November 05, 2011
Josy Joseph, TNN | Nov 6, 2011, 04.17AM IST
Pakistani Army Commander in the Eastern Command, Lt General AAK Niazi, signing the Instrument of Surrender in front of General Officer Commanding in Chief of India and Bangladesh Forces in the Eastern Theatre, Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora on December 16, 1971.
NEW DELHI: A set of freshly declassified top secret papers on the 1971 war show that US hostility towards India during the war withPakistan was far more intense than known until now.
The documents reveal that Indira Gandhi went ahead with her plan to liberate Bangladeshdespite inputs that the Nixon Administrationhad kept three battalions of Marines on standby to deter India, and that the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to targetIndian Army facilities.
The bold leadership that the former PM showed during the 1971 war is well known. But the declassified documents further burnish the portrait of her courageous defiance.
The documents show how Americans held back communication regarding Pakistan's desire to surrender in Dhaka by almost a day.
That the American establishment had mobilized their 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal, ostensibly to evacuate US nationals, is public knowledge. But the declassified papers show Washington had planned to use the 7th Fleet to attack the Indian Army.
They also show that Nixon administration kept arming Pakistan despite having imposed an embargo on providing both Islamabad and New Delhi military hardware and support.
They suggest that India, exasperated by continuing flow of American arms and ammunition, had considered intercepting three Pakistani vessels carrying war stores months before the war. The plan was dropped against the backdrop of the Indian foreign ministry's assessment that the interception could trigger hostilities.
The pro-Pak bias of the then US President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is vividly brought out by their decision to keep three battalions of Marines on standby: a decision which has so far not found mention in any record of the 1971 war.
Documents blame Richard Nixon for Pakistan tilt
A six-page note prepared by India's foreign ministry holds then American president Richard Nixon responsible for the pro-Pakistan tilt during India's 1971 war with her neighbour.
"The assessment of our embassy reveal (sic) that the decision to brand India as an 'aggressor' and to send the 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal was taken personally by Nixon," says the note. The note further says, the Indian embassy: "feel (sic) that the bomber force aboard the Enterprise had the US President's authority to undertake bombing of Indian Army's communications, if necessary."
As early as June 1971, New Delhi weighed the possibility of intercepting three Pakistani ships loaded with US weapons. This leaves only two other courses regarding interception: That India may intercept the ships before they reach Karachi, or impose a blockade of the Bay of Bengal. Either of these might involve the use of force and would be treated as acts of war, wrote the director (legal and treaties) of MEA.
On December 14, Gen A A K Niazi, Pakistan's military commander for erstwhile East Pakistan, told the American consul-general in Dhaka that he was willing to surrender. The message was relayed to Washington, but it took the US 19 hours to relay it to New Delhi. Files suggest senior Indian diplomats suspected the delay was because Washington was possibly contemplating military action against India.
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