Cold War diplomacy and emergence of Bangladesh
Bangladesh - a tiny landmass once known as East Pakistan and even today one would find it hard to familiarize any foreigner with poor knowledge on geography about its whereabouts if it was not for the reasons of peacekeeping, micro-credit or readymade garments. Following the rising struggle for independence in East Pakistan and the influx of millions of refugees to Indian soil not only involved her with Bangladesh issue but also spawned the most complex international diplomacy encircling Bangladesh.
World War II successfully crushed Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperial Japan and consequently transformed these nations into peaceful democracies of the modern world. But the consequences of this war had a much deeper scare. The war generated a new sense among nations that their fates were interconnected. Development of satellites and intercontinental nuclear missiles that further shrank the size of the planet; the Cold War redefined geopolitical realities and gave rise to the polarization of powers, insecurity and undying hostility.
Over the ruins and destructions of sixty million lives, two new global superpowers emerged. At the end of the war, the USA maintained its global supremacy both in military and economic terms. Until 1949, it was the only country capable of producing nuclear weapons. The USSR, on the other hand, territorially enlarged covering one-sixth of the landmass of the planet and its ideological, economic and social models were replicated in rest of Europe assumed the status of only US rival. Consequently, the world saw the inception of NATO and WARSHAW pact led by the USA and USSR respectively.
With the creation of the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong in 1949, two communist regimes, both promoting the Marxist-Leninist ideology demonstrated enormous power. Bengali nationalism blossomed throughout the 1950s and 1960s; by then two superpowers had already started pursuing their interests following the partition of India 1947. Therefore, no objective discourse on superpower's role in 1971 war is possible without disconcerting highlights of geostrategic dynamics of that era.
The Eisenhower administration of the USA continued Truman's policy of containment, which called for the US to prevent the spread of communism to a new state. US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was upset with India for not joining in the crusade against communism. India argued that it didn't have any issue neither a common border with USSR. Two hundred years of systematic British plunder reduced its 23% share of global GDP to only 3% as they left. So, getting into a superpower rivalry was not India's priority instead it joined the non-aligned movement - an idea of which Jawaharlal Nehru himself was a proponent.
In such a perilous situation Pakistan ended up becoming US ally. In 1954, the USA extended a massive supply of military hardware to Pakistan with the hope that it would be joining the US in its fight against the communists. John Foster liked the idea and he signed Pakistan up as an ally of the South-East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), established in 1954. When he came back after signing the treaty political commentator Walter Lippmann confronted him in a party inquiring how did you sign up Pakistan for SEATO, but Pakistan is not in South Asia. Foster turned around and said well you know the British had told me that the best fighters in Asia are the 'Gurkhas'. So, I have signed up the Pakistanis as an ally. Lippmann looked at Foster and said that the Gurkhas are not Pakistanis. Foster turned around and said, really, but they are Muslims, right? Lippmann replied no they are not Muslims either, Gurkhas are Hindus. At the end without any sort of reconsideration of his analysis, he added it's good to have an ally than not to have one.
Surprisingly, until 1957, US had armed, equipped and paid the salary of five and a half divisions of Pakistan's military, in return; it had not sent a single soldier for any of the anti-communist ventures to name Korea, Indo-China etc. Under pressure, Pakistanis only provided a listening post for conducting espionage over the Soviet Union using U-2 spy plane. Sadly, on 1 May 1960, while Francis Gary Powers were piloting a flight over Russia was shot down that brought huge shame for the Eisenhower's administration?
Besides the USA, other nations were getting active here. China got disenchanted with the Russian attitude during its intervention in the Korean War and its unwillingness to support China in her bid to extend its domain over Taiwan. China critically viewed Russian sale of helicopters and transport air crafts to India, which were used to support its military posture astride the northern border with Tibet. China openly blamed Russia for causing the missile crisis in Cuba. Although, Russia undertook this to protect Cuba from further invasion after the CIA backed failed attack (1961) on its shore and partly to respond to US missiles deployment in Italy and Turkey. The Sino-Soviet split was further triggered by the ideological clash between Premier Khrushchev's policies of De-Stalinization and peaceful coexistence and Mao Zedong's bellicose and Stalinist policies. After the breakup between the two communist giants, President Brezhnev propounded regional security architecture to isolate China. Pakistan already strategically allied to China declined to join. In 1950, Pakistan was first amongst few to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan in showing their solidarity with China. Under such a strategic setting, India tilted towards Russia without making any formal commitment. This led to greater Russian distrust of Pakistan.
In Pakistan, military ruler General Ayub Khan by then took over power and was doing nothing right. His despotic and unbridled one-man rule offered many issues that generated resentment in the minds of the politicians and people of East Pakistan.
(To be continued)
The writer is former Military
Secretary to the President