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India become the first country to recognise 'Bangladesh' - followed by Bhutan

On 6 December 1971, India took the bold and decisive step of recognising Bangladesh as an independent nation. PM Indira Gandhi told Lok Sabha (Lower House, India's Parliament) that the Government of India, "after most careful consideration", had decided gladly to grant recognition to the new country which the Mujibnagar Shorkar has proclaimed as the 'Gana Prajatantri Bangladesh' (People's Republic of Bangladesh).

I am glad to inform the House that in the light of the existing situation and in response to the repeated requests of the Government of Bangladesh, the Government of India have after the most careful consideration, decided to grant recognition to the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

I'm confident that in future the government and the people of India and Bangladesh, who share common ideals and sacrifices, will forge a relationship based on the principles of mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit. Thus working together for freedom and democracy we shall set an example of good neighbourliness which alone can ensure peace, stability and progress in this region. Our good wishes to Bangladesh.

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The Prime Minister's declaration met with raptuous applause from the House where Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury, Chief of the Bangladesh Mission in New Delhi, thanked her and India for their generosity and support.

Indira Gandhi was pragmatic, determined and courageous. She stood up to Nixon [US President Richard Nixon] and the pressures from the United Nations.

To counter American and Chinese support for Pakistan, she had DP Dhar [PM's adviser for Bangladesh] to negotiate a treaty of friendship with the Soviets, thus giving us freedom of action. She led the nation to its greatest military victory, restoring our prestige and raising India's status to that of a regional superpower. The liberation of Bangladesh was Indira Gandhi's finest hour.

General Jacob, who drafted the historic "Instrument of Surrender", praises Indira Gandhi

Following India's recognition, the next day the government of Bhutan became the second country to extend recognition to Bangladesh. Bhutan had been admitted to the membership of the United Nations earlier and, therefore, her recognising Bangladesh made the new country a member of the World community.

Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad thanked India and Bhutan for their recognition whilst reminiscing about Sheikh Mujib's contribution. Going forward, he appealed for law and order to prevail and requested cooperation from both the Bengalis and the Pakistani occupation forces.

The peril from the common enemy has brought the people of Bangladesh and India closer than ever. Our forces are now fighting shoulder to shoulder with Indian forces, and their blood is mingling with ours on our soil. This seals the bond between two peoples who are destined for friendship... This indeed a fine hour for both Bangladesh and India. This is but natural that India, the largest democracy in the world, should be the first to welcome us to the committee of independent nations...The Bengali nation owes an infinite debt of gratitude to Sreemati Gandhi's sagacity and statemanship. Following India, Bhutan has given us recognition, and we are also grateful to the King and people of that country.

The joy of the people of Bangladesh is, however, darkened by a cruel irony, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the Bengali nation, is in the prison of the enemy at this hour, when Bangladesh, his dream, has come true on the international plane.

...I call upon all enemy troops and razakars to lay down their arms and surrender. They can yet save themselves by heeding this call. I also call upon all citizen of Bangladesh to avoid the temptation to take the law into their own hands. We must remember that it is the prerogative of the state to punish offenders according to the due process of law. If a single citizen of Bangladesh is harmed or hurt because of his language or race it will be a betrayal of the ideals of the founder of the nation and the flag of free Bangladesh.

PM Tajuddin Ahmad addresses India’s formal recognition of Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign nation, broadcasted on 8 December 1971

Mutual understanding between Bangladesh and India

Four days after India's recognition, on 10 December 1971, both India and Bangladesh had reached an understanding whereby India would offer assistance to Bangladesh for reconstruction and restoration of normalcy after liberation. In response, Bangladesh had promised to repatriate the refugees as quickly as possible and restore to them their lands and properties. The civil administration was to be strengthened with the help of the Indian civilian officers. The economic burden and the social and political tensions created by the refugees were to be common concern of both Bangladesh and India.

India's recognition had angered the Pakistanis who claimed that the recognition of "so-called Bangladesh" had "exposed" India's hatred towards Pakistan and its desire to destroy Pakistan. Pakistan broke off diplomatic relations with India, five hours after the Indian decision. This was the first time since the birth of the twin countries that either country had taken such a step. Pakistan also claimed that the action was contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Bandung Principles.

This is the first time that either country had taken such an extreme step in 25 years since their emergence into freedom. Not even during the last war in 1965, when troops from both sides pitted against each other in a bloody battle, did severance of ties take place.

Bharat Rakshak website

The Government of Pakistan requested Switzerland to look after its interests in India and thus withdrew its diplomatic staff from New Delhi.

Bangladesh was now a reality. The flag of the People's Republic of Bangladesh was hoisted with the ceremony at the Bangladesh Mission premises in New Delhi on 9 December 1971, in the presence of a large gathering. With this the theory of two nations in the subcontinent based on religion came to an ignominious and costly end.

Anti-Basha Andolan Bengali appointed Prime Minister

On the same day that India officially recognised Bangladesh, President Yahya Khan installed a civilian setup at the Centre on the request of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Nurul Amin - the controversial Chief Minister during Basha Andolan, who was also anti-Mujibur Rahman - was made the Prime Minister on 6 December 1971, whilst Bhutto became the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Bhutto was apparently integrated into the government so that 'he would be easier to control'.

Before his departure for the United Nations, Bhutto informed the US embassy in Pakistan that he expected to be installed in office after his return.

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Nurul Amin's premiership would only last 13 days as on 20 December 1971 Bhutto would take over as the civilian Chief Marshall Law Administrator (CMLA) and President. However, two days later Nurul Amin was appointed as Vice President of Pakistan, the first and only person to have held this post. He continued to hold this post until the lifting of Martial Law on 21 April 1972.

General Aurora: Local Bengali's help during Battle of Ashuganj was the "turning point" of the war

The Battle of Ashuganj on 9 December 1971 resulted in a Mitro Bahini victory after a serious fighting in which both sides suffered heavy losses. With Ashuganj captured, now Dhaka was only 80 km away. However, the worst thing happened.

In a desperate effort to stem the flow of the Mitro Bahini, the Pakistanis blew up the Ashuganj railway bridge over the Meghna nodi (river) and retreated on the other side. This was the only bridge that spanned the huge Meghna Nodi - a river of great width which at its narrowest point was from 4,000 to 4,500 yards (over 3,650m) wide. The Ashuganj Bridge, which was about 2,950 feet (900m) long, was the only way to cross the Meghna Nodi and approach Dhaka from the east. By destroying this strategic bridge, the Pakistani force had hoped to slow down the Mukti Bahini and Indian Army and prevent them quick access from the east to the capital Dhaka.

General Sagat Singh had anticipated that the Pakistani troops would blow up the rail bridge before his jawans could get to it. But he made no effort to capture the bridge intact. This tactical mistake, proved costly in terms of reaching Dhaka first and that is why General Nagara's troops were first to enter the East Pakistani metropolis followed by the stronger, advanced elements of the IV Corps.

Had General Sagat Singh taken pains to capture the bridge intact, his entry into Dhaka would have been possible on the 14th instead of 16th December.

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Undeterred, the Mitro Bahini decided to cross the river about 10 km south of the destroyed bridge. It would have taken a long time to repair the blown up bridge, so General Aurora sent 12 helicopters to facilitate river crossing.

The Indians used all available helicopters to air bridge the Meghna and establish a bridgehead on the other side of the river. All available river-craft were also pressed into service to carry the heavy equipment, artillery and armour. Even unorthodox means such as primitive rafts were used to take more troops to the other bank, beyond which lay their ultimate objective. The helicopters flew non-stop to ferry about 700 jawans to five different points on the other bank, all these making a widening bridgehead on 10 December 1971.

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The first lift was organised on 9 December and, working non-stop for 10 hours, two battalions and a few heavy mortars were put across the Meghna. The Pakistani garrison at Bhairab Bazar did nothing to dislodge this force. The rest of the brigade crossed with amphibious tanks (i.e. assault crafts) and a motley fleet of local river boats. The eastern terrain, except the hill tracts, is generally low-lying and waterlogged by paddy fields. Like the rest of Bangladesh, it is interspersed with numerous rivers and drainage channels. Since the rivers frequently change course and causes bridging problems, ferries are the only reliable means of crossing.

This was the "turning point" of the war according to Lieutenant Aurora.

We knew the Pakistani forces would destroy bridges. They thought they had cut us off after they blew up a bridge over the Meghna River. But we took them by surprise and crossed it at night with the help of the local [Bengali] people. That was the turning point.

Lt. Gen. Aurora reminiscing how local Bengali help snatched victory

On 11 December 1971 another heli-lift was organised to take the second brigade across the Meghna. On 13th, the feat was repeated, and finally the other side of the Meghna was now captured and secured for use by the Mitro Bahini.

Bir Srestho Mohammad Ruhul Amin killed trying to save Padma and MV Polash, the first two battleship of Bangladesh

Both Padma and MV Polash were mistakenly hit and destroyed by the Indian fighter planes on 10 December 1971, when they were about to launch a major attack on Mongla seaport in Khulna. Bir Srestho Mohammad Ruhul Amin was one of those who was killed during this friendly fire.

Others who have contributed to the advancement of the Bangladesh Nu-bahini and sacrificed their life in the process include: Mohammad Farid Uddin Ahmed (Radio Electrician-I), Mohammad Daulat Hossain Mollah (Able Seaman), Mohammad Akter Uddin (Able Seaman) and Lieutenant Commander Moazzam Hossain who sacrificed himself in the beginning of the Liberation War.

  • Mohammad Ruhul Amin ()
  • Mohammad Farid Uddin Ahmed ()
  • Mohammad Daulat Hossain Mollah ()
  • Mohammad Akter Uddin ()
  • Moazzam Hossain ()