Friday May 24, 2024

December, 1971

By Dr Farrukh Saleem
December 12, 2021

Question 1: Did Pakistan and India fight a ‘war’ in 1971? Answer: War is an “intense armed conflict between two states.” Reality 1: Pakistan Army units in East Pakistan were not armed to fight a war. Reality 2: Pakistan Army units in East Pakistan were on ‘internal security duties’ to enforce the ‘law of the land’.

Question 2: What kind of weapons were Pakistani units carrying? Answer: Pakistan’s 16 Division had eight tanks. Pakistan’s 9 Division had two 105mm guns and four 120mm mortars. The Pakistan Navy in East Pakistan had no naval ships, only a few gunboats and a diesel-electric submarine. And, Pakistan Air Force in East Pakistan had a dozen F-86 Sabres, transonic jet fighters.

Question 3: What was the strength of Pakistani troops? Answer: As of March 1971, the total strength of Pakistani army troops in East Pakistan was 12,000. As of December 16, the total strength of Pakistani troops in East Pakistan was 34,000 of which only 23,000 were infantry.

Question 4: What was the strength of Indian troops? Answer: The total strength of Indian troops hovered between 150,000 and 400,000 plus 100,000 Indian-trained Mukti Bahni.

Question 5: How many Indian divisions were sent to invade? Answer: India’s 4 Infantry Division, 9 Infantry Division, 20 Mountain Division, 6 Mountain Division, 8 Mountain Division, 57 Mountain Division and 23 Division.

Question 6: What did the Indian Air Force deploy? Answer: The Indian Air Force deployed 1 Sukhoi Squadron, 3 Gnat Squadrons, 3 MiG-21 Squadrons and 4 Hunter Squadrons.

Question 7: What did the Indian Navy deploy? Answer: The Indian Navy deployed Aircraft Carrier Vikrant comprising 47 aircraft, 8 destroyers, 2 submarines and 3 landing ship tanks (INS Khukri, a Type 14 Blackwood-class, anti-submarine frigate, was torpedoed and sunk by a Pakistan Navy Hangor, Daphne-class, shaft horsepower submarine-the first warship sunk by a submarine since WWII).

Question 8: How many civilians were killed in East Pakistan? Answer: On June 6 in 1972, The Guardian ran a story titled ‘The Missing Millions’ which “asserted that field investigations by the Home Ministry of Bangladesh had turned up about 2,000 complaints of deaths at the hands of the Pakistan Army.” Of the 2,000 complaints filed at the ministry, a thousand had actually accused the Mukti Bahini.

In 2011, Sarmila Bose’s ‘Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War’ was published. Sarmila Bose is a “Bengali, from a nationalist family in India” and her book is the first of its kind based entirely on primary sources and direct interviews. In an article, Sarmila Bose has written: "Many 'facts' had been exaggerated, fabricated, distorted or concealed. Many people in responsible positions had repeated unsupported assertions without a thought; some people seemed to know that the nationalist mythologies were false and yet had done nothing to inform the public".

To be sure, the Pakistan-India dispute in 1971 was not an ‘armed conflict’ as only the Indian side was armed. What immediately followed Bangladesh’s birth was black, grey and white propaganda, disinformation campaigns, distortions, half-truths, blatant lies, white lies, trivial lies, serious lies, self betrayal and unadulterated partisan brainwashing.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: Twitter: @saleemfarrukh