Thirty-eight years ago, the Pakistani army in East Pakistan surrendered to the Indian forces. What happened afterwards? How did we treat the Pakistani soldiers? Was it a victory in the true sense of the word? In his book "Indian Army after Independence' (Lancer publishers) Major KC Praval tries to answer some of those questions. . Excerpts:
The Indian Army had much to do in Bangladesh after the cessation of hostilities. Repatriation of refugees was the most important chore. Major General Sarkar, Aurora's principal staff officer for civil liaison, moved to Dacca to hasten the process.
Reception centres were set up in Bangladesh, to which the refugees were sent from their camps in India, and then rehabilitated. Within three months all the ten million refugees were back in their homes. Indian troops, particularly the engineers, worked hard to restore the country's communications. While the Corps of Signals assisted in the re-establishment of telecommunications and radio links, the engineers rebuilt or repaired broken bridges, jetties, airfields and roads. Minefields were cleared and unexploded bombs disposed of. Disarming of prisoners and their despatch to camps in India was another task that kept Indian troops busy for some time.
Images of 1971 Indo-Pak war | 1971 War: 'I will give you 30 minutes'
The Indian Government did not want its armed forces to stay in Bangladesh longer than absolutely necessary. 25 March 1972, the first anniversary of the declaration of independence of Bangladesh, was set as the deadline for the pull-out. Indian troops in fact came out some days earlier. A ceremonial parade was held at Dacca on 12 March to mark their departure. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had earlier been released by the Pakistan Government, took the salute at the march-past.
The result of the 12-day campaign in what had been East Pakistan was hailed as a great victory for Indian arms. There is no doubt that it was a great victory. However, what was remarkable about the campaign was not that it was won, for there could have been no doubt about the outcome, but that it was won so quickly. This was made possible by good planning and preparation. In the execution of the plan everyone rose to the occasion: the field commanders, the junior leaders and the men in the ranks. They all gave off their best. The Mukti Bahini's contribution was also considerable.
Triumph at New Delhi after the War. (From left to right) Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal, Admiral S.M. Nanda, General Sam Manekshaw join the Indian Defence Minister Jagjiwan Ram. Notice Defence Minister Jagjiwan Ram's closed fist, symbolically representing a knock-out punch against Pakistan. Picture courtesy Bharat Rakshak. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.