Thinking to separate East Pakistan began after 1965 war to stop ISI support to N-E insurgencies: Vice-Admiral

Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla on Saturday said the thinking to separate East Pakistan from the West, actively started after the 1965 Indo-Pak war, with a principal reason to stop Pakistan’s ISI’s support to insurgencies in the North-East of India.

East Pakistan was separated from the West after the 1971 Indo-Pak war, giving birth to a new nation — Bangladesh.

“It was mentioned that the war did not really start in December (1971). Actually, if you really go back into literature and read, the thinking started actively after the 1965 war, on how to separate East Pakistan from West Pakistan,” Chawla, who is the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, said.

Speaking at the Indian Air Force Conclave on 1971 Indo-Pak war, here, he said the principal reason was the interference of Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) in the insurgencies in the North East, particularly the arming and training of the Naga rebels.

“It (supporting insurgency) was actually happening in the Chittagong hill tracts, which is from where we took a leaf out, when we sort of trained the Mukti Bahini, so the thinking started then. But India was very weak then. If you recollect, the Congress party had split, Indira Gandhi had barely managed to hold on to become the PM and was not expected to last very long,” he added.

The Vice Admiral was speaking at the ongoing three-day IAF Conclave at Yelahanka Air Force Station here, to commemorate 50-years of victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war that gave birth to Bangladesh as a country, which is being celebrated this year as ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’.

Noting that the thought processed from 1965 onwards, he said, “it was at a very nascent stage of course, but now documents clearly bring out that after January 30, 1971 hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft to Lahore, by Kashmiri separatists, the Indian government actually stopped over flight facilities and this prevented Pakistan re-arming in East Pakistan, and they had to route through Colombo, making it difficult and expensive.”

Then with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (later became founding father of Bangladesh) winning the elections in Pakistan and Yahya Khan (Pakistani General who served as its President) not allowing him to become the Prime Minister, the plot started unravelling, he said, adding, after March 1971, when Mujibur Rahman declared independence of Bangladesh and he was flown to West Pakistan, India actually entered the war in April.

“So, our (India) response was very comprehensive…so when you look at the 1971 war, it’s not just the interservices collaboration, it is actually a whole of government approach, much of which we need to read and know about,” Chawla said,

India faced the war under astute leadership, which came into play as Indira Gandhi won a landslide victory on March 7, 1971, which strengthened her hands considerably. “Many fortuit circumstances falling into place,” he added.

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