1962-71: crisis in East Pakistan and international response


The period from 1962 to 1971 witnessed a series of crises in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and garnered international attention due to the unfolding political, economic, and humanitarian situation. This period ultimately culminated in the Bangladesh Liberation War and the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation. Here’s an overview of the crisis and international response during that time:

  1. Political Background:
    • East Pakistan, geographically separated from West Pakistan by over a thousand miles, faced several challenges, including discrimination, economic disparities, and political marginalization.
    • The political power was concentrated in West Pakistan, and the East Pakistani population felt alienated, leading to demands for greater autonomy and recognition of their cultural identity.
  2. Cyclone Disaster of 1970:
    • In November 1970, a devastating cyclone struck East Pakistan, causing widespread destruction and loss of life.
    • The response of the Pakistani government was criticized for being slow and inadequate, exacerbating the grievances of the East Pakistani population.
  3. General Elections of 1970 and Crisis:
    • In December 1970, general elections were held in Pakistan, where the Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a majority of seats in East Pakistan.
    • The military junta in West Pakistan, led by General Yahya Khan, refused to hand over power to the elected representatives, leading to a political deadlock and heightened tensions.
  4. International Response:
    • The crisis in East Pakistan attracted international attention and drew various responses from countries and international organizations.
    • India, a neighboring country, played a significant role in supporting the Bengali nationalist movement and provided refuge to millions of East Pakistani refugees.
    • Many countries, including India, recognized the legitimacy of the Awami League’s electoral victory and called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
    • The United Nations and its member states were involved in diplomatic efforts to mediate the conflict and ease tensions between East and West Pakistan.
  5. Bangladesh Liberation War:
    • In March 1971, the Pakistani military launched a brutal crackdown in East Pakistan, targeting Bengali intellectuals, political leaders, and the general population.
    • The violence and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Pakistani military led to a full-fledged armed resistance by Bengali freedom fighters.
    • India provided military and logistical support to the Bengali fighters and eventually intervened directly in the conflict, leading to the Bangladesh Liberation War.
  6. International Recognition of Bangladesh:
    • The Bangladesh Liberation War received widespread international attention and condemnation of the Pakistani military’s actions.
    • Several countries, including India, recognized Bangladesh as an independent nation in December 1971, following the military victory of the Bengali forces.
    • The United Nations officially recognized Bangladesh as a member state in 1974.

The crisis in East Pakistan from 1962 to 1971 had a profound impact on the region and attracted international concern due to the political turmoil, the devastating cyclone, and the subsequent armed conflict. The international response varied, with neighboring countries like India playing a significant role in supporting the Bengali cause, while the United Nations and other countries worked toward diplomatic resolutions. The events eventually led to the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country.

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