The Third Indo Pakistani War

 

THE THIRD INDO-PAKISTANI WAR

Unlike the first and second Indo-Pakistani wars, the third war, fought in 1971, did not involve the status of
Kashmīr. Instead, it began as a Pakistani civil war in which East Pakistan, the eastern province of Pakistan, sought to secede from the country. This conflict escalated into a 14-day war between India and Pakistan after India’s military intervened to support the secession of East Pakistan. Although even shorter than the previous wars, the third war resulted in 11,500 battle deaths—the highest of all three conflicts. It also resulted in a truncated Pakistan, as East Pakistan became the sovereign nation of Bangladesh.

A -Events Before the War
The 1947 partition of the British Indian empire had created a Pakistan comprised of two “wings”—West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) and East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan; now Bangladesh)—that were separated by 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of Indian territory. In the wake of
Pakistan’s first free and fair election in December 1970, the leaders of the western and eastern wings failed to reach an understanding about power sharing. In March 1971, after talks failed to break the deadlock, the Pakistani government launched a military crackdown in East Pakistan. During what was called Operation Searchlight, large numbers of the Bengali intelligentsia in East Pakistan were killed and many prominent Bengali leaders were thrown in jail. In response, the Awami League leadership of East Pakistan declared the province’s independence on March 26. As the crackdown escalated into a full-blown and brutal civil war over the next two months, some 10 million Bengalis fled East Pakistan and took refuge in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal.
The Indian leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi quickly decided that it was cheaper to resort to war against
Pakistan than to absorb millions of refugees into India’s already bloated population. Highly antagonistic relations between India and Pakistan also contributed to India’s decision to intervene in Pakistan’s civil war. Gandhi and her advisers fashioned a strategy to support the creation of a separate state for ethnic Bengalis. This strategy involved support for the indigenous Bengali resistance movement, led by the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Force). To this end, India’s military intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, helped to organize, train, and arm these insurgents. The Mukti Bahini managed to harass the regular Pakistani army units stationed in East Pakistan and helped to create conducive conditions for a full-scale Indian military intervention in early December.

B -Major Events During the War
On
December 3, 1971, the third Indo-Pakistani war formally began with a Pakistani air attack on a number of air bases in northwestern India. The Indian air force responded the next day by striking at several West Pakistani air bases. Along with the airborne attack, the Pakistani army simultaneously launched a ground operation in Kashmīr and in the Punjab region, thereby opening a western front. In the western sector a number of pitched battles took place, particularly in Azad Kashmīr near Pūnch (Poonch) and Chhamb. Other major engagements took place farther to the south in the Punjab region at Derā Nānak and Anūpgarh. Even farther south, an invading Pakistani tank column was bombed by the Indian air force, which carried out as many as 4,000 sorties during the conflict.

The use of air power was more limited in
East Pakistan. The real thrust into the province was made by three Indian army divisions that launched a five-pronged attack on Dhaka, the provincial capital, and received the surrender of Pakistani forces there on December 16. The following day, India declared a unilateral cease-fire, and Pakistani leader General Muhammad Yahya Khan called on his forces to reciprocate. East Pakistan immediately seceded from Pakistan and became the sovereign nation of Bangladesh.

C -Events After the War
In 1972 Pakistani president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (formerly the foreign minister) met with Indian prime minister Gandhi at the hill resort town of
Simla in northern India to discuss a postwar settlement. Although the third Indo-Pakistani war had not been triggered by events in Kashmīr, the unresolved issues surrounding that disputed state weighed heavily in the settlement talks. The two leaders negotiated a settlement that recognized the de facto border in Jammu and Kashmīr as the Line of Control (LOC). Both sides agreed to abstain from the use of force to settle the Kashmīr dispute, and India agreed to return some 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war.

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