Emergence of Bangladesh: Our valour and Bangabandhu’s diplomacy
Bangladesh is going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence on March 26 of next year as we will also mark the end of birth centennial anniversary of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the same month. We have come a long way since our inception as a nation but we must uphold the true history of our emergence as that will guide us towards a prospective future.
Recently, through an article titled as 'Cold War Diplomacy and Emergence of Bangladesh', former military secretary to the President Major General (Retd) Dr Md Sarwar Hossain tried to link the post-cold war power battle with the inception of Bangladesh. But truly, those superpowers neither considered the independence of Bangladesh as a priority nor triggered the liberation war in 1971. They just got indirectly involved due to their ideological and political interest in the region.
History of Civilization of Bangladesh dates back over four millennia with different rulers-Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms and empires, Islamic Bengal Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, Nawabs of Bengal, the British East India Company etc. The borders of modern Bangladesh were established with the separation of Bengal and India in August 1947, when the region became East Pakistan as a part of the newly formed State of Pakistan following the end of British rule in the region.
The decision to conduct the Partition of Bengal was announced in 1905 and the partition took place on Oct 16, 1905 and separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas. The former province of Bengal was divided into two new provinces 'Bengal' and Eastern Bengal with Assam. Until the mid-1930s, the Muslim leaders were trying to ensure maximum political safeguards for Muslims. But during the Congress rule from 1937 to 1939, it became evident that, the Congress leaders were not keen to protect the Muslim cultures. Therefore, by 1938-39, the idea of separation was strongly gaining ground.
From the Lahore Conference on Mar 22-24, 1940 A. K. Fazal-ul-Haque, announced the historic 'Lahore Resolution' which stated the need and plan for creation of "Independent States" with the Muslim majority North-Western and Eastern Zones of India, in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign. Here is it notable that, the resolution stated multiple states here and the concept of Bangladesh as a separate state was bestowed there. But later, the Muslim League leaders used this document as a basis of the creation of one independent Muslim-majority nation named 'Pakistan'.
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the then Premier of Bengal, announced his demand for an independent and sovereign undivided Bengal. The issue of United Bengal was met with favourable views and backing of Muhammad Ali Jinnah who saw it for the benefits for Bengali Muslims. But, despite Jinnah's backing, the plan failed as was opposed by Khwaza Nazimuddin, Mohammad Akram Khan and most Bengali Hindus.
If Suhrawardy's plan would meet success, united Bengal would have been established in 1947. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman treated Suhrawardy as his political mentor and was only 27 when Pakistan was formed. A split developed very soon over the question of the national language. Sheikh Mujib was very active in the language movement of 1952 which brought official status to the Bengali language in 1956 after years of conflict.
From 1956 onwards, Bangabandhu was very vocal against different inequalities between the treatment of East and West Pakistan. In 1966, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Awami League, proclaimed a 6-point plan titled 'Our Charter of Survival' at a national conference of opposition political parties at Lahore, in which he demanded self-government and considerable political, economic and defence autonomy for East Pakistan in a Pakistani federation with a weak central government. This led to the historic 6-point movement, a draft of silent independence.
After different political turmoil, Bangabandhu led Awami League won the 1970 General Election of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib won this election based on his 6-point movement. He pocketed the people's mandate risking his political career as even veteran leaders like Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani rejected the election as he feared it would legalize a staged election under the full control of West Pakistani rulers.
But Mujib's victory forced the West Pakistani rulers to reject the idea of handing over power as the basis of Mujib's campaign, the 6-points, was itself 'silent independence' of the East Pakistan and this refusal to hand over power set the stage to call for complete independence of Bangladesh. The liberation war started after West Pakistani military crackdown on Mar 25, 1971. At the very early stage of the war thousands of Bangladeshis, mostly the Hindus, took refuge on the soil of neighbouring India and later the Muslims followed.
The Liberation Force of Bangladesh, who were mostly using guerrilla warfare techniques and receiving India's support in terms of training and arms, were making notable progress throughout the whole East Pakistan with the support of millions of mass people. On the evening of 3 December, the Pakistan Air Force launched surprise pre-emptive strikes in north-western India and Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India immediately decided to get directly involved in the Bangladesh's Liberation War.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took last shelter at the UN with the aid of its ally the USA for ceasefire and removal of Indian forces from the East Pakistani soil, but the USSR, the ally of India, vetoed to foil the plan and Bangladesh emerged on the globe on Dec 16, 1971.
Here, cold war diplomacy was not a factor. USA and USSR (today's Russia) standing against each other on any global issues is inevitable for decades. Hence, the UN could never solve any issues. The cold war diplomacy was strongly present in Kashmir, Taiwan, Tibet, Syria, Afghanistan and many other issues and none were solved actually. For example; cold war diplomacy actually divided Kashmir in three parts. Bangladesh's independence or emergence was planned even before the Second World War and Lahore Resolution and 6-point movement had sketched a blueprint of our sovereignty, which Bangabandhu's leadership turned into a reality.
Though we achieved independence on Dec 16, 1971, it was Pakistani Force's surrender to the Indian Allied Force. We must be grateful to Indira Gandhi as she heartily campaigned for Bangabandhu's freedom from Pakistan's captivity. With Bangabandhu's return on Jan 10, 1972, the total independence of Bangladesh was realized as his diplomatic power, farsighted leadership and magical personality influenced India to withdraw all its forces from the soil of independent Bangladesh only within two months of his return by Mar 12, 1972. With the withdrawal of Allied force, Bangladesh achieved full sovereignty--the result of Bangabandhu's visionary diplomacy, not cold war diplomacy.
Another thing is, the article that we mentioned, at its very first paragraph noted that, "Bangladesh-a tiny landmass once known as East Pakistan"-we reject this portrayal of our identity standing close to 50 years of our independence. Moreover, the writer mentioned that, many foreigners might not know about Bangladesh if it was not for peacekeeping, micro-credit or readymade garments, despite our remarkable progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the last decade. Today we lead many global forums and earn hundreds of global awards each year. The world knows us for many good reasons but many seem to forget that.
For the sake of the future generations of Bangladesh, we must protect the history from distortion. If so, our progress and development will be inevitable.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Centre (DRC)