Cambridge Union Debate on 1971 War

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This is the formal re-launch of the Cambridge Majlis, 128 years after its inception. This is their first event in almost 30 years however they were extremely influential (Cambridge has always been a South Asian nexus moreso than Oxford).

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11 Replies to “Cambridge Union Debate on 1971 War”

  1. Can the question be better defined? Is the question what Pakistan should have done on December 3rd, 1971? Because by then Pakistani options were heavily limited.

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  2. Indira Gandhi decided on the big gamble in November, 1971. She took advantage of civil conflict inside China . . . which caused Chinese military units to pull back from confronting India to face off against each other.

    Indira guessed she had just enough time to win before the Chinese could redeploy their forces to invade India. Indira asked for an Israeli style blitzkrieg.

    Pakistan surrendered one day before the Chinese were planning to invade India. China needed to deploy along both the Indian and USSR borders before invading India–because the USSR ordered a general mobilization to be prepared to invade China if China invaded India.

    The US decided to defend China if China was attacked by the USSR. And there was a brief moment where all parties thought they were on the brink of global nuclear Armageddon.

    Zach you could make the case that from an Indian perspective Indira’s descision to take the big gamble in November 1971 almost caused the end of our species. And that it was not worth it.

    On the other hand woman from around the world got to find out about and fall in love with the incredibly charismatic, intelligent, eloquent, physically attractive personification of manhood Sam Manekshaw because of the Indira November 1971 gamble.

    Sam Manekshaw arguably became one of the most respected and popular Indians of all time. The ultimate patriot. The ultimate embodiment of Indian-ness, competence, capacity, merit, physical health, intelligence, mental health, and Bharatiya culture.

    Sam Manekshaw inspired Indians to have confidence in themselves; and reminded Indians of their mostly forgotten great ancestors.

    Sam Manekshaw’s heroism and example reminded the world about the greatness of the Zorastrians and how deeply Zorastrians were part of the fabric of India and Hindus (broadly defined) at all levels.

    This may be one of the best thing that came out of the tragedy of 1971.

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    You can also mention how Bangladesh went through one of the worst depressions and famines in their history 1971-1974. India did a terrible job surging the capacity of Bangladeshi institutions 1971 and 1972.

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  3. The other day, found something interesting on the topic.

    https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153304

    ” When Nurul Islam – a Harvard-trained economist who had served in key government positions in Pakistan during the 1950s and the 1960s – went into exile in Calcutta in 1971, he found his Bengali Muslim host opposing the cause of an independent Bangladesh. In his book, Making of a Nation, Bangladesh: An Economist’s Tale, Islam recorded his host as saying that a “strong and united Pakistan was a balancing factor against India and provided some constraint on India’s discriminatory, if not outrightly hostile, treatment of the Muslims”. He also suggested that the “Muslims in the East should have settled their differences with Pakistan peacefully, without destroying its integrity”.”

    To me its worth debating how did Bengali muslims of West Bengal saw the war, considering Bengal (demographically ) was the ground zero of Pakistan movement .

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  4. From the Pakistani perspective you could describe the backdrop of what happened in late 1971:
    —arguably the largest immediate trigger of 1971 was not honoring the 1970 Pakistani general election results.
    —general disrespect with which the West Pakistan establishment treated Bengalis
    —the Pakistani establishment encouraged a more conservative interpretation of Islam than Bangladeshis were comfortable with.
    —horrendous fabian socialist and incompetent economic policies 1947-1971 reduced the capacity, competence and merit of Pakistan by 1971
    —Pakistan’s tensions with India damaged the ability of Bangladeshis to do business with India and used up Pakistan’s limited tax revenues through military expenditures

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    Makes little sense to ask what Pakistan should have done differently on December 3rd, 1971. By then the train was in motion.

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  5. Just have a backward cutoff on dates in your analyses. The issue is between an entity that was born on 14th August 1947 and December 3rd 1971. Don’t need to go before that. Don’t go into causes of partition, don’t go into United Bengal, don’t go into 1905 reversed Bengal partition, don’t go into faraizi movement, don’t go into how it is so “unfathomable” and “unique” that East Bengal became Muslim majority. Keep yourself and panelists away from these things and get a consensus beforehand to not even refer to anything pre 1947 and you can have a fruitful discussion in my opinion.

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  6. Fascinating anecdote Saurav.

    After 1971 many Bangladeshi muslims moved to India. Which implies that they had confidence in India.

    Can we compare and contrast three things:
    —attitude of West Bengal muslims of pre 1971 extraction
    —attitude of Bangladeshi muslims who moved to India en mass starting in 1971
    —attitude of Bangladeshi muslims who stayed in Bangladesh

    Can this further be broken down into different groups of muslims?
    —Shia? Sufi? liberal non Sufi Sunnis? Conservative Sunnis?
    —college educated vs non college educated muslims

    Likely this kind of granular detail can’t be assembled. But it would be amazing to learn about.

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  7. Anan

    Another anecdote if you are interested, i am forgetting the gentleman’s name (perhaps Islam himself) , but he was sort of a big shot in Awami League. Once the crackdown happened he moved to Calcutta, and with the improsenemnt of Muzib and his followers, he suddenly found himself as the number 2 in the Organization . The Pakistani establishment tried to tarnish him by saying he has already met with Indira and they are planning to start war. (This was much before the war started)

    The funny thing is that Indira actually only knew Mujib and no second rung leaders, so much so that this 2nd rung guy had to track down Amartya Sen in Calcutta by himself (who he had once met in a Conference) and then they both flew to Delhi so that Amartya can vouch that this guy is really the 2nd important guy in Awami League. 😂😂

    Indira once she met him was totally not impressed by him, and she was like “Are you really the guy the Pak radio is going on and on about? Doesn’t look like it” 😂😂

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    1. +1008

      Amazing anecdote!

      My elders, family and faith taught me not to criticize others. But I am awfully tempted to say something a little non kosher about Indira. Restraining myself with difficulty.

      Many Indians treat Bengali muslims like crap.

      Especially Bengali muslims who didn’t go to all the fancy posh Anglo schools with their faux accents and elite Anglo manners and habits.

      I think I should stop now. Before getting into hate speech.

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