India's secret war in Bangladesh

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By Praveen Swami

The Hindu

As a grand finale to the victorious role played in the liberation of Bangladesh and to make their final withdrawal, the Indian Army held a farewell parade at the Dacca Stadium on March 12, 1972 where the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, took the salute. Photo shows Sheikh Mujibur Rehman reviewing the parade. Photo: The Hindu Archives
As a grand finale to the victorious role played in the liberation of Bangladesh and to make their final withdrawal, the Indian Army held a farewell parade at the Dacca Stadium on March 12, 1972 where the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, took the salute. Photo shows Sheikh Mujibur Rehman reviewing the parade. Photo: The Hindu Archives
Even as the role of the Indian military in giving birth to the new nation is celebrated, the role of its intelligence services remains largely unknown.

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”

Bangladesh war: The article that changed history


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By Mark Dummett BBC News

On 13 June 1971, an article in the UK’s Sunday Times exposed the brutality of Pakistan’s suppression of the Bangladeshi uprising. It forced the reporter’s family into hiding and changed history.

Abdul Bari had run out of luck. Like thousands of other people in East Bengal, he had made the mistake – the fatal mistake – of running within sight of a Pakistani patrol. He was 24 years old, a slight man surrounded by soldiers. He was trembling because he was about to be shot.
So starts one of the most influential pieces of South Asian journalism of the past half century.
Written by Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani reporter, and printed in the UK’s Sunday Times, it exposed for the first time the scale of the Pakistan army’s brutal campaign to suppress its breakaway eastern province in 1971.
Nobody knows exactly how many people were killed, but certainly a huge number of people lost their lives. Independent researchers think that between 300,000 and 500,000 died. The Bangladesh government puts the figure at three million. Continue reading “Bangladesh war: The article that changed history”