11 December 2004

To: Commander Jamalpur Garrison, 10 December 1971

In late November 1971, the Indian Army decisively invaded East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in support of the Bengali resistance army, the Mukti Bahini ('freedom fighters').
At Jamalpur, near Dhaka, the Indian brigadier, Hardit Singh Kler, surrounded a Pakistani unit led by Lt. Colonel Ahmed Sultan. On 10 December the two officers exchanged letters. The first, written by the Indian brigadier, was taken across the front line by an elderly man who delivered it by hand.
The Commander Jamalpur Garrison

I am directed to inform you that your garrison has been cut off from all sides and you have no escape route available to you. One brigade with full compliment of artillery has already been built up and another will be striking by morning. In addition you have been given a foretaste of a small element of our air force with a lot more to come. The situation as far as you are concerned is hopeless. Your higher commanders have already ditched you.

I expect your reply before 6.30 p.m. today failing which I will be constrained to deliver the final blow for which purpose 40 sorties of MIGs have been allotted to me.

In this morning's action the prisoners captured by us have given your strength and dispositions, and are well looked after.

The treatment I expect to be given to the civil messenger should be according to a gentlemanly code of honour and no harm should come to him.

An immediate reply is solicited.

Brigadier HS Kler. Comd.
The reply was sent a few hours later:
Dear Brig,

Hope this finds you in high spirits. Your letter asking us to surrender had been received. I want to tell you that the fighting you have seen so far is very little, in fact the fighting has not even started. So let us stop negotiating and start the fight.

40 sorties, I may point out, are inadequate. Ask for many more.

Your point about treating your messenger well was superfluous. It shows how you under-estimate my boys. I hope he liked his tea.

Give my love to the Muktis. Let me see you with a sten in your hand next time instead of the pen you seem to have such mastery over,

Now get on and fight.

Yours sincerely

Commander Jamalpur Fortress.
(Lt. Colonel Ahmed Sultan)
The next morning the fight did indeed begin when Lt. Colonel Sultan tried to break out of his garrison. Over 230 of his men were killed. They died in vain. When the Indian brigadier had written 'your higher commanders have already ditched you', he was absolutely right. The military and political leadership in Dhaka already knew that the war was lost....

Pakistan's hopeless military situation on the ground was matched on the diplomatic front. The Indians' diplomatic position would have been far worse if [Gen.] Yahya [Khan] had acted with greater speed and determination to isolate Delhi for what was, after all, a blatantly illegal invasion of a foreign country. Amazingly, Yahya failed to raise the Indian invasion of Pakistan formally at the UN Security Council. He probably feared that any ceasefire resolution would include a provision that he had to negotiate with the Awami League--something he was determined to avoid. But whatever the rationale, it was a significant blunder.

The Security Council did nevertheless discuss the situation in East Pakistan but successive resolutions were vetoed by either Russia or China. The Russians, backing India, wanted any resolution to include commitments for a transfer of power to the Awami League; the Chinese, backing Pakistan, did not. In his capacity of foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went to New York but was unable to affect the course of events. With Pakistan's unity on the verge of destruction and frustrated by the Russians' Security Council vetoes, Bhutto decided to make the best of a bad job and strengthen his own political position back at home. On 15 December he told the Security Council that he would never address them again. As he ripped up some Security Council papers, he asked: 'Why should I waste my time here? I will go back to my country and fight.' It was the speech of a leader in waiting.
SOURCE: Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, 2nd ed., by Owen Bennett Jones (Yale Nota Bene, 2002), pp. 178-181

No comments: