Indira Gandhi wanted to liberate Pakistani Kashmir: Advani


New Delhi: American leaders were convinced during the 1971 war that then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was thinking of breaking up West Pakistan and “liberate” Pakistani Kashmir, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani posted on his blog Sunday.

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Quoting a new book, Advani said wrote that the question about Gandhi’s objectives had been on his mind after he read “Bangladesh Liberation War: Myths and Facts” by B.Z. Khasru, the editor of a New York financial publication.

“A question that had been on my mind since some weeks was: when in 1971 Indiraji decided to help Sheikh Mujibur Rahman carve out an independent Bangladesh for the Bengalis of East Pakistan, was she also simultaneously thinking of an operation in West Pakistan aimed to achieve two major objectives, namely to balkanize West Pakistan, and to liberate Pakistan occupied Kashmir,” Advani said.

“Till now I have never before heard anyone else even suggest this. But this book carries ample data to show that whether or not Gandhi actually contemplated to achieve these objectives, Washington’s top leaders of those times, President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, the president’s national security adviser, were both convinced that Gandhi was seriously thinking of action in that direction, and that the Soviets were likely to help India in achieving its objective,” he said.

Advani said US relations with India those days were very bitter and Nixon disliked Gandhi. He said America had developed a great liking for successive Pakistan presidents, Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan.

“After Gen. Yahya Khan’s meeting with President Nixon at the White House, Kissinger seriously probed with Pakistan whether they would be willing to use their influence with China for a US-China rapprochement,” he said.

The BJP leader said that during the India-Pakistan crisis in relation to East Bengal, the US not only dispatched its nuclear-armed Seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal and warned Moscow “to stop India from destroying West Pakistan” but also tried hard to make China threaten India against any armed intervention in East Pakistan.

“If what US apprehended was what actually had been planned, USA’s threats and moves really paid off,” he said.

Advani quoted a chapter titled “‘Balkanize’ West Pakistan: Why Gandhi backed off” from the book.

“As the Indian military marched into East Pakistan, full throttle, and international efforts to stop the fighting gained momentum at the United Nations, Gandhi found herself between a rock and a hard place.

“On the one hand, if she advanced her campaign to completely crush the Pakistani military in the West as she had promised to her cabinet months earlier, she would face a potential fight with Washington and Beijing and antagonize Moscow, which had wanted to end the war after capturing Dhaka. On the other hand, if she backed off, her colleagues would give her a hard time and India would lose a rare opportunity to permanently cripple an arch enemy.”

Advani said Gandhi explained to her cabinet that if India accepted the UN ceasefire proposal after Bangladesh’s liberation, it could avoid further complications with the US and this “might also rule out the current possibility of a Chinese intervention in Ladakh”.

India’s Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram and several other military leaders, however, opposed a ceasefire until India had taken certain unspecified areas of Kashmir and destroyed “the war mechanism of Pakistan”.

“Gandhi overruled the opponents, saying that ‘for the moment India would not categorically reject’ the UN ceasefire proposal. India would accept a ceasefire after the Awami League regime was installed in Dhaka,” Advani said.

The BJP leader said he saw no reason to doubt the findings of the author.

Advani added that after reading the book he wished some objective Indian historian researched Indian source material and government documents to give the country a version of events as seen from the Indian side.