Helion's The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 Part 1

Author/Artists: Ravi Rikhye


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 74 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-913118-63-1

After the independence of British India, the western and far eastern parts became the nation of Pakistan. The reason for this was secular differences with Pakistan being predominantly Muslim. There was a considerable movement of Muslims living in India to Pakistan as they did not feel safe living in India where there was a great deal of secular violence.

Despite this separation, India and Pakistan have never been what one could consider friends. There have always been disputes about the Kashmir region of northern India. Wars were fought in 1948 over Kashmir as well as in 1965 with nothing really being decided, though the Indians had a rude awakening in the 1965 war. Determined not to be caught out again, they went into a major armament expansion and upgrade. Not quite the same for Pakistan as they did not have the sort of ability to buy modern equipment and arms as did India. However, they did the best they could. It is interesting that the Soviet Union, trying to make political inroads in the area, did supply both sides during  this time. The US was Pakistan's main arms supplier  prior to the 1965 war, but embargoed much, a tendency that continued in later years.

This book is about the war in East Pakistan. This part of the country was mostly populated by Bengalis, who had more in common with India than they did with the Arabs of West Pakistan. As such, they were treated as second class citizens by the Pakistani government in Islamabad. They also got minimal military protection as West Pakistan found it would be impossible to properly reinforce that area should a conflict break out.

A vote for independence by the population of East Pakistan turned into an armed rebellion as West Pakistan did not want to give up power. India saw an opportunity so supplied safe havens and some light arms to the insurgents. They fanned the flames so to speak and when war did finally break out, it was Pakistan who did so in a fairly half-hearted manner by attacking an Indian air field.

This provided India with the excuse it needed to invade. Pakistan's war aims were to start a conflict, take over more of the disputed area in northwest India and then trade East Pakistan for the land obtained where they wanted it in Kashmir. It didn't exactly turn out as planned.

This volume covers the operations in East Pakistan and provides insights into how things got so out of control for Pakistan in this part of the country. It provides a look at Pakistani defensive operations and the offensive operations of India and the insurgents. There are lots of great photos and maps to help us follow the conflict in the east to what eventually became the nation of Bangladesh.

The author has put forth a lot of effort to research this war, a job made easier by the release of a lot of documents from 50 years ago and made more difficult by an inability to see some archival material. Nevertheless, it provides a fairly complete look at this part of the war and provides us with insights not shown in some other publications of the period. Well worth picking up as it is a great read and is a book I very much recommend to you.

February 2021

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