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The World: India: Easy Victory, Uneasy Peace

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MY dear Abdullah, I am here,” read the message to the general in beleaguered Dacca. “The game is up. I suggest you give yourself up to me and I’ll look after you.” The author of that soothing appeal was India’s Major General Gandharv Nagra. The recipient was Lieut. General A.A.K. (“Tiger”) Niazi, commander of Pakistan’s 60,000 troops in East Bengal and a onetime college classmate of Nagra’s. Minutes before the expiration of India’s cease-fire demand, Niazi last week bowed to the inevitable. By United Nations radio, he informed the Indian command that he was prepared to surrender his army unconditionally.

Less than an hour later, Indian troops rode triumphantly into Dacca as Bengalis went delirious with joy. “It was liberation day,” cabled TIME Correspondent Dan Coggin. “Dacca exploded in an ecstasy of hard-won happiness. There was wild gunfire in the air, impromptu parades, hilarity and horn honking, and processions of jammed trucks and cars, all mounted with the green, red and gold flag of Bangladesh. Bengalis hugged and kissed Indian jawans, stuck marigolds in their gun barrels and showered them with garlands of jasmine. If ‘Jai Bangla!’ (Victory to Bengal!) was screamed once, it was screamed a million times. Even Indian generals got involved. Nagra climbed on the hood of his Jeep and led the shouting of slogans for Bangladesh and its imprisoned leader, Sheik Mujibur Rahman. Brigadier General H.S. Kler lost his patches and almost his turban when the grateful crowd engulfed him.”

Late that afternoon as dusk was beginning to fall, General Niazi and Lieut. General Jagjit Singh Aurora, commander of India’s forces in the East, signed the formal surrender of the Pakistani army on the grassy lawn of Dacca’s Race Course. Niazi handed over his revolver to Aurora, and the two men shook hands. Then, as the Pakistani commander was driven away in a Jeep, Aurora was lifted onto the shoulders of the cheering crowd.

Thus, 13 days after it began, the briefest but bitterest of the wars between India and Pakistan* came to an end. The surrender also marked the end of the nine-month-old civil war between East and West Pakistan. Next day Pakistan’s President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan reluctantly accepted India’s cease-fire on the western border. It was a complete and humiliating defeat. The war stripped Pakistan of more than half of its population and, with nearly one-third of its army in captivity, clearly established India’s military dominance of the subcontinent.

Considering the magnitude of the victory, New Delhi was surprisingly restrained in its reaction. Mostly, Indian leaders seemed pleased by the relative ease with which they had accomplished their goals—the establishment of Bangladesh and the prospect of an early return to their homeland of the 10 million Bengali refugees who were the cause of the war. In announcing the surrender to the Indian Parliament, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared: “Dacca is now the free capital of a free country. We hail the people of Bangladesh in their hour of triumph. All nations who value the human spirit will recognize it as a significant milestone in man’s quest for liberty.”

Although both sides claimed at week’s end that the cease-fire was being violated, serious fighting did appear to be over for the present. Initial fears that India might make a push to capture Pakistani Kashmir proved to be unfounded. India undoubtedly wanted to risk neither a hostile Moslem uprising in the region nor Chinese intervention. But several major issues between India and Pakistan remain—and it may well take months to resolve them: 1) repatriation of Pakistan’s 60,000 regular troops in the East, 2) release of Sheik Mujibur Rahman, whom the Bangladesh government has proclaimed President but who is still imprisoned in West Pakistan on charges of treason, 3) disposition of various chunks of territory that the two countries have seized from each other along the western border.

Mrs. Gandhi may well try to ransom Mujib in exchange for release of the Pakistani soldiers. India is also expected to press for a redrawing of the cease-fire line that has divided the disputed region of Kashmir since 1949. The Indians have captured 50 strategic Pakistani outposts in the high Kashmiri mountains. These are the same outposts that India captured in 1965, and then gave up as part of the 1966 Tashkent Agreement; India is not likely to be as accommodating this time.

In the chill, arid air of Islamabad, West Pakistan’s military regime was finding it difficult to come to grips with the extent of the country’s ruin. Throughout the conflict there had been a bizarre air of unreality in the West, as Pakistani army officials consistently claimed they were winning when quite the reverse was true. Late last week the Pakistani government still seemed unable to accept its defeat; simultaneously with the announcement of the ceasefire, officials handed newsmen an outline of Yahya’s plans for a new constitution. Among other things, it provides “that the republic shall have two capitals, at Islamabad and at Dacca.” It adds: “The principal seat of Parliament will be located in Dacca.” That will, of course, be news to Bangladesh.

President Yahya Khan had declared the conflict a jihad (holy war) and, even while surrender was being signed in the East, he was boasting that his nation would “engage the aggressor on all fronts.” He became the first political victim of the conflict. At week’s end, Yahya announced that he would step down in favor of Deputy Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, head of the Pakistan People’s Party. A rabid anti-India, pro-China politician who served as Foreign Minister in the government of former President Ayub Khan, Bhutto was the chief architect of Pakistan’s alliance with China. In the nation’s first free election last December, his party ran second to Mujib’s Awami League. Regarding that as a threat to his own ambitions, Bhutto was instrumental in persuading Yahya to set aside the election results.

Ali Bhutto, who had a brief interview with President Nixon last Saturday concerning “restoration of stability in South Asia,” will return to Islamabad this week to head what Yahya said would be “a representative government.” A dramatic, emotional orator who tearfully stalked out of the U.N. Security Council last week to protest its inaction on the war, Bhutto has recently made little secret of his displeasure with the military regime. “The people of Pakistan are angry,” he fumed last week. “The generals have messed up the land.”

Yahya’s overconfidence had undoubtedly been fed by the outcome of the two nations’ previous tangles, all of them inconclusive territorial disputes that altered little and allowed both sides to claim victory. This time, though, the Indians felt they were fighting for a moral cause. Pakistan’s army in the East, moreover, was cut off by Indian air and naval superiority from the West, and had to contend with a hostile local population as well as the combined forces of the tough Mukti Bahini guerrillas and a numerically superior and better-equipped Indian army. Despite the brief duration of the war, the fighting was fierce. The Indians alone reported 10,633 casualties—2,307 killed, 6,163 wounded, 2,163 missing in action. Pakistan’s casualties, not yet announced, are believed to be much higher, and there are no figures at all for guerrilla losses.

Battle of the Tanks. India also claims to have destroyed 244 Pakistani tanks, against a loss of 73 of its own. No fewer than 60 tanks—45 of Pakistan’s, 15 of India’s—were knocked out in the last day of the war in a fierce struggle that raged for more than 24 hours. The incident took place on the Punjabi plains, where the Indians tried to draw the Pakistanis out of the town of Shakargarh (meaning “the place of sugar”), in order to attack the important Pakistani military garrison of Sialkot.

In the East, Indian troops skirted cities and villages whenever possible in order to avoid civilian casualties, a strategy that also scattered the demoralized Pakistani forces and led to their defeat. After the signing of the surrender, a military spokesman in New Delhi announced triumphantly: “Not a single individual was killed in Dacca after the surrender.” Unhappily, that turned out not to be true. One report said that Bengali guerrillas had executed more than 400 razakars, members of the West Pakistani army’s much-hated local militia.

Although General Aurora was firm in his insistence that the Mukti Bahini disarm, it was unlikely that the bloodshed could be totally halted for some time. The new government of Bangladesh, if only to satisfy public opinion, will almost certainly hold a number of war-crimes trials of captured members of the former East Pakistan government. Potentially the most explosive situation is the Bengali desire for vengeance against the 1,500,000 Biharis—non-Bengali Moslems living in East Pakistan, many of whom are suspected of collaborating with the Pakistani army. In some villages, the Biharis have been locked in jails for their own protection. In an unusual conciliatory gesture, Aurora permitted Pakistani soldiers to keep their weapons until they had reached prison camps. He explained: “You have to see the bitterness in Dacca to believe it.”

The Losers. Islamabad, of course, was the principal loser in the outcome of the war. But there were two others as well. One was the United Nations. The Security Council last week groped desperately toward trying to achieve an international consensus on what to do about the struggle, and ended up with seven cease-fire resolutions that were never acted upon at all. The other loser was Washington, which had tried to bring about a political settlement, but from the New Delhi viewpoint—and to other observers as well —appeared wholeheartedly committed to the support of Pakistan’s military dictatorship.

Indian anger at U.S. backing of Pakistan was compounded last week when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise and a task force of destroyers and amphibious ships from the Seventh Fleet sailed into the Bay of Bengal. Although Soviet vessels were reported to be moving toward the area, word of the U.S. move touched off a storm of anti-American demonstrations. In Calcutta, angry protesters burned effigies of Richard Nixon and Yahya Khan. The Seventh Fleet action was justified by the Navy on the grounds that it might have to evacuate American civilians from Dacca. (As it turned out, most of the foreigners who wanted to leave were flown out the same day the carrier left Vietnamese waters by three British transports.) All across India, though, there were rumors that the Navy had been sent to rescue Pakistani troops and that the U.S. was about to intervene in the war.

Lip Service. Mrs. Gandhi made several gestures to try to dampen the anti-American feeling, and refused to allow debate in the Indian Parliament on the U.S. moves. But she also sent a long, accusatory and somewhat self-serving letter to President Nixon, in which she argued that the war could have been avoided “if the great leaders of the world had paid some attention to the fact of revolt, tried to see the reality of the situation and searched for a genuine basis for reconciliation.” Instead, Mrs. Gandhi said, only “lip service was paid to the need for a political solution, but not a single worthwhile step was taken to bring this about.”

India’s triumph is in large measure a stunning personal one for Mrs. Gandhi. Throughout the crisis Indians have been united behind her as never before, and she is even being compared with the Hindu goddess Durga, who rid the world of the demon Mahasura. Quite apart from the war, India seems to be feeling a new self-assurance. The land that for centuries was synonymous with famine now enjoys a wheat surplus and will soon become self-sufficient in rice, thanks to the Green Revolution. Mrs. Gandhi, backed by an overwhelming mandate in last March’s elections, has been able to bring about a large measure of political stability for the first time since Nehru’s death. India is still poverty-ridden and in need of foreign aid, but its industries are developing rapidly in size and sophistication. All these factors, reinforced by military victory, may bring profound psychological change in India and a lessening of corrosive self-doubt.

For that reason, there is no feeling in New Delhi that the Soviet Union, whose aid was primarily diplomatic rather than military, in any way won this war for India—any more than China or the U.S. lost it for Pakistan. Despite the current popularity of the Soviet Union and the unpopularity of the U.S., Indians are probably as horrified by Russian totalitarianism and Chinese Maoism as by what they consider “American materialism.” In the long run, India’s new-found strength could conceivably lessen rather than enlarge Soviet influence.

Essential Reconstruction. Meanwhile the huge task of reconstruction in Bangladesh begins. India has already set a target date of Jan. 31 as the goal for the return of all 10 million refugees. Free bus service is being provided, and vehicles loaded down with belongings and passengers have begun rolling back across the borders to Bangladesh. The Indian Planning Commission, which charts India’s overall development program, estimates that it will take nearly $900 million for essential reconstruction work in Bangladesh and for the refugees’ rehabilitation. Bridges, buildings, roads and almost the entire communications network must be restored.

The State Department has made it plain that Washington stands ready to supply Bangladesh with humanitarian aid. At week’s end Bangladesh’s Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and his government were already settled in Dacca, and Washington was said to be considering recognition of the new nation.

* The first, from October 1947 to Jan. 1, 1949, took place in Kashmir and resulted in the almost equal division of the disputed state. The second was the Rann of Kutch affair on India’s southwestern border from April to June 1965. The third, in the fall of 1965, occurred in Kashmir and lasted 22 days.

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