Many of us know that India helped to form Bangladesh which was East Pakistan. But it is still debated that India could have taken Bangladesh to its territory in 1971 rather than helping them to become independent from Pakistan. I found that many people have their own perspectives. But, what could be the logical answers to it?
Map of Pakistan before 1971
First, let us be clear how Bangladesh became free country:
Bangladesh-India Allied Forces on 16 December 1971
- Civil war erupts in Pakistan, pitting the West Pakistan army against East Pakistanis demanding autonomy and later independence
- Fighting forces an estimated 10 million East Pakistani civilians to flee to India
- In December, India invades East Pakistan in support of the East Pakistani people
- Pakistani army surrenders at Dhaka and its army of more than 90,000 become Indian prisoners of war
- East Pakistan becomes the independent country of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971
- Exact number of people killed is unclear – Bangladesh says it is three million but independent researchers say it is up to 500,000 fatalities
Now the question is “Why did India made Bangladesh an independent nation rather than ruling it?“.
Bangladeshis would find this question quite insulting. Nobody would like to be ruled by another country and Bangladeshis are just as proud of their identity. In fact, when they felt that their political identity is not getting due importance in the Pakistan government, they revolted and fought for their independence.
I found it quite debatable as many have expressed their opinion online. Let’s judge some of the answers found in quora and please do comment what you think about it as well.
India was on the right side by helping Bangladesh through its independence. People of Bangladesh had been through traumatic times post the cyclone. There were economic troubles and the popular leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was jailed for almost a decade. Under such circumstances, India would be have been on the wrong side had it shown vested interests and tried to annex Bangladesh. It would have been seen as an aggressor and Pakistan would have taken the advantage on the international front, with Bangladesh losing its victim tag.
Instead, India which wanted a friendly neighborhood very correctly took up the cause of Bangladesh and supported it through its independence struggle. It was seen as a liberator on the international front with Pakistan losing because of gross violation of Human Rights.
Also strategically India was placed better hence with Pakistan losing the advantage of opening both East and West fronts in the case of war. With the independence of Bangladesh, India was able to settle its eastern neighborhood. Also had India handled its relationship with Bangladesh better it could have seen North Eastern states develop much better and quicker because of improvised access of North Eastern states to sea and better land access from India.
Devendra Joshi writes:
Bangladesh was East Pakistan, the people of Bangladesh had lots of reasons to segregate themselves from Pakistan. As they wanted to establish an Independent Nation free from the dictatorial clutches of the Pakistan.
East Pakistan Bengali revolution
It was mandatory that India as a supporting Nation respect their feelings and help them to establish their economy and aid their development. Nevertheless, if India would have ruled Bangladesh, India would have had a different set of problems in their hands. To understand this India have to consider the strategic positioning and political posturing of all the countries in that particular period, moreover India would have been financially burdened to support and enhance the new nation because Pakistan had encashed all the income of East Pakistan(Bangladesh) and spent it on West Pakistan(Current day Pakistan), which had left the people completely at a financial and mental disadvantage. The people of Bangladesh wanted Independence and India was supportive towards their wish. It was obviously also a show of appeasement by neighbor India to particular countries from whom they wished favors.
Shaiwal Abhishek writes:
The reasons why India helped Bangladesh in its quest for freedom is partly political and mostly security related with huge economic considerations. India utilized the Bangladesh crisis to seek some balance for the Pakistan’s occupancy of parts of Kashmir. Having a hostile nation on just one side was a much better option. Transforming Bangladesh into a democratic separate nation fulfilled these conditions. Trying to overtake Bangladesh was politically not feasible or desirable as it would have antagonized the world community against India and could have led to full-scale war with Pakistan.
The West Pakistan Army attack on Bangladesh had driven scores (millions) of refugees to India. This not only created a huge economic burden on India but also caused internal security and law and order problems for India. Remember the green revolution had not fructified yet and India was a food deficient country still. The only option India had was to free Bangladesh from the tyranny of Pakistan thereby making a permanent peace.
India did exactly this. Such was the resolve to help Bangladesh that external threats of USA also could not deter it. Today, Bangladesh is the biggest trading partner of India among its neighbors, cooperating in multiple dimensions of development.