By Praveen Swami
Forty-five minutes before 12.00 pm on December 14, 1971, Indian Air Force pilots at Hashimpara and Gauhati received instructions to attack an unusual target: a sprawling colonial-era building in the middle of Dacca that had no apparent military value whatsoever.
There were nothing but tourist maps available to guide the pilots to their target ? but the results were still lethal. The first wave of combat jets, four MiG21 jets armed with rockets, destroyed a conference hall; two more MiGs and two Hunter bombers levelled a third of the main building.
Inside the building ? the Government House ? East Pakistan’s Cabinet had begun an emergency meeting to discuss the political measures to avoid the looming surrender of their army at Dacca 55 minutes before the bombs hit. It turned out to be the last-ever meeting of the Cabinet. A.M. Malik, head of the East Pakistan government, survived the bombing along with his Cabinet ? but resigned on the spot, among the burning ruins; the nervous system, as it were, of decision-making had been destroyed.
For years now, military historians have wondered precisely how the Government House was targeted with such precision; rumours that a spy was present have proliferated. From the still-classified official history of the 1971 war, we now know the answer. Indian cryptanalysts, or code-breakers, had succeeded in breaking Pakistan’s military cipher ? giving the country’s intelligence services real-time information on the enemy’s strategic decision-making.
India’s Army, Navy and Air Force were lauded, during the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence, for their role in ending a genocide and giving birth to a new nation. The enormous strategic contribution of India’s intelligence services, however, has gone largely unacknowledged.
Seven months before the December 3 Pakistan Air Force raid that marked the beginning of the war, India’s Chief of Army Staff issued a secret order to the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command, initiating the campaign that would end with the dismemberment of Pakistan.
Operation Instruction 52 formally committed the Indian forces to ?assist the Provisional Government of Bangladesh to rally the people of East Bengal in support of the liberation movement,? and ?to raise, equip and train East Bengal cadres for guerrilla operations for employment in their own native land.?
The Eastern Command was to ensure that the guerrilla forces were to work towards ?tying down the Pak [Pakistan] Military forces in protective tasks in East Bengal,? ?sap and corrode the morale of the Pak forces in the Eastern theatre and simultaneously to impair their logistic capability for undertaking any offensive against Assam and West Bengal,? and, finally, be used along with the regular Indian troops ?in the event of Pakistan initiating hostilities against us.? Continue reading “India's secret war in Bangladesh”