Sam Manekshaw & struggle for Bangladesh: How Indian army destroyed Pak in 1971

 | Updated: Mar 23, 2021, 01:31 PM IST

Manekshaw who was the Army chief during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 was the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal.

Sam Manekshaw, Bangladesh Liberation War

India celebrates December 16 as "Vijay Diwas" commemorating Indian forces resounding victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

The Pakistan army surrendered to Indian forces unconditionally when General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi with 94,000 troops surrendered to India. The war lasted just 12 days from December 4 to 16.

It is also known as the Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971.


Sam Manekshaw

India's Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw told the Pakistani general explicitly "You surrender or we wipe you out" on December 13 as Pakistan Army crumbled due to India's sustained ground and air assault in the western and eastern front.

On 14 December, IAF attacked a house where a meeting was taking place of the governor of east Pakistan. The Indian Army captured Bogra, Sylhet Railway Station, Pubail & Rupganj.

Brigadier Usman, commander 50 PARA Brigade launched operations for clearing the enemy from Kot and captured Chingas on the road to Rajouri as the Indian army vanquished Pakistan.


Sam Manekshaw

Manekshaw who was the Army chief during the 1971 operation was the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal.

A veteran of the Burma campaign for the British forces in World War II, India's field marshal was involved in the Kashmir affairs during the contentious months of 1947 as the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession.

He was appointed as the eighth chief of Army staff on 8 June, 1969. "Sam Bahadur" as he was known in the Army, especially among his troops was credited with taking full strategic control of the Bangladesh operation under PM Indira Gandhi.

The Bangladesh war which lasted for 12 days in December was a monumental failure for the Pakistan forces with India taking 94,000 Pakistani soldiers resulting in the unconditional surrender of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh as a new nation.


45 years of 1971 Indo- Pak war

Bangladesh became an independent nation, the world's fourth most populous Muslim state. Mujibur Rahman was released from a West Pakistani prison, returning to Dhaka on January 10, 1972 and becoming the first President of Bangladesh.
In photo: A bridge blown up during the war

Liberation of Bangladesh

On December 12, 1971, the Indian Army captured Hardinge bridge, Khetlal & Madhupur. Narsingdi was built as a base to capture Dhaka.

The 1971 Indo-Pak conflict started when the Pak army conducted a widespread genocide against the Bengali population of the then east Pakistan.

PM Indira Gandhi expressed full support of her government for the independence struggle of the people of east Pakistan and decided to go to war against Pakistan after India's neighbour attacked.

During the war, the main Indian objective on the eastern front was to capture Dhaka and on the western front was to prevent Pakistan from entering India.


India's Canberras, Gnats and Hunters

While India's grip on east Pakistan tightened, the IAF continued to press home attacks against Pakistan. The campaign then developed into a series of daylight anti-airfield, anti-radar and close-support attacks by fighters.

Hostilities officially ended on December 17 after the fall of Dhaka on December 15. India claimed large gains of territory in west Pakistan and the independence of Pakistan's eastern wing as Bangladesh was confirmed.

(Photo courtesy: Indian Air Force: Twitter/@IAF_MCC)


Photo Courtesy: Indian Army

On the ground, Pakistan suffered the most with 8,000 killed and 25,000 wounded while India lost 3,000 and 12,000 were wounded. The loss of armoured vehicles was similarly imbalanced. It was a major defeat for Pakistan.

The "Instrument of Surrender" of Pakistani forces stationed in East Pakistan was signed at the Ramna Race Course in what is now Dhaka on December 16, 1971 by Lt Gen Niazi of Pakistan and Lt Gen Aurora of India.


Sam Manekshaw

For Pakistan, it was a complete and humiliating defeat, a psychological setback that came from a defeat at the hands of intense rival India. 

Bangladesh became an independent nation, the world's fourth most populous Muslim state. Mujibur Rahman was released from a west Pakistani prison and he returned to Dhaka on January 10, 1972 and became the first President of Bangladesh.

The hero of the Bangladesh war passed away on 27 June, 2008 at the age of 94 at a military hospital in  Wellington, Tamil Nadu and was buried in Ootacamund (Ooty).

Sam was undoubtedly India's greatest soldier and a "soldier's general".