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Srinath Raghavan
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The war of 1971 that created Bangladesh was the most significant geopolitical event in the Indian subcontinent since partition in 1947. It tilted the balance of power between India and Pakistan steeply in favor of India. Srinath Raghavan contends that the crisis and its cast of characters can be understood only in a wider international context.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73129-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
    (pp. 1-13)

    “It is very bad with your prime minister,” blurted the burly Russian guard to the private secretary, “It is very bad.” By the time the secretary rushed to the bedroom the prime minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, was dead. It was a little past midnight in Tashkent on 11 January 1966. Less than twelve hours ago, Prime Minister Shastri and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan had agreed on a declaration restoring status quo ante between their countries after the war of 1965. The declaration had formally been inked in the presence of Premier Alexei Kosygin of the Soviet Union....

    (pp. 14-33)

    The morning of 25 March 1969 was unseasonably cloudy in Islamabad. Dressed in a light gray suit, his hands deep in his pockets, Field Marshal Ayub Khan paced the presidential lawns, which were ringed yellow with brilliant lilies. He was waiting for General Yahya Khan, the commander in chief. When the latter arrived, they retired to his study wherein Ayub recorded his last speech to the people of Pakistan. Explaining his abdication, Ayub declared, “It is impossible for me to preside over the destruction of our country.” “The whole nation demands,” he lamely observed, “that General Yahya . . ....

    (pp. 34-53)

    “What in the devil’s name is happening here?” hollered Yahya Khan. “Where on earth has your assessment gone?” It was 3 AM on the morning of 8 December 1970. Yahya had sat up all night watching the election coverage on television, and now he demanded an explanation from General Umar of the NSC.¹ In the final tally, the Awami League won 160 of the 162 seats in East Pakistan. Although it had failed to win a single seat in West Pakistan, it had a comfortable overall majority. In the West, the PPP took 81 of the 138 seats, winning 62...

    (pp. 54-79)

    K. C. Sen Gupta was a harried man. That morning—14 March 1971—the deputy high commissioner of India in Dhaka had met Captain Sujat Ali, an emissary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Ali had been sent to him with a “special appeal for help at this critical hour.” Two and a half divisions of the Pakistan army were being flown into East Pakistan. Mujib felt that this was possible “due to withdrawal of Indian troops from West Pakistan border.” He believed that if India intercepted “troops, ships and aircrafts to East Pakistan on [the] pretext of violation of Indian borders...

    (pp. 80-107)

    On 28 April 1971, Henry Kissinger got down to composing a memorandum on the Pakistan crisis for President Richard Nixon. Kissinger’s ire had been roused by an interdepartmental paper prepared on the crisis. The malice and ignorance of his colleagues were threatening to capsize his carefully laid plans. As national security adviser, he had to contend with many adversaries, but in his own estimation the real enemies resided in the Washington bureaucracy. After a brilliant and somewhat unconventional career at Harvard, Kissinger had joined the government barely two years before.¹ But his zest and skill in bureaucratic battles put many...

    (pp. 108-130)

    On 9 August 1971, the foreign ministers of India and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) signed a treaty of “Peace, Friendship and Cooperation.” The treaty, valid for twenty years, was aimed at “expanding and consolidating the existing relationship of sincere friendship” between the two countries. Both the context in which the treaty was concluded and the provisions of the document occasioned considerable commentary and speculation. After all, the treaty was signed at the height of the crisis in South Asia. The fact that Bengali rebels were operating against the Pakistan army from sanctuaries in eastern India was an...

    (pp. 131-154)

    Harold Evans had not met his visitor earlier. The well-dressed, thickset man in his early forties who walked into his office on 18 May 1971, was Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani journalist of Goan Christian descent. Evans, editor of theSunday Times,knew that Mascarenhas worked for theMorning Newsin Karachi and was a stringer for his paper. He had also been following the developments in East Pakistan. Not only had theSunday Timescovered some of the events, but Evans’s youngest brother was a British diplomat serving in Islamabad. Yet Evans was utterly unprepared for the story he heard...

    (pp. 155-183)

    “I am fully convinced about the total ineffectiveness of the UN organization,” said Swaran Singh, “whether they are [sic] political, social or human rights. They talk and talk and do nothing.” The foreign minister was addressing heads of Indian missions in Europe in mid-June 1971. The response of the United Nations came as no surprise to India. New Delhi was certain that the United Nations would switch to the default mode of viewing this crisis as yet another manifestation of India-Pakistan hostility. Indeed, from India’s standpoint the principal reason for engaging with the United Nations was to avoid being outflanked...

    (pp. 184-204)

    As the aircraft crossed the Karakoram mountain range, it commenced its descent. When it landed at Urumqi, a team of Chinese navigators came on board and joined the pilots for the next leg. On the evening of 5 November 1971, the special flight finally touched down in Beijing. Premier Zhou Enlai was waiting at the runway to receive the Pakistanis. The visiting delegation comprised Yahya Khan’s special envoy, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, along with Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan, Air Chief Marshal Rahim Khan, and Chief of General Staff Gul Hassan Khan.

    The next afternoon, Bhutto and Sultan Khan had a substantial...

    (pp. 205-234)

    Defense Secretary K. B. Lall rushed into the operations room at the Indian army headquarters at 5:00 PM on 3 December 1971. The army chief, General Manekshaw, was wrapping up for the day. Lall told him that the western army commander had just called to say that three Indian airfields in Punjab were under attack by Pakistani aircraft. Both the prime minister and the defense minister were out of Delhi and could not immediately be contacted. Manekshaw ordered the commanders on the western front to put into effect their operational plans.¹ The third India-Pakistan war was under way.

    Yahya Khan’s...

    (pp. 235-263)

    As the sun went down in Dhaka, tens of thousands converged on the Race Course from all directions. Throughout the afternoon, the city had been humming with rumors of an impending surrender of the Pakistan army. At the ceremony, a small contingent of Pakistani and Indian soldiers presented an honor guard to Lieutenant General J. S. Aurora and Lieutenant General A. A. K Niazi. The surrender documents were signed by both commanders in front of a peering audience on that darkening evening. Niazi unbuttoned his epaulette, removed his revolver, and handed it to Aurora. The war for Bangladesh was at...

    (pp. 264-274)

    Indira Gandhi was with a Swedish television crew when the red telephone on her table rang. She answered: “Yes,” “yes,” “thank you.” The caller was General Manekshaw, giving her the news of the surrender in Dhaka. Mrs. Gandhi asked her Swedish interviewer to wait in her antechamber, then she briskly left for parliament. The House hung still with tension and anticipation, as she began reading out her statement: “The West Pakistan forces have unconditionally surrendered in Bangladesh . . . Dacca is now the free capital of a free country.” The members of parliament erupted in acclamation and every line...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 275-330)
    (pp. 331-346)
    (pp. 347-350)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 351-358)