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Vijay Diwas: A Recap of the 1971 Indo-Pak War


Vijay Diwas or Victory Day is commemorated on December 16, marking the end of the 1971 Indo-Pak War and the liberation of Bangladesh. India declared victory on this day 51 years ago after Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender.


GS II: India and its Neighbourhood

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Vijay Diwas: What led to the 1971 Indo-Pak War?
  2. India’s role in the 1971 War
  3. A decisive victory

Vijay Diwas: What led to the 1971 Indo-Pak War?

  • After the partition of India following the end of British rule in 1947, two independent countries were formed – India and Pakistan.
  • The latter consisted of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan).
  • The two Pakistans had their share of problems since the beginning because of a number of reasons – the most glaring one being the geographical disconnect between them.
  • East Pakistan was often overlooked in terms of administration as the top posts were held by those in the West.
  • There was also an issue of cultural conflict.
    • For instance, when Urdu, used in West Pakistan, was made the official language of the country, it was seen as an imposition on the culture of the people in the East.
Awami League
  • In the mid-1960s, leaders such as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is also known as the founder of Bangladesh (and the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina), actively began protesting against these policies and helped form the Awami League.
  • Soon, their demand became one for freedom and greater autonomy.
  • The League ended up winning a stunning 160 of the 162 seats in East Pakistan in the 1970 elections – and won no seats in the West.
  • However, instead of recognising the mandate, on March 25, 1971, the Pakistani military began a brutal crackdown that saw the mass slaughter of Bengalis.
  • March 26 is now marked as Bangladesh’s independence day. 

India’s role in the 1971 War

  • India had declared support for the League previously.
  • Without direct intervention, this was visible: on May 15, it launched Operation Jackpot, an operation to recruit, train, arm, equip, supply and advise Mukti Bahini fighters engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Pakistan military.
  • But when the Pakistan Air Force launched pre-emptive strikes towards Western India (including Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipura, Ambala, Sirsa and Agra) on December 3, 1971, India formally declared war on December 4.
  • On 3rd December 1971, India decided to go on a war with Pakistan to save Bengali Muslims and Hindus in East Pakistan.

A decisive victory

  • The war, which was short and intense, was fought on both the Eastern and Western fronts over 13 days.
  • The notable battles which were fought in the area of responsibility of the Southern Army included the famous battles of Longewala and Parbat Ali where Pakistan’s armoured forces were destroyed by resolute Indian troops.
  • The raid on the Pakistani town of Chachro carried out by soldiers of the renowned 10 Para Commando Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel (Later Brigadier) Bhawani Singh, the erstwhile ruler of Jodhpur state was another famous military action.
  • An important figure in this war was India’s Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, who is often evoked in relation to it. His planning and strategy helped secure one of the quickest victories in recent military history.
  • On December 6, India formally recognised Bangladesh as an independent nation.
  • Two days later, the Indian Navy launched an attack on Karachi.
  • From December 12 to 16, Indian forces pushed through to Dhaka and entered the city, ending the war with a total victory.
  • Pakistan Eastern Command Commander Lt Gen AAK Niazi signed the instrument of surrender and capitulates to Indian Eastern Commander Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora.

-Source: Indian Express

March 2024