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The Liberation War of Bangladesh; the Role of International Actors in Favor and Against of Its Independence. Writer, Jahidul Islam and Sumaiya Ane

Written By: jahiddu
16/04/2013 19:56

The Liberation War of Bangladesh; the Role of International Actors on Favor and Against of Independence

     Jahidul Islam and Sumaiya Ane


Foreign policy, being a projection of a country’s socio-economic compulsions in international politics, is part and parcel of dynamics of domestic politics[i]. And the extension of domestic policy[ii].  In the case of developing countries, which are still in the process of national liberation, foreign policy should be viewed as the component of the general policy of national liberation, which aims at realizing its underlying objectives in the context of international political compulsions. Bangladesh’s liberation struggle was a continuation of the sub continental quest for emancipation which had began in the nineteenth century, and which had achieved partial success in 1947, through distorted by the creation of Pakistan through the imperialist policy of divide and rule. In this contrived creation of Pakistan, lay the seeds of further struggle in the process of sub-continental liberation, which fructified in the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. The foreign policy of Bangladesh as a sub-component of the national liberation movement has bought out the fact that in the world infected, as it is , with imperialists forces, the national liberation is not   always a forward going process, and at times it suffers set-back, although it cannot completely be obliterated, howsoever be  the attempts of the imperialists[iii].


 National Liberation Movement of Bangladesh

 K N Brutents said, national liberation movement aims at doing away with ‘foreign political economic and ideological domination and oppression (including national colonial subjugation) and to set up sovereign state[iv].


 The liberation movement of Bangladesh began on 26 March 1971 and ended with the liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971. The armed struggle was the culmination of a series of events, situations and issues contributing to the progressively deteriorating relations between East and West Pakistan. The questions of land reforms, state language, inter-wing economic and administrative disparities, provincial autonomy, and the defense of East Pakistan[v].




 What is an Actor?

Political Actors are individuals and/or groups of people who come together. It can be in the shape of political parties, grassroots organizations, unions, networks or other groupings that again can have local, national, regional or global scope.    

Common to all these actors is that they react to one or several of society’s processes. The political actors wish to change the state of things – or stop other forms of change[vi].


     National Actors on Behalf of Bangladesh Liberation War

a. Mujibnagar  Government

 An Independent government of Bangladesh was established on the Indian border in 10 April, 1971 and the location of the government was named Mujibnagar[vii].   Mujibnagar government played the most vital role during the liberation war of Bangladesh. The new Government of Bangladesh headed by its designated Vice President, Sayed Nazrul Islam issued a proclamation on April 10 in which the following points were affirmed:

  That Bangladesh is an independent sovereign republic; that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shall be the President of the new state; Syed Nazrul Islam was designated as the Vice President and Supreme Commander of the armed forces of the republic; and the government under him would exercise all executive and legislative powers of the state. Tajuddin Ahmed was designated as Prime Minister while Kamruzzaman as the Home Minister and Khondakar Mushtaq Ahmed as the Foreign Minister. [viii]

The Government ordered a full scale liberation war against the Pakistan regime. It appealed to all Bengali military and paramilitary personnel and youth to join the Bangladesh freedom forces.

A delegation from this new government visited Delhi to request for Indian’s recognition and Indian military assistance. The Prime Minister simultaneously appealed for international support and arms aid to the liberation struggle[ix].    


b. Bangladesh forces[x]

Bangladesh was thus divided into 11 sectors and each sectors was given an operational responsibility. All the forces of the sectors were divided into two categories –the regular forces who belonged to the Army, EPR, the Naval arm, Air force ect. were known as Mukti Fouz, in short MF; and the students and other volunteers were called freedom fighters.[xi] Col M A G Osmani was the commander in chief of the Bangladesh forces. 

After successfully organizing the Mukti bahini into different sectors, the Bangladesh Forces headquarters raising three regular infantry brigades from the regular troops of these sectors. The aim of raising these brigades was to fight to conventional battles so that subsequent advance into Bangladesh territory could be made. These forces are Z, K, and S. Major Ziaur Rahman was the commender of Z Force, Major Khaled Musharraf was K force, as well as Major K M Saiullah was S Force[xii].

Besides Mukti Bahini , many other bahinis were organized inside Bangladesh at different places to fight Pakistan army. These bahinis included Kader bahini of Tangail, Latif Mirza bahini of Sirajgang, Akbar Hossain bahini of Jhinaidah, Hemayet bahini of Faridpur, Kuddus Mollah and Gafur bahini of Barisal, Asser bahini of Mymenshing, and Siraj Sikder, leader of Sarbohara Bahini also organized his force in Barisal.[xiii]  Student League leaders Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, Tofeal Ahmed, Abdur Razzak, and Siraj Alam were organized of their bahini.

c. Press and media

Press and media is the source of getting inspiration of any liberation war. During the liberation war a newspaper was published named ‘prochar pustica’ [xiv]. ‘Sadhin  Bangla Beter Kendro’ also telecast the new of the freedom fighters and inspired them through patriotic songs. And also the media artist went to different country for the support of liberation war like Khan Ata, Johir Raihan etc.

d. Individuals

The Justice Abu Syed Chowdhury clearly mentioned in his book about the description of diplomacy in London to convince   and to draw the attention of world’s community to the war of Independence of East Pakistan. He launched their mission by forming a central unit for the cooperation and assistance in the liberation war of Bangladesh in Britain. Later he was appointed as the legal representatives from the side of Bangladesh. Abu Sayed Chowdhury attempted a lot as legal representatives to draw the attention of world community through peaceful rally, press release, meeting, submission of proposal, participation of different TV, radio and news paper interviews including BBC about the bloodshed attack on civilian population of Bangladesh. He said at every place, ‘’we have reached a point of no return”. The Bangladeshi self operators and legal representatives try to convince even the Muslims countries that this is a unjust war from the side of Pakistan and not the irritation of India.[xv]


         National Actors against Bangladesh Liberation War


a. Political Parties

Muslim League and Jamat E Islami was the two political parties who stood against the liberation war in 1971 on the basis of Islamic country. 

During the Bangladesh Liberation War, Ghulam Azam (president of Jammat E Islami) took a political stance in support of unified Pakistan, and repeatedly denounced Mukti Bahini  secessionist, whose declared aim after 26 March 1971 became the establishment of an independent state of Bangladesh in place of East Pakistan[xvi]. Excerpts from Azam's speeches after 25 March 1971 used to be published in the spokes paper of Jamat named  The Daily Sangram.


b. Paramilitary Forces

 During the Liberation war of 1971, it is alleged that Jammat played a role in the formation of Peace Committees , which declared the independence movement to be a conspiracy hatched by India. The Peace Committee has also been alleged to have recruited Razakars.

During the liberation war it was the Razakars who provided intelligence to the occupying Pakistani forces about the where about of the freedom fighters and their supporters sympathizers; abducted and killed them with the help of Pakistani forces in various army camps and killing zones; burnt their homes and looted their properties; kidnapped thousands of Bengali women, trafficked them to various Pakistan Army camps across the country; and molested raped more than 400,000 women. 

The Al-Shams was a paramilitary wing of several Islamist parties in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), that with the Pakistan Army and the Al Badar, is held responsible for conducting a mass killing campaign against Bengali nationalists, civilians, religious and ethnic minorities in the Bangladesh Liberation War.



  International Actors on Behalf of Bangladesh Liberation War


a. India

National liberation movement and foreign policy are intimately related phenomena. One cannot think of a national liberation movement while ignoring its vital sub component of foreign policy. So during the liberation war the policy perceptions of India vise-a-vas Bangladesh because foreign policy, as a sub component of national liberation movement, is not an isolated phenomenon; it is both action and action, bound in a causal relationship. The basis of Indian foreign policy were-

1. The secular basis

India was a secular country, on the other hand Pakistan was Islamic country and Bangladesh wanted to get her independence on the basis of secularism.

2. Cultural basis

The cultural of Kolkata and Bangladesh was the same

3. Political and psychological basis

 The political relation between India and Pakistan were not good in 1971 for the hijacking an Indian Airlines to Lahore by Pakistani agents in early march.[xvii] In this case the Kashmir Conflict also became the determinant.

4. International political basis

The most significant fact was India made an agreement of peace friendship and cooperation with USSR[xviii] using the platform of Bangladesh Liberation War.

India helped Bangladesh in the case of:

 Refugee Crisis

By the middle of May, the flow of refugee from Pakistan into the Indian states had reached alarming proportions. By the May there were between five and a half and seven million East Pakistani in India causing demographic pressure in Assam, Tripura and West Bengal. Responding to the large scale influx of refugee , Indian prime minister established a separate department to deal with the East Pakistan refugee s under the charge of the then Secretary, Rehabitation, to the Government of India.

Supply of arms

Indian intelligence agencies helped in converting captured Pakistani currency into foreign exchange which was utilized by resistance groups for purchasing equipment communication and arms.


Bring to light the Liberation War

India first took up the Bangladesh issue in the United Nations as a refugee problem. Their ambassadors to the UN offices at New York and Geneva were instructed to give detailed facture briefings to the ECOSOC, UNCHR and other related agencies about the voluntary critical events in Bangladesh.

India gets involved with the Liberation War

When Pakistani declared war against India in 22 November, India involved with the Liberation War.



The foreign policy of Soviet Union toward Bangladesh Liberation War

The Soviet Union, consistent with her commitment to National Liberation Movement, and in conformity with her policy of anti imperialism, always came forward in support of the peoples who had challenged their colonial masters. She looked at developing countries which had overthrown the yoke of colonialism as being at various stages in the process of socio economic emancipation, and supported them with moral and material assistance[xix].

The Soviet Union mentioned both USA and China as her enemy. These two were the supporter of Pakistan as well as imperialism so it supported Bangladesh.

And the basis of socialism, USSR also supported the Liberation War of Bangladesh.


The support of Soviet Union

The Soviet Union strategically and politically supported India would still not openly back Bangladesh’s till it had become inevitable.

USA sent seventh fleet into Bay of Bengal and it crossed the Seventh Fleet crossed the Straits of Malacca on December 13,1971 and sailed into Bay of Bengal. The Soviet Union sent a cautionary message to the US late on December 13 or the 14 morning that the Soviet fleet in the Western Pacific had been altered about the presence of enterprise in the Bay of Bengal and that it would be sent to stabilize the situation in East Pakistan.[xx]



The most significant resolution moved in the Security Council was one proposed by Poland, (draft resolution No.S-10453) ON December 14, 1971. The Polish resolution sought the stipulation on behalf of the Security Council that power would be peacefully transferred to the lawfully elected representatives of the people of East Pakistan led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who should be released immediately. The resolution conditioned a ceasefire on this. As a follow up Poland wanted the withdraw of Pakistan armed forces to pre-set locations in East Pakistan from where they should be sent back to West Pakistan. The repatriation of Pakistan forces and West Pakistan civilians and the return of refugees was to be managed under the supervision of the United Nations[xxi].


d. Others

Senator Edward Kennedy sought separate meetings with representatives of the Mujibnagar government, which was organized both in Delhi and Calcutta. He returned to the USA and spoke understandingly about the plight of Bangladeshis in the Senate, in American political circles and before the American media. Andre Malraux (formal cultural minister in France) Was so moved after visiting the refugee camps, he wrote about his desire, if possible to implement, to mount an army tank of the Indian forces to launch a war against the military oppressors of East Pakistan[xxii].

George Harrison (USA) and Ravi Shankar (India) arranged concert for the Bangladeshi people.

Simon Ding was the reporter of USA supported the Liberation War of Bangladesh.


      International Actors against Bangladesh Liberation War


a. USA

As an imperialist country, the USA never sided with a national liberation struggle after the Second World War. The USA, in pursuit of her imperialistic objectives, despite humiliating experience in South East Asia, had no concern for the freedom of an oppressed people, nor did she suffer from any qualms of conscience at the tarnishing of her image, which had so assiduously been built up by scholars as a “defender of freedom and democracy” of the world[xxiii].  

USA had increased its military supplies to the Pakistani regime and USA president Henry Kissinger visited Delhi in July, 1971 and pointed that USA was fully supported to Pakistan.

The extent of USA support to the military regime in Pakistan can be gauged by the fact that Kissinger and the Nixon administration ignored and , indeed rejected  factual reports about atrocities and violation of human rights which were sent to Washington by the then US consul general in Dhaka, archer blood.[xxiv]

USA sent seventh fleet into Bay of Bengal and it crossed the Seventh Fleet crossed the Straits of Malacca on December 13,1971 and sailed into Bay of Bengal for the support of Pakistan[xxv].


b. China

China, despite her revolutionary rhetoric’s, and occasional verbosity about her opposition to US imperialism and support to national liberation struggle, had been seriously busy in foregoing an anti Soviet entente. Having transgressed the limits of ideological conflict with the Soviet Union, she had ultimately plunged into real politik and was in search of areas of confrontation with, what she called, “social imperialism”[xxvi].

So china gave political support to US and China during the liberation war.

c. Islamic country

Arab states, through Islamic and more vociferous in religious manifestations, would not support national liberation movement in other Islamic country[xxvii]

d. Others

French and also UK was against the Liberation War of Bangladesh.



Bangladesh became independent in December 16, 1971 through the immidate ceasefire and surrender of General Niazi to Lieutenant Jagit Sing Aurora at Ramna Racecourse (now Suhrawardy Uddyan) . But the significant fact was all the important powers expressed sympathy for the people of Bangladesh but did not show any inclination to support the liberation struggle.[xxviii]













[i] Virendra, Narain,” Foreign Policy of Bangladesh (1971-1981): The Context of National Liberation Movement, Aalekh Publishers, 1987, p. 202

[ii] Halim, “Foreign Policy  of Bangladesh: Framework of Analysis” , p.80

[iii] Virendra, Narain,” Foreign Policy of Bangladesh (1971-1981): The Context of National Liberation Movement, Aalekh Publishers, 1987, p. 203

[iv] Cf. K N Brutents: “These (National Liberation Movement ) are anti-colonial revolutions of the people which had been forcibly impressed into the colonial system of imperialism “  see K N Brutents , National Liberation Revolution Today , vol. 1, Progress Publishers , Moscow, 1977, p. 25 in Foreign Policy of Bangladesh. And also Lenin , Collected Works, vol. 23, p. 62.

[v] Banglapedia, Asiatic society publications, p.347  

[vi] Wikipedia (2009-08-21)


[vii] Dixit ,j, n, Liberation and beyond: Indo-Bangladesh Relations , Konarak Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1999,p. 44

[viii] ibid

[ix][ix] ibid

[x] Bir bikram, General, Major, Zaman, Bangladesh War of Liberation, Columbia Prokashoni, Dhaka, Bangladesh,2001 p.15

[xi] ibid

[xii] ibid

[xiii] Banglapedia, Asiatic society, p. 349

[xiv] Hossain, Rimi, Simin, My Childhood in 1971 and My Father Tajuddin Ahmed

[xv] Khan M Morshed, foreign policy dimension, the University Press Limited , Dhaka,2004 p.62

[xvi] Excerpts from Azam's speeches after 25 March 1971 used to be published in the spokespaper of Jamat named  The Daily Sangram

[xvii] Dixit ,j, n, Liberation and beyond: Indo-Bangladesh Relations , Konarak Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1999,p.43

[xviii] ibid

[xix] Narain, Virendra Foreign Policy of Bangladesh (1971-1985 ): The Context of National Liberation Movement , Aalekh Publishers, 1987, p.117

[xx] Dixit ,j, n, Liberation and beyond: Indo-Bangladesh Relations , Konarak Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1999,p. 108

[xxi] Ibid p.97

[xxii] ibid

[xxiii] Virendra, Narain,” Foreign Policy of Bangladesh (1971-1981): The Context of National Liberation Movement, Aalekh Publishers, 1987, p. 114

[xxiv] Dixit ,j, n, Liberation and beyond: Indo-Bangladesh Relations , Konarak Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1999,p.55

[xxv] ibid

[xxvi] ibid

[xxvii] Virendra, Narain,” Foreign Policy of Bangladesh (1971-1981): The Context of National Liberation Movement, Aalekh Publishers, 1987, p. 161

[xxviii] ibid


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