Conflict Analysis Case Study –Bangladesh Liberation War
Background and Internal Factors
West Pakistan had four provinces: “Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the North-West Frontier.” Province number 5 was East Pakistan, and it was the largest province out of all. West Pakistan had control over all the provinces, and used up most of the resources. “Between 1948 and 1960, East Pakistan made 70% of all of Pakistan’s exports, while it only received 25% of imported money. In 1948, East Pakistan had 11 fabric mills while the West had nine. In 1971, the number of fabric mills in the West grew to 150 while the number in the East went down to 26. About 2.6 billion dollars of resources were also shifted over time from East Pakistan to West Pakistan. Although East Pakistan had the largest population among all the provinces, it had much less political power than West Pakistan. Although the economy was an issue, there was also the issue of language that caused East Pakistan and West Pakistan to have dispute for several years.” (bdallinone)
In 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah announced that Urdu was the official language for Pakistan. However, this was not fair because only the people in the West and the Bihari’s in the East spoke Urdu. Majority of the West Pakistanis spoke Punjabi and Sindhi, while East Pakistanis spoke Bangali. Therefore, East Pakistan was against the movement of Urdu being the official language for Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Awami League (top political party in support of East Pakistan), wanted more economic and political power, all of these political changes resulted in the war of independence. The war involved two parts of Pakistan: East Pakistan VS West Pakistan in a war for liberation and freedom from West Pakistan. The war lasted throughout March 26th – December 16th 1971. The Pakistan Army began a genocide called “Operation Searchlight” by attacking the innocent Bangaladeshi’s of Dhaka city (Dhaka is the capital city of the province Bengal). The Pakistani army massacred 40,000 Bengali people, whether they be poets, teachers, police officers, etc and ignited a brutal war against the Bengalis of East Pakistan to stop them from being independent. They also invaded homes and held families on gun point, burned down schools, destroyed sacred architecture and purposely ruined 80% of agriculture lands, which caused Bangladesh to be in a famine. They killed sons and daughters and raped women and the West Pakistani army got away with ALL these crimes, and nothing was accounted for until at least 30 years ago, when activists convinced the police department to open up old cases. East Pakistan didn’t have an army since it was not yet officially a country, so they were just a group of freedom fighters. Eventually, India joined in to support East Pakistan’s Freedom Fighters, and then they formed the Mukhti Bahini, which translates to The Liberation Army. They used the guerrilla method and just basic armed forces, which they got from the support of the Indian Army, and through a lot of gruesome war, they eventually fought until they gained their liberation, and Bangladesh was declared an independent nation. The West Pakistani government was not willing to make peace with the East Pakistani government due to political differences such as political power due to economic, language and racial issues, since West Pakistan was considered one large province, the politicians that were on the West Side did not allow East Side of Pakistan to develop their own stable government since the East Side always got outweighed.
Throughout the war, there was involvement from several other countries such as India. India played an active role. Indira Gandhi (Prime minister of India) wanted to protect Bangladesh. Since India had a lot of protection (bombs, nuclear weapons, great military), they “mounted a three-pronged movement on Dhaka from the Indian province West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura. The Indian soldiers, Air Force, and Navy defeated the Pakistani army, while the Bangladeshi Navy helped India. On the ground, three groups of Mukti Bahini and Indian forces fought the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis attempted to fight back and they did not give up, but failed to resist them and ended up surrendering” (Murtala Sadeh) This surrender was the largest surrender from an army since World War 2. This was not a proxy war because the East Pakistan and West Pakistan communicated directly with each other, and did not use any other source to have the war fought for them; they fought on each other’s land.
Pakistan’s plan to invade and bomb India’s land got the United Nations involved, and they stepped in and tried to force India to agree to a cease-fire. The “UN Security Council” came together on December 4 1981 to talk about the situation and find any possible way of making peace. After much convincing and long discussions, on 7 December, the United States came up with the idea for an “immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of troops”. Stalinist Russia rejected the resolution twice. In light of the Pakistani atrocities, Britain and France restrained and kept their distance from the situation. The Indian army quickly overran the country. Pakistani forces were unable to effectively fight the brutal attacks, since “they had been deployed in small units around the border to counter guerrilla attacks by the Muhkti Bahini. Unable to defend Dhaka, the Pakistanis surrendered on 16 December 1971, the largest surrender since the Second World War. Bangladesh gained admission to the UN with most voting in its favour, but China rejected this as Pakistan was its key ally, as was the United States, which was one of the last nations to accord Bangladesh recognition.
United States of America
“The US administration feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan would mean the domination of the region by Stalinist Russia. That, in turn, would seriously undermine the global position of the US and the regional position of America’s new tacit ally, China. In order to demonstrate to China the reliability of the US as an ally, and in direct violation of the US Congress-imposed sanctions on Pakistan, Nixon sent military supplies to Pakistan, shipping them through Jordan and Iran. China was encouraged to increase arms supplies to Pakistan”. (Wikipedia)
The Nixon government completely uncared for the reports it received of the genocidal and brutal activities that the Pakistani Army was getting involved in (to dominant the Bengalis), including all the deaths of innocent Bangali’s and all of the rapes. However, Russia supported the Indian army and Mukti Bahini during the war because they knew that the independence of Bangladesh would make their rivals weaker. It also assured India that if the US or China tried invading India, Russia would have their back. Therefore, the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty was signed in August 1971 during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
When Pakistan’s defeat was obvious, “Nixon sent the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, to the Bay of Bengal, a move which ratcheted up nuclear tensions in the region. USS Enterprise arrived on station on 11 December 1971. On 6 and 13 December, the Russian navy sent out two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok. They trailed the US task force in the Indian Ocean from 18 December until 7 January 1972. At the end of the war, the Warsaw Pact countries of Central and Eastern Europe were the first to recognise Bangladesh as an independent country.” (Wikepedia) Stalinist Russia gave credit to Bangladesh on 25 January 1972. The United States also eventually gave them credit in April. “On 2 July 1972, the Simla Accord was signed between India and Pakistan, which stated the goal to normalise relations between India and Pakistan, including the return of Pakistani prisoners of war. Pakistan officially recognised Bangladesh in 1974”. (Wikipedia)
Since China is an ally of Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China reacted with productively towards situation in East Pakistan and the prospect of India invading West Pakistan. They know that an Indian attack was about to happen, so Richard Nixon (President of U.S.A) encouraged China to gather together its armed forces along India’s border. The Indian Army was prepared and had deployed eight mountain divisions to the “Sino-Indian border to guard against such an eventuality.China instead threw its weight behind demands for an immediate ceasefire.” (Wikipedia) When Bangladesh wanted a place to get involved in the United Nations in 1972, China rejected their application because of two United Nations resolutions regarding the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners of war and civilians had not yet been implemented.” (Wikipedia) China was one of the last countries to recognise the liberation of Bangladesh and denied to until 31 August 1975.