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Updated December 16th, 2023 at 18:41 IST

India celebrates 52nd Vijay Diwas marking historic surrender of 93,000 Pakistani troops

India observes Vijay Diwas, commemorating the 1971 victory that led to the liberation of East Pakistan, birth of Bangladesh, and the surrender of over 90,000 Pa

Yuvraj Tyagi
Bangladesh Liberation
Pakistan's Lt Gen AAK Niazi of signed the ‘Instrument of Surrender’ at Dacca in 1971. | Image:ADGPI
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Today, India commemorates Vijay Diwas, a day that symbolizes the triumph of the Indian armed forces in the 1971 war, leading to the liberation of East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh. This historic event marked the surrender of over 90,000 Pakistani troops in East Pakistan, bringing an end to a two-week-long conflict that reshaped the geopolitical landscape of the region. 

India's strategic moves played a crucial role in the swift downfall of the Pakistani regime in Dhaka. The declaration of a no-fly zone for Pakistani aircraft isolated East Pakistan from its western counterpart. The Indian Navy enforced a naval blockade in the west, disrupting crucial supply routes and preventing reinforcements from reaching the conflict zone. 

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Quick air superiority and a multipronged assault 

Within three days of the war's commencement, the Indian Air Force achieved air superiority in East Pakistan. This air dominance facilitated the rapid advancement of the Indian Army deep into Bangladesh. Simultaneously, INS Vikrant, India's aircraft carrier, and naval aviators blocked escape routes and Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) to the east, ensuring the isolation of Pakistani forces. 

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The Indian Army's 4, 33, and 2 Corps executed a coordinated three-pronged approach, capturing key cities like Sylhet, Chittagong, Tangail, Khulna, and Jessore. This strategic movement left no escape route for Pakistani troops, leading to the encirclement of Dhaka. 

Psychological warfare and strategic deception 

Psychological tactics played a significant role in creating confusion and panic among Pakistani forces. Before the war, the false impression that India would target territories along the West Bengal border led Pakistan to fortify "fortress cities" around Dhaka. Each fall of a city brought Dhaka closer, and air dropping in Tangail, falsely reported as a paradrop of 5,000 troops, served as a psychological blow.

Army chief General Sam Manekshaw's broadcasted messages added to the psychological pressure on Pakistani troops. After the fall of Jessore on December 8, he assured Pakistani troops of dignified treatment as per the Geneva Convention upon surrender. A subsequent message on December 10 emphasized the futility of resistance, undermining false hopes created by Pakistani commanders. 

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Pakistan's hopes for external support from the US and China were dashed during the conflict. The USSR's backing prompted Pakistan to seek assistance from the US, but the Indo-Soviet treaty prevented direct American intervention. China, grappling with the aftermath of the 'Cultural Revolution,' refrained from significant involvement, considering the challenges of mobilizing troops in winter conditions for a deep penetration mission. 

President Richard Nixon's deployment of the 7th Fleet to support Pakistan faced resistance from the USSR, leading to a tense standoff between the two superpowers. The Indo-Soviet treaty acted as a deterrent, averting a direct confrontation and leaving Pakistan in isolation in the east. 

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The Inevitable surrender 

As India's joint air and naval operations disrupted supply lines, the rapid advance of Indian forces left Pakistani troops in East Pakistan with limited options. In the Western theatre, Pakistani troops displayed strong resistance, but in the east, the fall of Dhaka became inevitable. 

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On December 13, Gen Niazi sent a distress signal, but the response from Rawalpindi was to continue fighting and hold as much territory as possible. The demoralizing effect of an Indian Air Force strike on the Governor House in Dhaka on December 14 prompted the East Pakistan government's immediate resignation. Faced with overwhelming odds and dwindling morale, Gen Niazi chose peace over prolonged fighting. 

The international community, witnessing India's decisive actions and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh, acknowledged the justness of India's cause. The United Nations and various nations recognized Bangladesh as an independent state, solidifying the global acceptance of the new geopolitical reality. 

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The events of 1971 not only secured the liberation of East Pakistan but also redefined the regional power dynamics. As India reflects on this historic victory, it commemorates the sacrifices made and the decisive actions that shaped the destiny of a nation. 

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Published December 16th, 2023 at 18:39 IST

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