India celebrates 50th anniversary of Vijay Diwas to observe India’s victory over Pakistan in War of 1971

The 1971 Indo-Pak War which led to the formation of Bangladesh was one of the pivotal moments in the history. It also entrenched the prowess of Indian Armed Forces including the Army, Air Force and Navy. The culmination of the war also resulted in the unilateral and unconditional surrender of the Pakistan Army and subsequent breakaway of East Pakistan into Bangladesh. On December 3, 1971, the war started at a time when the struggle for freedom was ongoing in East Pakistan. With the unconditional surrender of the Pakistan Army the war ended after thirteen days on December 16.

East Pakistan was liberated and the creation of the new state of Bangladesh occurred. And since then, 16 December is celebrated as Vijay Diwas in India.

In Bangladesh this day is also observed as ‘Bijoy Dibos’ or Bangladesh Liberation Day as it marks formal independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan.

Here are some significant facts you should know about the 1971 Indo-Pak War:

The Liberation War of Bangladesh following Islamabad Government’s mistreatment of the people and undermining the election results in East Pakistan ignited the conflict. On 26 March 1971, East Pakistan officially raised the call for secession. On the very next day, India’s then Prime Minister expressed full support for their independence struggle.

The media had reported widespread genocide at the hands of the Pakistani military against Bengalis, and mainly Hindus, which compelled about 10 million people to migrate to neighbouring India. India readily opened its borders for the Bengali refugees.

The Indo-Pak war actually started on 3rd December 1971, after pre-emptive aerial strikes by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) across airfields in north-western India, including Agra as part of its Operation Chengiz Khan. The Taj Mahal which dazzled with its beauty was camouflaged using twigs and leaves to hide it from the enemy aircraft.

In response, about 4000 sorties were flown by the Indian Air Force in the western front and close to about two thousand sorties in the east. PAF could offer very little in retaliation with around 2800 and 30 sorties on the two fronts. Till the end of the war Indian Air Force continued to strike forward air bases in Pakistan.

The Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command successfully conducted a surprise attack on Karachi port under the codename Trident on the night of December 4-5. Since then India celebrates the Indian Navy Day every year on 4th December, to commemorate the Operation Trident of the Indian Navy conducted successfully on the 4th Dec 1971, against Pakistani naval base in Karachi.

Pakistan had also deployed its troops along the western front. The Indian Army retaliated and captured several thousand kilometers of Pakistani territory.

Pakistan suffered the maximum casualty with the death of 8000 and 25,000 injured, while India lost 3000 soldiers and 12,000 were injured.

To fight against Pakistani troops in the east the Mukti Bahini guerrillas in East Pakistan united their efforts with the Indian forces. They received arms ammunitions and training from the Indian Army.

The Soviet Union also sided with India and the East Pakistanis in their liberation movement. On the other hand, under the presidency of Richard Nixon the United States, supported Pakistan financially and materialistically. The US even deployed an aircraft in the Bay of Bengal as a show of support towards the culmination of the war.

‘You surrender or we wipe you out’ was the message given by India’s best known army general Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw to Pakistan on 13th December 1971.

On 15 Dec, forty sorties of MiGs and Hunters were flown by the IAF to target enemy troops occupying the Dacca University campus on the eastern front.

At the end of the war on 16 December 1971, the Chief of the Pakistani Forces, General Niazi along with 93,000 of his soldiers surrendered to Indian Armed Forces and the Mukti Bahini led by General Jagjit Singh Aurora. As part of the Shimla Agreement of 1972 they were returned.

More than half of Pakistan’s population was stripped of, as East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh was more populous than West Pakistan. One-third of Pakistan’s army was captured. India’s military dominance was vindicated, But India maintained a placid reaction to the victory.