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10 Things to know about Vijay Diwas , when Indian Army Bifurcated Pakistan and liberated Bangladesh in 1971 war

December 16: On this day in 1971, Indian Army liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan in one of the most heroic wars ever.

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Vijay Diwas
The most famous photograph in Indian military history! Lieutenant General A A K Niazi, the Pakistan army commander in East Pakistan, signs the Instrument of Surrender, before Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief, Eastern Command, December 16, 1971 (DPR Photo Division Archives)
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  • Bangladesh celebrates its Independence day on December 16 and India hails the day as Vijay Diwas
  • 16 December 1971. On this day, 46 years ago, 93,000 Pakistani troops raised white flags and surrendered to the Indian Army
  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman and the chiefs of the Indian Army, the Navy and the Air Force gathered at India Gate to pay homage to the soldiers who lost their lives in 1971 India-Pakistan war, at Amar Jawan Jyoti today
  • “On Vijay Diwas we salute the unflinching courage of all those who fought in 1971 and protected our nation diligently. Every Indian is proud of their heroism and service”, tweeted PM Modi

The India-Pakistan War of 1971 is known as one of the most heroic victories in military history. It ended with the surrender of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan, with almost 1,00,000 soldiers being taken prisoners of war. Victory of India led to liberation of Bangladesh on December 16. Vijay Diwas is celebrated on this day.

Vijay Diwas
Bangladesh Liberation (The Tribune, Archives)

Here are 10 things to know about Vijay Diwas, 16 December 1971, the day when Indian Army liberated Bangladesh from Islamic Republic of Pakistan

  1. On 16 December 1971, the Governor of East Pakistan Lt General Niazi and his 93,000 troops admitted defeat to the joined forces – the Indian Army and East Pakistan’s Mukti Vahini – led by Lt General Jagjit Singh Arora. The surrender was signed at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka.
  2. In just 13 days, Indian forces, which included the Air Force, Para Troopers, Ground Force and Navy, made Dhaka independent.
  3. The war was a result of genocide by the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) which led to the migration of lakhs of refugees into India and humanitarian crisis. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made many attempts to gather international action against Pakistan and support to India to look after the refugees, but it did not happened. Only way ahead for India was to liberate Bangladesh.
  4. The genocide earned General Tikka Khan the nickname ‘Butcher of Bengal’ because of the widespread slaughters he had committed.
  5. Sri Lanka helped Pakistan in the 1971 War by allowing its aircraft to refuel at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.
  6. US supported Pakistan in this war. A long standing ally of Pakistan, China was encouraged by US to mobilise its armed forces along its border with India.
  7. The war lasted for few days but we lost 42 Indian fighters and 81 tankers as opposed to 86 aircrafts and 226 tankers of Pakistan.
  8. The war stripped Pakistan of more than half of its population and with nearly one-third of its army in captivity.
  9. Lance Naik Albert Ekka, Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, Major Hoshiar Singh and Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal were awarded with Param Vir Chakra for their selfless service in the 1971 India Pakistan war.
  10. In 1972 the Shimla Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan. India returned the POWs to Pakistan along with certain captured areas. In return, Pakistan recognized Bangladesh as an Independent country.
Vijay Diwas
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw during 1971 India-Pakistan war (DPR Photo Division Archives)

In his book The 1971 Indo-Pak War: A Soldier’s Narrative Pakistani Major General Hakeem Arshad Qureshi a veteran of this conflict noted:“We must accept the fact that, as a people, we had also contributed to the bifurcation of our own country.” The Hamoodur Rahman Commission, which was set up to investigate the causes of defeat of Pakistan, laid the blame squarely on Pakistani generals, accusing them of debauchery, smuggling, war crimes and neglect of duty.

– by Shaurya Ritwik, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Operation Meghdoot: Role of Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force backed the Indian Army during Operation Meghdoot by supplying troops and stores

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Ensign of Indian Air Force. Wikimedia commons
Ensign of Indian Air Force. Wikimedia commons
  • Operation Meghdoot’s objective was to capture the Siachen Glacier.
  • Indian Army expeditions were going on in the high-altitude region.
  • IAF was tasked with supporting the troops with backup and supplies.

Operation Meghdoot was launched in 1984, it aimed to capture the Siachen Glacier. It was quite a unique operation because of Siachen’s dreaded terrain and unforgiving climate. The mission was a successful one, India gained control over the Siachen Glacier.

India now controls the 70 kilometres long glacier and the three major passes west of it (Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Whereas Pakistan controls the area west of Saltoro Ridge. The TIME magazine states, India has control over 1,000 square miles of territory because of its exceptional military operation.

You may also like: 20 Amazing Facts About Indian Navy

Siachen glacier, known as the third pole of the world, is one of the most dreaded places in the world. Mainly due to its temperature and terrain. Wikimedia commons
Siachen glacier, known as the third pole of the world, is one of the most dreaded places in the world. Mainly due to its temperature and terrain. Wikimedia Commons

IAF had played a major role in this operation. It used Il-76, An-12, and An-32 to transport troops and drop supplies to these extremely high altitude battlefields. Following which, Mi-17, Mi-8 and HAL Chetak would carry the same to the east.

IAF’s performance was incredible, taking into account how extreme the temperature and altitude are at Siachen. The operation is a saga which showcased such skill that can never be forgotten.

IAF's uncompromising valour made it possible for the Indian Army to capture the Siachen Glacier. Wikimedia commons
IAF’s uncompromising valour made it possible for the Indian Army to capture the Siachen Glacier. Wikimedia Commons

Role of Indian Air Force

When the first IAF sortie was launched to Siachen on 20th September 1978, Chetak helicopters used to supply stores to the on-ground Indian Army. That’s when a thought occurred to one of the IAF officers “Why not pick their emails for their loved ones back home?” They used to drop a string with a note saying “We are coming back in 10 minutes. Please write your letters and put them in a bag.”

This kind gesture of the Indian Air Force symbolized the brotherhood of ‘men in arms’. It also boosted the morale of Indian Army troops who were leading expeditions on the ‘third pole of the world’.

Also read: All you want to know about the ranks of Indian army

IAF operates from 60 bases across the country. Wikimedia commons
IAF operates from 60 bases across the country. Wikimedia Commons

IAF helicopters used to fly at the height of 16,000 feet, many times, the officers had to take oxygen directly from the pipe. They also had the job of taking injured troops back to base camp. However, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Finding the expedition parties in the never-ending desert of ice, then landing the helicopter on the lumps of snow were tasks that required unmistakable skill.

IAF is the fourth most powerful air force in the world. Wikimedia commons
IAF is the fourth most powerful air force in the world. Wikimedia Commons

How IAF operates in Siachen now

Indian Air Force has a far different set of procedures than that of the time of Operation Meghdoot. The operations are scientifically planned and executed meticulously.

  • IL-76s and An-32s supply stores to the men in Leh and Thoise from Chandigarh.
  • Thereafter, Mi-17 helicopters airdrop supplies to the lower level helipads at 17,500 feets.
  • Cheetahs then take over and ferry the supplies to helipads situated at 20,000 feet.