The 13-day war that led to birth of a nation in 1971
First Published Dec 16, 2020, 12:30 PM IST
India is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the victory of its armed forces in the 1971 war against Pakistan.
Which saw the historic surrender of over 93000 Pakistani soldiers and the liberation of Bangladesh.
On December 16, 1971, Pakistan Army Commander Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi surrendered unconditionally to the allied forces consisting of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini in Dhaka. The day is observed as Bijoy Dibos in Bangladesh.
Niazi sealed India's decisive victory in the 1971 war when he signed the 'Instrument of Surrender' at 1631 IST.
During the 13-day war, which is considered as the shortest period of confrontation between the two countries, the Indian Air Force conducted over 500 sorties in a day.
The war erupted following a rebellion for the civil and political rights of the Bengali population in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) against the government in Islamabad in March 1971.
Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi endorsed East Pakistan's cause, but the Indian military got involved only on December 3.
That decision came after the Pakistan Air Force attempted to carry out pre-emptive strikes which led to massive retaliation by the IAF setting the stage for an all out war.
On December 6, Indian Army continued its advance in East Pakistan. The Army captured Durgabarkati and Madafarganj. By this time, intense fighting had erupted in all sectors.
On December 7, the Indian Army captured Jessore, Jhenida and Pirganj. Its troops heli-land in Sylhet and went on to capture Comilla Airfield, leaving the Pakistani defences in disarray.
On December 8, the Army advances towards Khulna, Magura and Daudkhandi. Troops of the 4/5 Gorkha Rifles continued to expand foothold in Sylhet with artillery. Pakistan troops in Maulvi Bazar came under attack by Indian troops.
On December 9, the Indian Army continued its advance to Khulna and Khushtia. It marched on to capture Maulvi Bazar, Chandpur, Laksham and Daudkhandi from the Pakistani forces.
On December 10, the Army captured Maheshpur and Jamalpur. Under pressure, the Pakistani forces vacated Mymensingh while the 59 Brigade advanced to Sylhet and Ashuganj, and also captured the Narsingdi ferry.
The Western Front Interdiction strikes behind enemy lines crippled Pakistani forces' movement and blunted their attacks.
The operations, mainly directed towards Ganganagar-Fazilka sector, saw attacks on a large number of trains carrying tanks and ammunition.
On December 11, the Indian Army captured Kushtia, Bhaduria and Fenchuganj. Messages for Pakistani Army to surrender were dropped in East Pakistan, triggering panic amongst enemy commanders.
On December 12, the Indian Army captured Hardinge Bridge, Khetlal and Madhupur. Narsingdi was built up as base for capture of Dacca. Adhoc forces also set sail from Calcutta (Kolkata) to Chittagong area.
The man who led Indian forces to victory in the 1971 war, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw had warned Pakistan: 'You surrender or We wipe you out'. The Field Marshal lived his words as the world saw unprecedented surrender just 3 days later.
IAF MiG-21s unleashed fury during the 1971 war. The bombing of the Governor's House at Dhaka by MiG-21s on December 14, made headlines and forced Pakistani officials in Dacca (Dhaka) to resign.
With the Indian Army closing in towards Dacca, a cornered Lt Gen Niazi requested ceasefire. The Indian Army announced that it was willing to accept ceasefire provided the Pakistan Army surrendered by 9:30 AM on December 16. What followed is now etched in golden words in the annals of Indian military history.