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The impact of the Bangladesh war

The present generation of people needs to be reminded that when India fought the Bangladesh War, 110 members of the United Nations (including the majority of the Non-Aligned nations) voted against India, asking Delhi to stop the war. US and China too voted against India. We had the support of only Moscow and the Soviet Bloc countries. The threat of Pakistan-China-US axis acting against India was considered serious enough to compel Mrs Gandhi to seek a peace and friendship treaty with the Soviet Union as a deterrent.

The war resulted in a complete victory for India and the surrender of the 93,000 strong Pakistani army. It was an unprecedented victory for India in her history of the last 800-900 years. It established India as the major military power of the subcontinent. It proved that linguistic nationalism (like the Bangladeshi one) was stronger than the one based on two-nation theory that Islam alone determined the national identity. It cut Pakistan into two and eliminated the Pakistan-China base that supported insurgency in north-east India, at least for some time. Without that war, India would have been permanently saddled with 10 million refugees.

It demonstrated that India could defend her national security interests against the mighty combination of the US and China, backed by a majority of the Non-Aligned nations in the UN. The Enterprise Mission sent by the US as an intimidatory mission alerted India to the perils of the nuclear threat and persuaded the Indian leadership to move towards nuclear testing in 1974. Ms Indira Gandhi's decisive leadership earned her Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tribute -- he said she represented 'Goddess Durga'.

Before the Bangladesh war, especially after the 1962 military debacle in the engagement with China, the reputation of the Indian Armed Forces had sunk very low; the Bangladesh victory reestablished that reputation.

This military victory, along with the Green Revolution and the Pokhran test, rescued India from being totally condemned as a 'triage' case among the developing nations.

Photograph: Rediff Archives
Also read: The 1971 War: A flashback

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