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A Well-fought War


Col. R. Rama Rao

THE LIBERATION OF BANGLA­DESH : VOL. 1
By Maj. Gen. Sukhwant Singh
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 230, Rs. 60.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 1 July/August 1980

A number of books describing the birth of Bangladesh have appeared in India and abroad, some soon after the emergence of Bangladesh as an indepen­dent country, others a little later; but few analyse the operations as objectively as General Sukhwant Singh has done in this very readable book. For the Indian reader, Sukhwant Singh's observations are of added relevance because of the strong nationalist sentiment that runs throughout the book. Personalities and events are of consequence only in the larger perspective of national well-being. Sukhwant Singh opens his account of the operations with Bhutto's profound observation, ‘India should not forget its history’, and proceeds to point out that ours indeed is a sad history of subjuga­tion by the sword of the invader, whe­ther he came from across the north-wes­tern mountain passes or from across the seas. Further, the invader was invariably outnumbered by the defender. Nor in all cases was the invader in possession of better weapons. What decided the issue was better generalship of the invading forces. Even more important was the lack of cohesion and unity of purpose among the defenders. This unfortunate feature of our his­tory has tended to persist even after Independence. Sukhwant Singh would certainly have discussed this theme more thoroughly in his second and subsequent volumes, had fate spared him. Modern wars are not merely encoun­ters between opposing armed forces but total confrontation between two states or groups of states, where each side emp­loys all the means at its disposal—­diplomatic, economic and military—to achieve its objectives and to prevent the opposing side from attaining its ob­jectives. The Bangladesh war was not of India's choosing. For a number of rea­sons this country wanted and still wants peace in the subcontinent. Yet it could not ignore events unfolding across the border. Pakistan's army had unleashed a reign of terror in Bangladesh. Over 12 million Bangladeshis fled in mortal fear to seek refuge on this side of the border. Humanitarian considerations demanded that this country shelter them. Further, public sympathy was with these victims of the Pakistan army's viciousness and brutality. Public support for the just demand of the Bangladeshis for indepen­dence was strong. But the burden of maintaining millions of refugees was proving very heavy. Above all, Pakistan's military rulers, with the tacit support of their great-power patrons, wanted this country to be crippled by ...


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