“DURGA ASTRIDE A TIGER”. This is how Atal Behari Vajpayee described Indira Gandhi immediately after India’s lightening victory in the 1971 war, which resulted in creation of Bangladesh. Ironically and now in retrospect, correctly, he led a protest march against Shimla Agreement in 1972. In the best tradition of the Indian State, whatever was won militarily has been thrown away at the negotiating table time after time.
Although creation of Bangladesh was hailed as a defining moment in the history of the sub continent at that time, it is turning out to be a strategic nightmare now. Bangladesh would have been created, perhaps of its own steam, sooner or later. But by our intervention we have created a problem for us with serious strategic disadvantages.
By creating Bangladesh, we have made an implacable enemy of Pakistan for whom Balkanisation of India by whatever means has become an article of faith.
With Bangladesh as its Eastern Wing, Pakistan was always unbalanced. With its severance, Pakistan is now a viable and cohesive entity with its Armed Forces much more capable of not only defending her territory but carrying the war into India as per its doctrine of ‘Offensive Defence’.
By creating Bangladesh, we have made an implacable enemy of Pakistan for whom Balkanisation of India by whatever means has become an article of faith. Even if Kashmir problem is resolved to Pakistan’s satisfaction, its hostility towards India is not going to come to an end. It will find some other means to continue its strategic aim – break up of India. This fact is not understood by many peaceniks and those who believe that people to people contact and mouthing of platitudes will resolve all problems between India and Pakistan.
Bangladesh in the meantime has reached the other extreme. Not only its history has been falsified to eliminate Indian Army’s role in the creation of Bangladesh, it is firmly in the Pakistani camp – lock, stock and barrel. It is indeed tragic. West Pakistan always treated East Pakistan with contempt. It was a strange case of creation of a nation with its two wings thousands of miles apart held together only by a tenuous link of religion. Bangladesh has conveniently forgotten how inhumanly its citizens were treated by West Pakistanis when it was a part of Pakistan. To put things in correct perspective. It may be relevant to quote a passage from C-in-C Bangladesh, General MAG Osmany’s letter to Lt Gen Gul Hassan Khan, C-in-C Pakistan Army in 1972 after the creation of Bangladesh.
Even when we wish to erect fence within our territory to check illegal infiltration, Bangladesh takes an offence to it and the worst part is we pause to ponder over their protests. And now they have the temerity to try to stop construction of border fence by firing.
“The seventy five million people of Bangladesh were subjected to the most inhuman form of genocide, rape, repression and arson by Pakistani Armed Forces who exhibited not the slightest hesitation in killing their Bengali brother officers and men, unarmed and in cold blood – all aimed at denial of human rights guaranteed by United Nations Charter. Indeed history does not have a single instance of inhuman acts which can equal the bestial treatment meted out to our people between night 25/26 March 1971 to the day before surrender. History’s most ignominous defeat in which some 93,000 professional and very well equipped soldiers led by their officers including a substantial number of General Officers bowed to lay down their arms and were stripped of their badges of ranks is therefore the justice meted by God such as he has always done and promised to do”. Forgetting all the above, Bangladesh is now cozying up to Pakistan compromising even its self respect in the process.
Bangladesh is becoming a safe heaven for all militant groups of North East but it consistently denies existence of militant camps even when presented with irrefutable evidence. Pakistan ISI is also having a field day in Bangladesh carrying out anti India activities in collusion with the militant groups based there. Infiltration from Bangladesh has become alarming with all North Eastern States swamped by Bangladeshis. In future Bangladesh may well claim North East to be an integral part of Bangladesh. A few years ago, when the author was undergoing National Defence College course in Delhi, he discussed this issue with the Bangladesh officer, his colleague on the course. The Bangladesh officer told the author that actually India is mistaken. It is Indians who are infiltrating into Bangladesh in large numbers due to stark poverty in India and are creating law and order problem there. Never before such pearls of wisdom were heard.
Bangladesh has created formidable armed forces, far in excess to its needs, which could well collude with Chinese, should a war with that nation come about in the future.
Day in and day out, Bangladesh accuses us of diverting Ganga water into Hoogly to save the Calcutta port thereby causing unprecedented drought in that water logged country.
Instead of we treating Bangladesh Rifles as the rag tag force they are, they are treating our Border Security Force with contempt. Every day there is firing on the borders and abduction of personnel who are then killed in the most inhuman fashion. Even when we wish to erect fence within our territory to check illegal infiltration, Bangladesh takes an offence to it and the worst part is we pause to ponder over their protests. And now they have the temerity to try to stop construction of border fence by firing. And the mighty Indian state with visions of becoming a world power only watches as a disinterested bystander.
Day in and day out, Bangladesh accuses us of diverting Ganga water into Hoogly to save the Calcutta port thereby causing unprecedented drought in that water logged country. The logic should beat anyone but the result is that we have not been able to harness waters of any of the river of North East including the mighty Brahmaputra for irrigation or electricity generation. This is even when a river water sharing treaty was signed with Bangladesh in 1975 when Sheikh Mujib was still alive and subsequent unilateral concessions were given by the Gujral govt to Bangladesh.
Hindu minority in Bangladesh receives the worst treatment, even worse than in Pakistan. No Govt in India has had the inclination, or courage to take it up with the Bangladesh govt. The Indian state is treated more or less like a banana republic by its neighbours. They fear China but have only contempt for us.
Why have things gone wrong? Political handling of the aftermath of 1971 was strangely naïve to say the least. This has been so both with Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. While with Pakistan we missed the golden opportunity to sort out the Kashmir problem, with Banglaesh we were much too generous without an iota of reciprocity. A few legitimate concessions should have been obtained from Bangladesh. First and foremost should have been the treaty of trade and transit across Bangladesh from North Eastern States. The time to cover the distance from Agartala to Kolkata would have been reduced to six hours instead of four days it takes at present. Incidentally such an arrangement existed between India and Pakistan till 1965 war when it was arbitrarily withdrawn by Pakistan. We should have also sorted out the problem of ‘Chits’ or the enclaves of both countries in each other’s territory. These have become an unending headache. Perhaps Siliguri corridor should have been widened with concession elsewhere. Ironclad guarantees should have been obtained with regard to utilization of river waters. This has become an intractable problem now. Bangladesh should also have been asked to give guarantee that its soil will not be used for anti India activity. It was possible at that time since Sheikh Mujib was still in power and Bangladesh was grateful for Indian help not only for creation of their nation but bearing the burden of ten million refugees for eight long months.
We have learnt nothing from the past. In 1972, Indira Gandhi thought that by making concessions to Bhutto, she will earn his goodwill. What we got instead is a nuclear Pakistan.
What is the way ahead? We need to introspect. Why is it that despite our size, population, economic strength and armed might, our smaller neighbours do not fear us as they do the Chinese. A case in point is the recent case of sabotage of SAARC Summit in Dacca by Nepal. At the instigation of China or perhaps in order to spite India for its stance on restoration of democracy in Nepal, the King insisted on inclusion of China as an observer. The King knew very well that SAARC Charter does not have such a provision. Yet he linked this issue with admission of Afghanistan as a member of SAARC. Thus what we thought was a open and shut case turned out to be a fiasco. Even Bhutan with whom we have a treaty, is conducting negotiations with China on boundary issue keeping us in dark and may well spring a surprise on us to our strategic disadvantage. The case of Bangladesh, specially is sad indeed. It is one of cutting your nose to spite your face. Our foreign policy mandarins may do well to look into their backyard instead of chasing mirages like a seat in the UN Security Council.
Every election time, Bangladesh goes through convulsions. Same is the case now. The two Beghums have reduced the whole election process to a farce. In no democratic country, executive powers are handed over to someone else to conduct elections. Hopefully better sense will prevail and election process, however farcial, will be gone through. We also need to seriously reexamine our policy of investing in individuals rather than institutions. We have learnt nothing from the past. In 1972, Indira Gandhi thought that by making concessions to Bhutto, she will earn his goodwill. What we got instead is a nuclear Pakistan. Similarly in Bangladesh, we put all our eggs earlier in Sheikh Mujib’s basket. With his assassination, we lost all our bargaining power. Thereafter it was Sheikh Hasina’s turn. The result is that whenever Beghum Khalida Zia comes to power, anti Indian forces gain upper hand. Unfortunately in our country foreign policy has been made an exclusive preserve of the ruling party. What we need is greater transparency and greater debate – both within the Parliament as also out side in the media and think tanks. But perhaps it may be too much to expect.
By creating Bangladesh, we have made an implacable enemy of Pakistan ……thats what you think .you think with east pakistan relations would have been better….or you would have been further encircled and china would have been sitiing right thre
BEFORE THE 1971 WAR PAKISTAN ARMY HAD A LITTLE MORE THAN 4DIVISIONS AND TWO SQNS WORTH OF AIRCRAFT . TODAY BANGLADESH ARMY IS A FORMIDABLE 14 DIVISIONS WORTH AND MORE THAN 5 COMBAT WORTHY MIG 29 AND CHINESE SQUADRNS . THE BANGLADESH ARMED FORCES OFFICERS ARE OPENLY HOSTILE TOWARDS INDIAN OFFICERS AS I WAS WITNESS AS A FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER INSTRUCTER IN COCHIN IN 1987 -88. WHILST A MIXED CLASS OF 13 NATIONALITIES THE BANGLADESHIS TOGETHER WITH THE SRILANKANS OPENLY MISBEHAVED WITH INSTRUCTERS IN CLASS AND INDIAN OFFICERS AND JCOS EQVUALENTS HESITATED TO TAKE CLASSES FOR THEM .I GAVE IT BACK TO THE SCOUNDRALS BUT THE SYSTEM INSTEAD OF HOLDING MY HAND LATER ON
GOT ME INTO TROUBLE . IT IS ONLY AFTER 9/11 THAT THE BANGLADESHIS HAVE DISASOCIATED FROM PAKISTAN. LIBERATING BANGLADESH IN RETRO WAS A BLUNDER BECAUSE OTHERWISE THEIR WOULD HAVE BEEN NO INFILTERATION AND TROUBLE IN ASSAM . ALSO THE PAKISTANI SUPPLY LINES WERE STRETCHED AND INDIA HAD THE ADVANTAGE OF CUTTING THEM AT ANY TIME AND PLACE OF ITS OWN CHOOSING . THE COUNTRY DID NOT HAVE A STRATEGIC REVIEW OF DISEMBERIING PAKISTAN ,BECAUSE THE ONLY ADVISERS TO LATE PMINDIRA GHANDHI WERE THE KASHMIRI HASKSARS KAOW SAND GEN MANEKSHAW . INDIA CONTINUES TO PAY THE PRICE EVEN TODAY AS WAS APTLY DESCRIBED BY A PAK POW TAKEN PRISONER IN BANGLADESH THAT WHILST THE INDIANS TODAY HAVE LIBERATED AND MADE THE BANGLADESHES FREE THEY WILL SPIT VENOM ON INDIA AND F**** INDIA THE WAY PAKIS HAVE BEEN f***. HOW TRUE THE WORDS HAVE COME .
All wisdom comes in retrospect. If we can think just beyond our nose. I think we have done well. Thinking four or five decades;;;; God Bless.
Lets not forget that Pakistan (both east and west) was created on the basis of two nation theory and partition was a bloodied exercise. By dividing Pakistan, India was only changing the “geography” and not “Sociology”. So instead of having one enemy on two sides, it became two hostile societies on two sides but it indeed dented the pride and self esteem of Pakistan. Assuming that if 1971 had not happenned, Pakistan would be different, is absolutely wrong. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh are trying hard to prove themselves as failed states and India could do little about it. Pakistan as such is an artificial nation and hence it needs something to unite its people. India perfectly serves as a permanent enemy to Pakis being a hindu majority nation, so lets not regret creating Bangladesh.
Islamist forces in Bangladesh that created Pakistan will remain hostile to india in the same way as Pakistan. All this is fine but look at the very disproportionate army being raised by Bangladesh and for what… whats the threat perception? it borders only India and a small patch with Myanmar. It has 4 lakh armed personnel and 23 lakhs reserve army. Its buying submarines and other weapons that is not needed by an army that does not foresee a war and most supplies are from china at throw away prices. Compare the army size with Pakistan thats has less than 12 lakhs soldiers including the reserve while Bangladesh has 27 lakhs.
Most likely, its part of chinese strategy to encircle India. China would not like to get into war with India and hence it will use Bangladesh as proxy to keep india busy. All of India’s neighbours have given her sleepless nights much in the same way as the USA from tiny latin american nations. I would not call this India’s failure of policy or diplomacy with her neighbours but hope she has a strategy for this. Our neighbours are sovereign and are free to pursue their own foreign policies.But they shd be conscious of India’s interests and consequences, if ignored.
Unlike Indian or Pakistani military, Bangladeshi army actually is a big foreign exchange earner for that country through UN Peacekeeping operations. It’s very much like our “BPO and IT” sector. This is the reason why Bangladesh happens to be the largest supplier of troops to UN missions.
I also disagree with the author that creation of Bangladesh was a folly. United Pakistan’s GDP during 1960s was higher than that of SOuth Korea. Something which is incomprehensible today. Majority of Pakistan’s earnings from exports used to come from East Pakistan. Which enabled them to maintain military parity with India. In fact their airforce was much better than that of India’s during 1960s.
After 1971, Pakistan has steadily gone downhill. A prosperous united Pakistan would’ve been a nightmare for India. The entire north east would today be another Kashmir with militant groups getting refuge in Bangladesh. A militarily weak divided Pakistan has been a big blessing as there has been no wars for the last more than 40 years after the breakup of Pakistan.