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1971: The Birth of Bangladesh and the Indo-Pakistan War

The root cause of the India-Pakistan war in 1971 can be traced back to the deep-seated political and social tensions that emerged soon after the independence of Pakistan in 1947. Despite the Eastern wing of Pakistan being more populous, political power predominantly resided with the Western elite. This power disparity fueled significant discontent in East Pakistan, culminating in the emergence of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman as a prominent voice of opposition.

Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, leading the Awami League, demanded greater autonomy for East Pakistan within the Pakistani Federation. In the 1970 general elections, the Awami League secured a sweeping majority, which, in a fair democratic system, should have made Sheikh Mujibur Rehman the Prime Minister of Pakistan or, at the very least, a leader of his province. However, instead of honoring the electoral outcome, West Pakistan's ruling elite imprisoned Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, exacerbating tensions.

The response to Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's political rise was met with brutality. General Tikka Khan's crackdown on March 25, 1971, resulted in thousands of Bengalis being killed and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's arrest. This triggered widespread revolt in East Pakistan, leading Bengali officers and troops to join resistance fighters against the Pakistani Army.

The atrocities perpetrated by the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, including massacres and indiscriminate violence against civilians, shocked the world. Survivors likened these events to the Holocaust. Simultaneously, the Pakistani administration attempted to pacify Bengali peasantry through land redistribution, which further exacerbated the refugee crisis. More than 8 million refugees, predominantly Hindus, fled to India, with West Bengal bearing the brunt of this massive influx.

Despite India's repeated appeals to the international community for intervention, the response was disappointingly lacking. By April 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi concluded that the only viable solution was to support Bengali freedom fighters, notably the Mukti Bahini, in liberating East Pakistan. This decision stemmed from the dire humanitarian crisis and the failure of diplomatic avenues to address the escalating conflict.

In response, India launched Operation Vijay, providing strategic and military support to the Mukti Bahini. This intervention eventually led to the liberation of East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh. The India-Pakistan war of 1971 culminated in Pakistan's defeat and the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, resulting in the establishment of Bangladesh as an independent nation.

In conclusion, the India-Pakistan war of 1971 was not merely a military conflict but a consequence of deep-rooted political, social, and ethnic grievances within Pakistan. The struggle for autonomy and representation in East Pakistan ultimately escalated into a humanitarian catastrophe, prompting India's intervention to support the aspirations of the Bengali people for self-determination and independence.
1971: The Birth of Bangladesh and the Indo-Pakistan War

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