1971 India Pakistan War: Role of Russia, China, America and Britain

1970: The Bangladeshis (East Pakistan) feel that they’re not given due attention by the West Pakistanis. Several factors such as adopting Urdu  as the state language increases the feeling of separatism, which bursts into an all out liberation war after the Pakistani general election, 1970. This particular election was won by the East Pakistan Bangladesh Awami League , which secured 167 of 169 seats of East Pakistan, thus securing an absolute majority in the 313 seat assembly. Fearing domination by East Pakistanis, the party not allowed power by West Pakistan. Pakistan’s president Yahya Khan orders the army to suppress East Pakistan. (The military was dominated by West Pakistan) Protests and mass killings begin.  [ Further Reading: 1971 Bangladesh genocide  ]

March 1971: Bangladesh declares independence. Several military units such as the Border Guards Bangladesh ( Then known as the East Pakistan Rifles) defect into the rebellion. Mukti Bahini ( Freedom Fighters ) comes into force.

Indian Involvement:

The war forces some 10 million East Pakistanis to flee into India as refugees. This placed a burden on India’s economy and interests. Further, the targeted killing of East Pakistan Hindus forces India to intervene. Indira Gandhi on 27th March, 1971 expressed full support to the East Pakistan Liberation Movement. Refugee camps are converted into training camps for the Mukti Bahini.

November 1971: War becomes inevitable. Rising hatred against India led to strengthening of Indian borders. India had already decided that it’d go to war against Pakistan. However, fearing Chinese intervention, it waited until December to declare it.

December 1971: Even before India could declare war and take military action, the Pakistanis attacked north-western India – including Agra – with less than 50 Airplanes. Official war begins. India retaliates massively. War is carried out on air, ground and water.

Involvement of other countries (not strictly following Dec, 1971):

United States of America:

The Pakistanis belonged to the Baghdad Pact and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization of the USA. Hence, USA had to intervene. Maps depicting nations involved in the treaties are given at the end of the answer. What needs to be said is that both these treats are similar to the NATO.

Here is a documented conversation between Henry Kissinger , secretary of state of the USA and Richard Nixon, president of the USA.

Nixon: Our desire is to save West Pakistan. That’s all.

Kissinger: That’s right. That is exactly right.

Nixon: All right. Keep those carriers moving now.

Kissinger: The carriers—everything is moving. Four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, 22 more are coming. We’re talking to the Saudis, the Turks we’ve now found are willing to give five. So we’re going to keep that moving until there’s a settlement.

Nixon: Could you tell the Chinese it would be very helpful if they could move some forces or threaten to move some forces?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

However, the Chinese, fearing Soviet intervention (because though India was non-aligned, it was considered to be Pro-soviet) – why? More on that at the end of the answer.

Richard Nixon assures China that any soviet intervention will be countered by the USA.

Nixon: Could you tell the Chinese it would be very helpful if they could move some forces or threaten to move some forces?

Kissinger: Absolutely.

Nixon: They’ve got to threaten or they’ve got to move, one of the two. You know what I mean?

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: All they’ve got to do is move something. Move a division. You know, move some trucks. Fly some planes. You know, some symbolic act. We’re not doing a goddamn thing, Henry, you know that.

The Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi believed that China will never intervene militarily from the North. And thus, the USA sought to capitalize this to make a surprise attack. Further, Nixon decided to send the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) into the Bay of Bengal. The plan was to surround India – by Pakistan, China and the US – and force it to retreat from East Pakistan. Meanwhile, Soviet Intelligence predicts that the British Navy is nearing territorial waters of India – led by the HMS Eagle (R05). Apart from this, France also sold aircraft to the Paks.

Thus birthed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation

Indira Gandhi had the foresight to sign this on August, 1971 – after she had failed to gain the sympathy of western nations. This helped India in two ways – stemmed Chinese involvement, stemmed direct US involvement. For, when US involvement was becoming clear by December 1971, the USA feared that the Russians might enter the war too – which would cause a lot of damage to the Americans and Pakistans (do not misconstrue this  – the war could have still went on between the Americans an the Russians – which would have led to massive damages to both countries. The two super powers have never engaged in direct military conflict for the exact same reason! One might win over the other, but not without damages).

The Americans called for a ceasefire resolution in the United Nations Security Council. However, The Russians believed that the Indians could win the war easily. Also, Indira Gandhi had a stern resolution of supporting the Bangladeshis. The Russians vetoed the ceasefire resolution.

Before the great war of 1971 India and Russia had signed Inḍo-Soviet security treaty by which Russia was bound to defend India Incase of external threat.

Britain at that time helped Pakistan because they were not so happy due to letting India attain freedom as this costs them a very huge massive colony leading to their downfall in the Asian continent.

Also after knowing this President Nixon and Henry Kissinger the then Advisor of President of USA approached Britain with a desire to help Pakistan against India as this would create a wind of USA in the Asian continent (as USA always has the habit of getting into matters which were none of their concern)

Now Russia.

  1. Helped India as according to the defense deal
  2. Was helping Every country which was against USA or any country which has a threat from USA. (Similar reason for Russia helping Cuba against USA)
  3. If Pakistan would have won the war., then it would have opened the doors for USA as well as BRITAIN to the Asian subcontinent and USSR at that time was a sole key player and didn’t wanted to put its dominance in Asian region at stake at any cost.

Hence even though when the would world was against INDIA it was the USSR who helped and backed India by virtue of which Bangladesh attained its freedom and bought Pakistan General Niazi to his knees along with 91000+ soldiers., I mean POW


  1. Intercepted message about the plotting and informed the same to India
  2. Send threat notes to Iran, Saudi and other gulf countries to not attack India as this May result in a direct war with USSR
  3. Warned China to stay neutral and not attack India or help pakistan., or they USSR will attack their Sinkiang region
  4. Intercepted the US TASK FORCE 74(seventh fleet) and Aircraft carrier before entering Bay of Bengal and shadowed it till it left the bay of bengal
  5. British aircraft carrier Eagle fled away to Madagascar
  6. USSR at that time Russia bought its nuclear armed flotilla in International waters to war for India!! Can you believe that? Who risked their nuclear armed submarines/carriers/etc for other countries? But Brave USSR didn’t thought twice to do that!
  7. To counter this two-pronged British-American threat, Russia dispatched a nuclear-armed flotilla from Vladivostok on December 13 under the overall command of Admiral Vladimir Kruglyakov, the Commander of the 10th Operative Battle Group (Pacific Fleet). Though the Russian fleet comprised a good number of nuclear-armed ships and atomic submarines, their missiles were of limited range (less than 300 km).
  8. To effectively counter the British and American fleets the Russian commanders had to undertake the risk of encircling them to bring them within their target by approaching them as close as possible!

And the war was won.

Additional Information:

Why was India considered pro-Russian although she was non-aligned?

Dwight D. Eisenhower of the USA had decided to supply arms to Pakistan from as early as 1954. Further, Pakistan was a member of the US-led Baghdad Pact and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization – which assured Pakistan of military and economic aid. This alarmed both India and Russia. India’s association with Russia thus began due to common threats that emerged directly because of American association with Pakistan.


Baghdad Pact (CENTO)

(US joined later – in 1958)

1971 War: How Russia sank Nixon’s gunboat diplomacy

1971 India Pakistan War: Role of Russia, China, America and Britain

Shoulder to shoulder at the United Nations

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