December 16

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 16, 1971:

Pakistani forces defeated in Bangladesh

Two weeks after the Indian invasion of East Pakistan in support of the independence movement there, 90,000 Pakistani troops surrender to the Indian forces. East Pakistan was subsequently declared the independent nation of Bangladesh.

At the end of British rule in the Indian subcontinent in 1947, East Pakistan was declared a possession of Pakistan to the west, despite the fact that the two regions were separated by over 1,000 miles of Indian territory. Although the two Pakistans shared the Islamic religion, significant cultural and racial differences existed between the regions, and by the late 1960s East Pakistan began to call for greater autonomy from West Pakistan. In March 1971, the independence of Bangladesh was proclaimed and West Pakistani forces were called in to suppress the revolt.

An estimated one million Bengalis--the largest ethnic group in Bangladesh--were killed by the Pakistani forces during the next several months, while over 10 million more took refuge in India. In December, India, which had provided substantial clandestine aid to the East Pakistani independence movement, launched a massive invasion of the region and routed the West Pakistani occupation forces. In 1974, Pakistan agreed to recognize the independence of Bangladesh.

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