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January 02, 2011




Page: 21/38

Home > 2011 Issues > January 02, 2011

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Only the facts on 1971 Indo-Pak war

By MV Kamath

Myths and Facts: Bangladesh Liberation War: How India, U.S., China and the USSR Shaped the Outcome, BZ Khasru, Rupa & Co., Pp 477, Rs 596.00

EVER since India became independent and began to function as a free nation, it started making enemies, to begin with in Britain and subsequently in the United States. It could handle British hypocrisy and deal with its detractors in successive governments with some finesse. But in all of Indiaís history it couldnít have come across two worse enemies than US President Richard Nixon and his Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. Their hatred of India was visceral. And that comes through in this remarkable book on the formation of Bangladesh and the partition of Pakistan in 1971.

In the first place, the inclusion of East Bengal as part of Pakistan was unreal. There was nothing in common between East and West Pakistan except religion which proved to be a force insufficient to keep the two wings of the state, separated by thousands of miles, together. This had nothing to do with India. The manner in which West Pakistan leaders - especially, the Armed Forces - treated Bengalis with such disdain, has to be studied in detail, to be believed. A more civilized East Bengal detested the Punjabis. In the general elections held in December 1970, the Bengali MPs elected under the Awami League umbrella outnumbered these elected in West Pakistan and East Pakistani leader sheikh Mujibur Rehman should have been automatically installed as Pakistanís Prime Minister. This was denied him.

As Khasru writes: "The Pakistan Army wanted to prevent East Pakistanís entry into West Pakistanís power structure and to stop the Bengalis from getting the national political power proportionate to their share of the nationís population". Inevitably, East Pakistan rebelled. At first Mujibur Rahman and his party did not want East Pakistanís separation from the West. He wanted a Confederation. But the manner in which Pakistanís Armed Forces went about killing Bengali intellectuals and raping Bengali women in thousands-Mujib had by then been arrested and jailed - left Bengalis no other option but to fight for independence. What, in the circumstances, was India to do?

Thanks to the atrocities perpetrated by the Armed Forces, some seven million Bengali Hindus were forced to seek refuge in West Bengal, creating unbelievable hardships to themselves and the host country. India had no desire to partition Pakistan. But those in power in Washington - the India-haters - wanted to damn India. Nixon even wanted to set up an anti-India propaganda machine to vilify India. There were several issues involved. Why did West Pakistan treat its eastern partner so badly? Where did India come in the picture? Would India be justified in supporting Mujibur? Was war a sound option? In such an event what would be the reaction in Washington, Beijing and Moscow? Would China attack India by way of reprisal?

If the Soviet Union sided with India, what would be the reaction in the United States? In Washington, meeting after meeting attended by highest level officials, took place. Khasru, the author had access to documents, such as Foreign Relations of the United States 1969-1976 available in several volumes. He has quoted extensively from them. Both Nixon and Kissinger hated India. For Nixon, the party guilty was India. Sadly, this book does not give a picture of Pakistan Armyís arrocities, committed over a period of several months. They were bestial, to bay the least.

For all that, this book must be the most revealing of all books on the birth of Bangladesh. The author lets everyone speak for oneself, whether it is Nixon, Kissinger, top US officials who are not always in agreement with each other, US Ambassadors to India and Pakistan, Chou En-lai, Pakistanís Yahya Khan who, incidentally did not believe India wanted a war, considering that Muslims were Ďhistoricallyí superior fighters and India would lose, Soviet leaders and a whole lot of others. The views on India varied from time to time, sometimes the same individual contradicting himself and it is that which is fascinating.

But the last word must be given to Indira Gandhi whose letter to Nixon dated December 15, 1971 as the Indian forces were having the upper hand, is classic of its kind. "We are asked what we want. We seek nothing for ourselves. We do not want any territory of what was East Pakistan and now constitutes Bangladesh. We do not want any territory of West Pakistan. We do want lasting peace with Pakistan. But will Pakistan give up its ceaseless and yet pointless agitation of the past 24 years over Kashmir? Are they willing to give up their hate campaign posture of perpetual hostility towards India? How many times in the last 24 years have my father and I offered a pact of non-aggression to Pakistan? We are deeply hurt..." This long letter deserves to be read again and again. It is a brilliant piece.

What this book does is to reveal US hypocrisy and greed in all its ugliness and deceit. But importantly, it reveals how policy is formulated in Washington, how China, the Soviet Union and Britain react with each other. Involved China was later to tell Kissinger that it never promised military intervention on Pakistanís behalf. And Nixon, the greatest liar if ever there was one, was to tell retiring Indian Ambassador Jha that he will do his part to set a new course of action to improve Indo-US relations and to ask him to convey to Indira Gandhi in what Ďgreat respectí he held her!

(Rupa & Co., 7/16, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, Delhi-110 002, [email protected])




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