguarded  bylanes, open fields which resulted in the Indian army surrounding their Pakistani counterparts in ten days as a result forcing them to surrender. To support the army the navy to played its part to perfection. The chief of navy Admiral Nanda was quick to read the Pakistan’s army chief’s mind who would expect India to attack  Karachi and Chittagong and so he would not only protect these ports but would also not dare attack the Indian ports like Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Madras. This resulted in Nanda  bombing the port of Karachi using small missile boats twice a week. Not to be left behind the air force were equally brilliant in their strategy especially in the eastern front of Pakistan. While the Pakistani soldiers were surrounded and asked to surrender a flight of MIG-21 supersonics flew past the governor’s house shooting lines of holes on its roof without damaging the structure but forcing Pakistan to surrender relatively quickly. To complete the brilliantly fought war Indira Gandhi called for a unilateral ceasefire as soon as Pakistan surrendered which was yet another diplomatic master stroke from a master politician.


Lt Gen JS Arora of India signing the Instrument of Surrender with Lt Gen AA Niazi of Pakistan on the 16th December, 1971.

Overall the 1971 war is considered to be one of the most of the efficient wars fought in world history. This war will also be remembered for the birth of Bangladesh. Apart from all these features this war also shows us what shrewd and a brilliant politician Indira Gandhi was and add to that an iron will. Finally this war will forever will be etched in the golden chapters of Indian history as one of the greatest wars ever fought by India and as a proud Indian it makes me feel really prouder.

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' War is a grave concern of the state, it must be thoroughly studied' states the basic philosophy of the great Sun Tzu the author of a classic military treatise 'The Art of War'. This philosophy certainly holds true for the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war which was thoroughly studied first before its brilliant execution...