50th Bangladesh Liberation Day: When a Neighbour intervened to form a new Neighbour

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun his first foreign visit since the COVID-19 outbreak. And for this first visit, he has chosen Bangladesh. Prime Minister has arrived in Dhaka for the celebration of the 50th year of Independence of the country. Today i.e. on 26th March 2021, Bangladesh is celebrating its 50th Independence day. Prime Minister Modi was welcomed by his counterpart Sheikh Hasina at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. During this visit, both Prime ministers will hold substantive discussions with each other.

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina welcoming Indian PM Narendra Modi
Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina welcoming Indian PM Narendra Modi

India-Bangladesh Relations 

The visit of the Indian Prime Minister for the 50th Independence Day will be as remarkable as the first Independence Day declaration by then Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangladesh saw its liberation from Pakistan (then West Pakistan) with the help of the Indian Military actions in the Bangladesh Liberation War.

1971 Indo-Pakistan war had not only established a new nation on the world map but had also established a strong image of India and the Indian army in the world. Indian Army had finished the war in 13 days. Indian forces had also captured 93,000 POWs (Prisoners of War) which was the largest surrender since World War II. India helped Bangladesh in getting recognition from the UN and all other countries even from Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Since the liberation of Bangladesh, the relation between India and Bangladesh saw many ups and downs. Even today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had faced protest from almost 2,000 students in Dhaka. But these ups and downs never resulted in any violent actions among the nations. Overall, India and Bangladesh had maintained a peaceful relationship between them.

India got Bangladesh recognized as New Nation

This was not an easy task. Being victorious in the war was different but getting a newly formed nation United Nations is a different thing. India had supported the Bangladesh liberation war by all means. The last thing India did was escalating a full-fledged war on the behalf of Bangla Fighter group “Mukti Bahini”. Indian armed forces and RAW had helped in the organization of the army, provided training, and might have supplied ammunition to them.

This was the exact same thing that Pakistan was doing in Kashmir during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. But Pakistan had failed miserably as most of the locals were enough vocal to remain with India. Bangladesh applied to the UN for receiving recognition as a new nation which was vetoed by China, an ally of Pakistan. Notably, the USA was also reluctant to recognize Bangladesh to support their all-weather ally Pakistan. China was the last nation to recognize Bangladesh as a new nation.

Pakistan recognizing Bangladesh

East Pakistan General Niazi signing Instrument of Surrender in Dhaka, 16 December 1971
East Pakistan General Niazi signing Instrument of Surrender in Dhaka, 16 December 1971

On 16th December 1972, then Commander of East Pakistan Force Lt. General Niazi signed an Instrument of Surrender. This converted their defeat in the largest surrender of any armed forces since World War II.  The new country named Bangladesh was recognized by Pakistan in 1972 by signing Simla Agreement in exchange for 93,000 POWs. However, Simla Agreement was not only limited to recognition and return of POWs. This agreement was first to define the Line of Control (LOC). The point of the ceasefire after the war was called the Line of Control.

This treaty between the two nations was too lenient for Pakistan. India was in driving seat but our forces and leadership showed immense maturity that later turned out as a historical error. Many experts feel that India could have asked for more in exchange for those 93,000 POWs. At least, they can ask for something that could be able to remove the venom of Pakistan-sponsored terror from Kashmir.

What leads to Bangladesh Liberation War?

India faced partition in 1947 on the basis of religion. Pakistan announced them as a Muslim nation, thus forcing millions of Hindus-Muslims to leave their home only to live as refugees for years. The next two decades saw many people migrating from Pakistan to India and vice-versa. The people were trying to adjust in both nations. But this liberation war in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) once again created a refugee crisis in the Indian Subcontinent. Then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had asserted that it will be economical to afford a full-scale war with Pakistan rather than expecting refugees from East Pakistan.

The primary and visible reason for this Liberation War was General elections held in 1970 in both East and West Pakistan. East Pakistan’s Awami League had won a clear majority in elections. As per the constitutional right Awami League’s leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was supposed to take the oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan. But West Pakistan refused this constitutional right of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Awami League Leader and supporters staged protest both armed and unarmed in East Pakistan. This leads to civil war in East Pakistan killing and migration of millions of Bengalis and Non-Bengalis. On 26th March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur declared East Pakistan as an independent nation named Bangladesh followed by violent Operation Searchlight by West Pakistan on their citizen of East Pakistan.

Indian armed forces celebrating victory after Battle of Longewala, 1971
Indian armed forces celebrating victory after Battle of Longewala, 1971

It was clear and evident that India had supported the Awami League and Mukti Bahini in their Liberation War. The hostile relations between India and Pakistan were the reason for India’s interference in East Pakistan. It was the pre-emptive attack on Indian Air force bases by Pakistan drags the Indian forces to the front end of the liberation war. India ended the 8-month-old Bengali struggle for freedom in only 13 days leaving Pakistan fragmented in two parts.

The concept of “Peaceless” LOC after the 1971 war

After the 1971 war, the people of East Pakistan have got freedom and recognition as a new nation from Pakistan. This recognition was also brought by India through Simla Agreement. The Simla Agreement also defined the concept of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The point of the ceasefire was marked as LOC. It was defined to limit the forces at their places and de-escalates the further tension between India and Pakistan. However, LOC was never got that respect as both forces indulged in war even after the agreement.

Operation Meghdoot was launched by Indian forces capturing the strategically important glacier of Siachen. Pakistan violated LOC in 1999 leading to the fourth war (Kargil war) between two neighbors. Till today, LOC was not respected by our neighbor as continuous infiltration was reported through LOC for sponsoring terror activities in Jammu & Kashmir and rest of the India.

Bofors Gun in action in Kargil War
Bofors Gun in action in Kargil War

Indo-Pakistan Relations after 1971 Liberation war

It seems there is no end to these hostile relations among these two nations. It has been more than 73 years of Independence and Partition. But these nations are continuously engaged in skirmishes along the LOC. Moreover, Pakistan was evidently involved in terror activities in India. Pakistan-sponsored terror not only limited to armed forces but is also killed many innocent Indian civilians. However, there are many peacemaking efforts were made from India but only to be back-stabbed by Pakistan.

Indian PM Vajpayee on the way to Lahore with Delegation
Indian PM Vajpayee on the way to Lahore with Delegation

In February 1999, Indian Prime Minister Atal Vihari Vajpayee took a delegation to Pakistan in a Peacemaking effort. But Pakistan took no time to back-stabbed India as they had illegally captured many Indian forces position in Kargil and Drass Sector. This leads to a full-scale Kargil War between India and Pakistan. Despite that, Atal Vihari Vajpayee again initiated the peacemaking process with their Pakistani Counterpart, General Pervez Musharraf.

Atal Vihari Vajpayee famously quoted in Lok Sabha that, “You can change your friend but you cannot change your Neighbour”. This peacemaking trend was tried to maintain Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But all these efforts were put in vain, as Pakistan’s proxy war idea (through terror outfits) was continued to hurt these efforts.

India had even granted Most Favored Nation status to Pakistan in 1996 to maintain long-lasting peace with the neighbor. But Pulwama attack in 2019 had forced India to strip MFN status from Pakistan. Since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan had stopped all cross-border economical activities instead of terror activities.

Road Ahead of for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

Recently, the Indian PM had congratulated the Pakistani PM on their national day. On the part of Pakistan, their army chief General Bajwa was recently called for a peaceful resolution for Kashmir. But this seems to be an attempt to make a clean international image of Pakistan. But for very obvious reasons, these words will trigger an attempt for establishing India and Pakistan in near future. Peaceful relations between India and Pakistan will be helpful for South Asia in many terms.

As such, there is no major conflict between India and Bangladesh. There are some minor issues and sort of political misunderstanding that can be sorted easily. However, an economically combined India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh will have a greater impact on the world. They can learn from the European Union. There are millions of people living in poverty in these nations. A combined effort can enhance the living standard of those people. Leaders of these nations must sit together and sketch out a common program beneficial for each nation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): IASCurrent Affairs

Question: Which leader said “You can change your friend but you cannot change your neighbors?

Answer: The 10th Prime Minister of India Shri. Atal Vihari Vajpayee said in Loksabha summer session 2003 that You can change your friend but you cannot change your neighbors.

Question: Which country is celebrating its 50th Liberation day celebration in 2021?

Answer: Bangladesh is celebrating its 50th Liberation day on 26th March 2021. Indian Prime Minister visited Dhaka in his 2-day visit for their celebration.

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