It was a tough time for India and its young first woman prime minister Indira Gandhi as the outrageous neighbor and a competitor Pakistan was waging atrocities on its northeastern part than called as Eastern Pakistan. India was already going through challenges of poverty, unemployment lack of education and then the burden of eastern Pakistani refugee made the condition worse for India.
After Western Pakistan overthrow eastern Pakistan’s leader Shiekh Mujbir Rahman who was asking for an Independent Bengali state, he took shelter in India and met Indira to ask for help and military intervention.
In his book ‘India After Gandhi’ Ramchandra Guha has stated that By the end of April 1971 there were half a million East Pakistan refugees in India; by the end of May, three and a half million; by the end of August, in excess of 8 million. Most (though by no means all) were Hindus.19 Refugee camps were strung out along the border, in the states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Meghalaya. To distribute the burden, camps were also opened in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The refugees were housed in huts made of bamboo and polythene; the luckier ones in the verandahs of schools and colleges.
The first woman prime minister of India Indira Gandhi is still considered as Iron Lady, her strength and decision-making power not only proved the efficiency of Indian woman’s capabilities in Politics but she faded away from the conservative notion that women have less effective political leaders. Indira not only proved herself in India but she made a tough impression worldwide.
How Indira dealt with pressure from America and China?
According to historian Ramchandra Guha, the then Chinese prime minister wrote to the Pakistani president deploring the ‘gross interference’ by India in the ‘internal problems’ of his country.
However this was not the case, Indira as a leader of India many times informed leaders of other countries about India’s suffering from the refugee influx coming from the eastern Pakistan. The prime minister wrote to world leaders urging them to rein in the Pakistani army.
In the first week of July 1971 Dr. Henry Kissinger – at the time national security adviser to President Nixon – met Mrs. Gandhi in New Delhi, where he was acquainted for the first time with ‘the intensity of feelings on the East Bengal issue’. The refugee influx had placed a great burden on India – ‘we were holding things together by sheer will-power’, said the prime minister. The crisis could be resolved only when ‘a settlement which satisfied the people of East Bengal was reached with their true leaders’.
In the 1970s the International alliances were different from today as Pakistan and America were both great allies of each other and the then president of United State of America Richard Nixon considered Yahya Khan as a decent man.
However on India’s interference in Eastern Pakistan Nixon said ‘the Indians are no goddamn good’. Before India’s military intervention in Eastern Pakistan America warned India with their military support to Pakistan.
But Russia which has been a great India alliance since 1947 helped India in every possible way.
When frustrated US president Nixon abused the Indira for making Pakistan vulnerable in 1971 War.
Ramchandra Guha in his book wrote: The war had lasted a little less than two weeks. The Indians claimed to have lost 42 aircraft against Pakistan’s 86, and 81 tanks against their 226.
50 But by far the largest disparity was in the number of prisoners. In the western sector, each side took a few thousand POWs, but in the east, the Indians had now to take charge of around 90,000 Pakistani soldiers. Less than pleased with the outcome of the war was President Richard Nixon.
‘The Indians are bastards anyway’, he told Henry Kissinger. ‘Pakistan thing makes your heartsick’, he said. ‘For them to be done so by the Indians and after we had warned the bitch.’ Nixon wondered whether, when Mrs. Gandhi had visited Washington in November, he had not been ‘too easy on the goddamn woman’ – it seems to have been a mistake to have ‘really slobbered over the old witch’.
By this time even Kissinger had been turned off the Indians. He was cross with himself for having underestimated their military strength – ‘The Indians are such poor pilots they can’t even get off the ground,’ he had claimed in October. His hope now was that ‘the liberals are going to look like jerks because the Indian occupation of East Pakistan is going to make the Pakistani one look like child’s play.’