On India’s role in the 1971 War

On December 16, 2021, the Indian rulers celebrated ‘Swarnim Vijay Diwas’ to mark 50 years since the victory of Indian troops in the war against Pakistan, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. PM Modi participated in the main ceremony at the National War Memorial in Delhi, where he recalled the bravery and sacrifices of the Indian armed forces. President Ram Nath Kovind attended the golden jubilee celebrations in Dhaka.

The 1971 war between India and Pakistan lasted for 13 days from December 3 till December 16.  It culminated in the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani troops to the joint forces of the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini of Bangladesh. The instrument of surrender was signed in Dhaka on December 16, 1971.

The Indian ruling class has always used the military victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war to whip up chauvinism and hatred towards Pakistan. Simultaneously, in order to confuse the people of India and the world, the ruling class paints the war waged by India as a “just war” that it waged in support of the liberation struggle of the people of Bangladesh. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

There is no justification for the Indian state’s military intervention in what was then East Pakistan. It was an act of aggression, motivated by imperialist aims.  Supporting the liberation of the Bengalis of East Pakistan was only a pretext.

It is important to seek truth from facts and not be taken in by the national chauvinist propaganda of the rulers of our country.

Following the British-engineered partition of the sub-continent in 1947, the western and eastern parts of the state of Pakistan were separated geographically by nearly 1600 km. Both India and Pakistan are multinational states, consisting of many nations, nationalities and peoples. The ruling classes of both countries have suppressed the national aspirations of the peoples within their respective countries.

In the years leading up to the 1971 war, the ruling classes of both Pakistan and India faced internal threats to their rule. In Pakistan, the long standing struggle of the Bengali people for their national rights, against the suppression of their language and culture and the imposition of Urdu, had reached a point where calls for secession were being made by various political forces. In India, the unresolved national problem was expressing itself in numerous struggles in the North East, Kashmir and other regions. There was widespread mass discontent among workers and peasants. Large numbers of youth and students were responding to the call of communist revolutionaries for an armed revolution.

The December 1970 General Elections in Pakistan resulted in an absolute majority for the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which had been raising demands for autonomy of East Pakistan. The Pakistani ruling class decided not to give charge of the government to the Awami League. General Yahya Khan, President of Pakistan, imposed martial law in East Pakistan. On March 25, 1971, the Pakistani army launched Operation Searchlight and unleashed a reign of terror against the people of Bangladesh. On March 26, 1971 the Awami League declared Bangladesh independent at a public rally in Dhaka.

These developments were taking place at the height of the Cold War. The contention and collusion between the two superpowers, US and Soviet Union, dominated international relations. It was a time when the US, which had a long standing military strategic alliance with Pakistan, began approaching China to build an alliance against the Soviet Union.

The Indian ruling class decided that it was an opportune time to militarily intervene in Pakistan, so as to divide and weaken it. To ensure it had international support, the Indian ruling class signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation – a military treaty – in August 1971. This treaty at the same time, served the Soviet Union to counter the US strategy.

The agencies of the Indian state worked covertly to strengthen the secessionist forces in East Pakistan. The Indian Army secretly trained and armed the Mukti Bahini. The government carried out a huge international propaganda campaign over many months, highlighting the atrocities by the Pakistan army on the people in Bangladesh. At the same time, the eastern border of the country was opened for millions of refugees from East Pakistan to come into India. Indian representatives in the United Nations claimed that the flood of refugees was destablising India, in order to justify that India had no choice but to militarily intervene. On November 30, 1971, the Soviet Union gave its go ahead for the Indian military intervention.

In the name of liberating the people, the Indian Army behaved in the manner of an occupation army with the people of Bangladesh, not different from the role played by the Pakistan army. It carried out covert operations, massacres and bombings in Bangladesh.

Secret documents of American intelligence, recently declassified, note that the Indian state had further plans to attack West Pakistan and seize part of its territory. This was leaked to the US, who then acted through the Soviet Union to restrain the Indian ruling class.

The 1971 war and the creation of Bangladesh served the imperialist aims of the Indian ruling class. It enabled the Indian state to become the dominant economic and military power in the region, with the economic and military backing of the Soviet social imperialists. It created favourable conditions for the Indian state to suppress the struggle of communist revolutionaries and the national liberation struggles of the peoples.

In pursuit of its own selfish interests, the Indian ruling class compromised upon India’s sovereignty when it signed the Indo-Soviet treaty in 1971. Today, continuing on the same treacherous path, the ruling class is building a strategic military alliance with the US. The Indian ruling class cannot be depended upon to defend the sovereignty of India.

No country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country under any pretext. India’s military intervention was an act of aggression upon a neighbouring country, a brutal interference in its internal affairs. There is no reason for Indian people to celebrate the 1971 war.


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