Karan Singh recalls Indira Gandhi’s role in 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War victory

His remarks came after the Congress accused the Modi government of not remembering the former PM during the Vijay Diwas celebrations and termed it of being “misogynist”.

Veteran Congress leader Karan Singh on Friday, December 17, 2021, said India could not have won the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War "without the strong and decisive leadership of Indira Gandhi" but said she let then Pakistan prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto "off the leash rather generously".

Also read: Country marks 50 years of 1971 war

Mr. Singh, who was a minister in former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s cabinet during the 1971 war, said she could have used the opportunity to put pressure on Bhutto over the Kashmir issue.

His remarks came after the Congress accused the Narendra Modi government of indulging in petty politics by not remembering former prime minister Indira Gandhi during Vijay Diwas celebrations and termed it of being "misogynist".

"As the only surviving member of Shrimati Indira Gandhi’s cabinet during the Bangladesh War, I would like to say that there can be no doubt whatsoever that without Indira Gandhi’s strong and decisive leadership we would not have achieved this victory," Mr. Singh said in a statement.

India on Thursday celebrated the 50th anniversary of its victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war that led to redrawing of the political map of South Asia and ended the horrific violence unleashed by the Pakistani army on millions of Bangladeshi people.

‘Vajpayee’s praise’

"Of course credit must go to our armed forces, but, I reiterate, it was Indira Gandhi’s strong and decisive leadership that culminated in India’s first victory after a thousand years. Rightly was she called Durga by the great Atal Bihari Vajpayee," Mr. Singh said.

"Having said all this, I must admit that I did feel she let Zulfikar Ali Bhutto off the leash rather generously.

"Although the purpose of the war was the liberation of East Pakistan and not directly linked with Jammu and Kashmir, she could perhaps have used the opportunity to pressure Bhutto regarding that beautiful state founded by my ancestors. But that is another story," the former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir said.

Mr. Singh, a former Rajya Sabha member, said the armed forces under outstanding soldiers as Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Lt Gen J S Aurora, Lt Gen J F R Jacob, Lt Gen Sangat Singh and many others created history by their brilliantly planned and coordinated campaign.

The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral S M Nanda and Chief of Air Staff P C Lal also deserve full credit for the significant role played by the Air Force and the Navy, he said.

Recalling the events in 1971, Mr. Singh said, "I have vivid memories of that day in the Lok Sabha. Indira Gandhi, who seldom showed any emotion, was clearly overjoyed and almost ran into the House and took her seat. My seat happened to be immediately behind her’s." "As soon as she entered, the House immediately fell silent. She got up and said Mr Speaker, Dhaka has fallen to the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini. The House exploded in joy and had to be adjourned," the former union minister recalled.

He said it is difficult for later generations to appreciate the emotional intensity with which Indians followed events in Bangladesh, including the terrible Tika Khan massacres, culminating in the extraordinary victory.

"It is often forgotten that during that year Indira Gandhi did make genuine efforts to encourage a political solution to the conflict between East and West Pakistan," he said.

She sent her ministers around the world to meet Heads of State and impress upon them the necessity to persuade the rulers of Pakistan and come to a political settlement with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Mr. Singh said.

Mr. Singh recalled that he was sent to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia "where I met up with Field Marshal (Josip Broz) Tito whom I had accompanied around India during his State visit earlier. On the way back I met the Shah of Iran with whom also I had travelled India, he said.

In these meetings, Mr. Singh said he carried Indira Gandhi’s message on the importance of bringing about a political solution to prevent an armed conflict.

"She also, in a brilliant masterstroke, signed The Treaty of Friendship with the USSR which played an important role in preventing China or the United States from intervening during the War," the veteran Congress leader said.

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