Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation negates Chinese threat

Last updated: 5 October 2017 From the section 1971 Muktijuddho

On 9 August 1971 India received back-up support from the Soviet when they signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation for a period of 20 years. For the Indians it was a breath of fresh air in the existing tension-laden atmosphere. Now they had a firm friend to counter against the growing Sino-Pak-American diplomacy.

This treaty took care of the threat of Chinese intervention in the event of hostilities between India and Pakistan. China and the Soviet Union were involved in serious border clashes two years earlier in 1969. Thus the Chinese were worried that an attack on India could possibly result in pre-emptive strike on its northern border, where about 40 Russian divisions were poised for action. With a threat of this magnitude close to its borders, China had to think twice before embarking on an adventure on the Indo-Tibetan border, especially in view of the Indo-Soviet treaty. The treaty also ensured better procurement of much-needed weaponry and other equipment for the Indian armed forces.

We do not want war. We do not rattle sabres. But India is prepared for any emergency.


An emboldened Indira Gandhi told the nation on Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi. The warning was very clear.

In a televised interview aired throughout West Pakistan last week, General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan was almost preternaturally calm as he uttered the chilling words. "Total war with India is very near," said Pakistan's President. "There is a limit to our patience, and we are very close to it." Alarmist talk? Perhaps. Yet in the capitals of both countries, foreign diplomats rate the chances of averting a conflict at no better than 50-50.

TIME magazine on 16 August 1971

'Butcher of Bengal' Tikka Khan replaced as Governor and CMLA of East Pakistan

On 31 August 1971 Tikka Khan was replaced as Governor of East Pakistan by Dr. Abdul Motaleb Malik, a retired East Pakistani civil servant, thus giving the impression that civil authority had been restored. Two weeks later, on 16 September 1971, Tikka Khan was again replaced, this time as Chief Martial Law Administrator by General Niazi. Tikka Khan was recalled back to West Pakistan for another assignment.

It was believed that his [Tikka's] transfer was brought about by international pressures backed by adverse public opinion at his atrocities. The prevalent tension in East Pakistan could not be eased while he continued at the helm of affairs.

...The choice of Niazi to replace Tikka Khan was unfortunate for Pakistan. Whereas Tikka Khan had a dedicated application to national aims and political vision, Niazi was essentially a battalion commander in a general's uniform. He inherited a delicate task of great politico-military significance, coupled with fighting insurgency in his command, well away from the hub of the decision-making headquarters in Islamabad. The situation in East Pakistan was out of the usual run and too complex for a conventional soldier. The post Niazi held required a man capable of thinking for himself and taking momentous decisions in a crisis, and then executing them without guidance or supervision as his higher-ups were too far removed physically to be aware of developments. Niazi was not a man of that mettle.

Although he was liked by his subordinates, his manner of handling the situation showed that his vision did not extend beyond deployment of companies and platoons, an unfortunate trait of senior infantry officers in both India and Pakistan. He was unimaginative and relied too much on his subordinates to run things while he indulged in the world pleasures his status bestowed on him. As a result, he was never master of the situation throughout his tenure as Martial Law Administrator.