Home > China, History, India, Pax Americana > 1971 Bangla Desh War – Why was China quiet?

1971 Bangla Desh War – Why was China quiet?


Why was China militarily neutral in Indo-Pak Wars-1965, 1971? Tibet Card used by Indian Foreign Policy?

Signing of Surrender Document on 16 December 1971 Surrender received by Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora (General Officer Commanding (GOC), Eastern Command) from Pakistani General A.A.K. Niazi. (Photo courtesy - indopakmilitaryhistory.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

Signing of Surrender Document on 16 December 1971 Surrender received by Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora (General Officer Commanding (GOC), Eastern Command) from Pakistani General A.A.K. Niazi. (Photo courtesy - indopakmilitaryhistory.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

War on two fronts

One of the major reasons why India could take on Pakistan on two fronts – in Bangla Desh and on the Western Front, was because, there was no Chinese action to support Pakistan. China has been positioned as an all-weather friend of Pakistan? So, in the hour of need, China did not lift its little finger to help Pakistan against India?

The Bangla Desh Theatre of war (Graphic courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

The Bangla Desh Theatre of war (Graphic courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

China’s inaction

The 1971 Bangladesh War changed world perception of India – leading to Nixon’s famous outbursts. As the tapes show, the US President pushed, prodded and cajoled the Chinese to act against India – to no avail.

China’s puzzling inaction, similar to its inaction in 1965 also, declassified White House Tapes show, in the 1971 Bangladesh War, is rarely analysed in the current India-China narratives.

Indo-Soviet alliance

The answer for 1971 seems to be the dreaded Soviets.

The Chinese dreaded the Soviets. China’s aggressive posturing against Soviet Russia on the border island of Zhenbao-Damanskii had alienated the Russians. Soviet Russia backed off after China was made to pay a price. It was some US show of support to China, that made the Soviets stop from complete bull-dozing of China. This aspect of international politics is rarely analyzed or factored into analysis. But this does not explain 1965-Chinese neutral posturing.

This extract below from The Guardian gives a perspective on the USSR-China-USA relationship.

The Tribune announcing Niazi's appeal for surrender. Niazi's surrender with 1,00,000 soldiers, was the largest surrender received by any general in 20th century. (Picture courtesy - bangladesh-tour.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

The Tribune announcing Niazi's appeal for surrender. Niazi's surrender with 1,00,000 soldiers, was the largest surrender received by any general in 20th century. (Picture courtesy - bangladesh-tour.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

de facto alliance was personally decided by Nixon in August 1969 just as the Soviet Union was preparing to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on China. Nixon had decided the Soviets were the more dangerous party and that it was against American interests for China to be “smashed” in a Chinese-Soviet war. “It was a revolutionary moment in US foreign policy,” Kissinger explains. “An American president declared we had a strategic interest in the survival of a major communist country.”

In October 1969, Mao Zedong was so convinced war was nigh, he ordered all Chinese leaders to disperse around the country, except for the indispensable Zhou Enlai. Kissinger says that it was only Moscow’s uncertainty about America’s response that led the Soviets to postpone the project. Soon after, Kissinger, as Nixon’s national security adviser, engaged in the secret negotiations that led to the American president’s meeting with Mao in 1972, an event that astonished America’s enemies and its friends. (via On China by Henry Kissinger – review | Books | The Guardian).


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  1. June 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm

  2. June 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm

  3. A Pakistani's View
    August 7, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    While Pakistan and China claim to be each other’s All Weather Friends, China could not be part of a war which half of Pakistan of that time thought illegitimate.

    Even if China wanted to intervene, it’s govt must be debating on supporting which Pakistan, East or the West.

    The Indian strategy was so powerful that it not only confused half of the Pakistanis but it also confused their long-standing ally. There definitely is, however, some stuff cooking up now to bend the scale once again in Pakistani favour after India partitioned Pakistan in the revenge of 1947.

  4. August 27, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Kindly also examine the internal situation that had prevailed in Communist China during 1971. United States had directly asked China for its military intervention to stop India in its tracks. But, United States had access to Chinese Foreign Minister and had no access to Chinese Defence Minister/Secretary. There was intense power struggle in Beijing and these two most powerful figures were like sworn enemies and were not able to work together. This bitter feud and struggle for power in the top Communist Party echelons had saved India and had frustrated United States. U.S. dispatched its 7th Fleet to Bay of Bengal but there was no military incident.

  5. September 21, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Bhavanajagat.

    Interesting.

    The PLA I am sure is major part of the Chinese power matrix. Their role is however, rarely analyzed.

    Any analysis or paper on this.

  6. J.S.
    November 4, 2012 at 4:05 am

    A Pakistani’s View :
    While Pakistan and China claim to be each other’s All Weather Friends, China could not be part of a war which half of Pakistan of that time thought illegitimate.
    Even if China wanted to intervene, it’s govt must be debating on supporting which Pakistan, East or the West.
    The Indian strategy was so powerful that it not only confused half of the Pakistanis but it also confused their long-standing ally. There definitely is, however, some stuff cooking up now to bend the scale once again in Pakistani favour after India partitioned Pakistan in the revenge of 1947.

    Err… what revenge exactly? The Indian govt. was forced to take action against the inhumane crimes of Pakistanis in Bangladesh. Millions were killed, pillaged,looted, raped and murdered. Indian govt. took the decision to liberate Bangladesh on humane grounds.

  7. Truth_Seeker
    July 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    ” Indian govt. took the decision to liberate Bangladesh on humane grounds.”
    –> !!!
    Dear J.S. and other indian brothers,

    How long are you going to digest that bullcrap ? How long are going to live in your ‘Holier than thou’ bubble ? You people are just like the TV/Entertainment media fed zombies who believes everything the govt says on TV, News. Just like, for a long time Americans believed that their country is fighting for other people’s peace, equality. They believed Red Indians, Vietnam people and all other like them are Terrorists. They believed America is the Keeper of Peace, Guardian angel of Democracy. They all believed what is told to them.

    You people are exactly just like them !!!!!

    You have to understand – War is not like ‘running an errand’. War is NOT anything like that. Historically For every country (except the victims), War means political benefit/ Business/ Control / Wealth access etc etc. Let me give you a short summary that you will not find in your books.
    ———
    Why Bangladeshi people got fed up ?
    Due to all kind of oppression & inequality Bangladeshi people was agitated for a long time (It can trace back to 1951 Language movement or before). But people were like “Let’s move on. Everything will be ok.” But the oppression went on ! After the Election issue and the unconstitutional steps taken by Yayha Khan led to major agitation and their true face came out by the Heinous Genocide. After that People were like “Fuck Peace and Equality … we want out, we want freedom” (Just like the way People of Palestine has had enough of so called Peace and Equality)

    On the other hand, Pakistani people believed their Govt and thought ^terrorists^ are creating problem for the country just like Blind fools like you & Americans.

    But I MUST thank those few Pakistani journalist who blew the whistle and leaked the info on Pakistani army’s genocide. Obviously they were labeled as ‘Traitor’ in their own country. But They had conscience and they believed in true Humanity.
    ————-
    So Why and How India gets involved ?

    First of all, I MUST thank those Indian People (not Govt) who helped Bangladeshi people (Hindus or Muslims) during the war and genocide. I believe those people helped with out any agenda. Cause Bangladesh’s liberation or not would not have changed their life nor their financial state.

    So what’s the story of the Govt ? Indian ordinary people don’t run Govt, Politicians run Govt. Indira Gandhi was a shrewd politician and she has foreseen the immense strategic benefits of a separated East Pakistan i.e. Liberated Bangladesh. The moment Indian govt. realized that this is a huge opportunity for them to cut in and help Bangladesh. They have been closely following these issues for a long time. It was not new for them. She and Indian intelligence had played a similar role on Independent Sikkim’s integration with India.

    It was an opportunity cause after the genocide Bangladeshi people had enough and they would have prolonged the fight. It could have been like the one in Palestine and there WOULD NOT have been any peace with the Yahya khan’s govt.

    Bangladesh, geologically is in a great location plus it has natural wealth. It shared borders with Indian on every side. If Indian can have Bangladesh as an ally then it will be easier for them to control the far-east side of Indian that shares Border with Burma. There are Trade issues, Port issues, Water etc etc many benefits. Politically it will also benefit India and Russia.

    Indira Gandhi foresee these and decided to step in. Indian Govt had no humanitarian agenda here. (Will prove that in later section). They completely did it for their benefit and they have been sucking on Bangladesh since 1971.

    Having said that, I still Thank Indian Govt for helping even though they did it for their own benefit and later fucked us up in many ways.

    Another point that needs to be mentioned is that, India would never have get involved unless the Mighty Russia gave them the ‘Go-Ahead’. Russia and India both had strategic benefit but I am still baffled by China’s decision. In my opinion they played the most vital role cause i have read in many articles where Niazi mentioned that They were badly looking forward to China. China could have keep Indian ‘on the run’ from north side (both end). Even in the last moments Niazi was assured that China will send force but China’s last moment decision broke Pakistani Armies will to fight. Inside Bangladesh Region Bangladeshi Freedom fighters were adamant and resisted strongly.
    ———————–
    So what proves that Indian Govt’s involvement was not on Humanitarian ground rather pure Business ?

    Look at Farakka Barrage issue. Immediately after Liberation indian govt made the first blow on the poor people battered by a fresh War.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farakka_Barrage
    http://rezwanul.blogspot.com/2007/04/farakka-lost-battle-for-bangladesh.html

    That was just a beginning. They did one after another injustice to us but we, as a ‘grateful’ friend digested it. The unequal trade treaties, Depriving of water (which is an international crime), Non stop killing on the border (another violation on human rights).
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2011/jan/23/india-bangladesh-border-shoot-to-kill-policy

    What they get in return ? a bend over Bangladesh who is giving continuously. Bangladesh has given more than 6 billion USD business in last couple of years. (check your govts trade portal). 5th largest foreign remittance, Business opportunities at private sector,

    http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/bangladesh-is-a-golden-gate-of-opportunities-for-indian-businesses-cii-113062800428_1.html

    http://www.siliconindia.com/news/business/15-Nations-Sending-Highest-Remittances-to-India-nid-147515-cid-3.html

    Bangladeshi people are frustrated with this one sided so called god damn Friendship. People are asking “What do you want”
    http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/jun/26/what-does-india-want

  8. July 11, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Having said that, I still Thank Indian Govt for helping even though they did it for their own benefit and later fucked us up in many ways.

    I completely agree with you that India helped Bangladesh because it suited India.

    Why do you expect India to do anything for Bangladesh, if it does not suit India?

    Further are you suggesting India should not protect and further its own interests?

    India does it. Bangladesh should do the same.

    Nothing is forever. So, if there are unequal agreements, make your position clear and strong. Then re-negotiate.

    So maybe Bangladeshis must stop getting frustrated and fed up – like Pakistan. Get up, pull up your socks and take care of your interests.

    India is OK with Bangladesh – and OK without Bangladesh also.

    Bangladesh(is) must remember that if you dont know your friends and thank your friends, soon you will be left with none.

    While The Soviet Support in 1971 Bangladesh War was explicit, why are you so eager to deny credit to India for managing an alliance with Soviets?

    Also remember that India managed China in 1965, while fighting a war with Pakistan & US in 1965 on two fronts – without any Soviet help.

    So, maybe instead of worrying about giving credit to India, worry more about what lessons Bangladesh needs to get out of this.

    After all, the idea of Pakistan started in East Bengal – and Jinnah just hijacked it.

    Is Bangladesh learning its lessons from Pakistan, India and its own history?

    Or more worried about denying credit to India?

  9. Jai hind?
    November 23, 2014 at 10:15 am

    @Truth_Seeker: Unbiased comment on all round political agenda – Its true India Bangladesh “friendship” is more beneficial to India. Its best that a Bangladeshi leader (who wants the good of Bangladesh rather than being an Indian puppet), should lead you. Then re-negotiate all treaties as you have resources, invest in infrastructure and be independent from all parasites.

    India is just another blood sucker like Pakistan, China or the US – basically you do not have any friends. If possible lean towards the Russians, whose country is run by Men and have some principles.

  10. Truth_Seeker
    November 24, 2014 at 4:49 am

    Dear Anuraag Sanghi,

    “Why do you expect India to do anything for Bangladesh, if it does not suit India?”

    -> I am afraid this question that you have asked was raised either due to poor analytic ability or you might have missed the quote on the top of my prev. comment.
    It was a response to your fellow brother’s comment:
    ” Indian govt. took the decision to liberate Bangladesh on humane grounds.”

    The appropriate question should be- “Why are you people still believing that shit (playing savior on humane ground) ?”


    “Further are you suggesting India should not protect and further its own interests? India does it. Bangladesh should do the same.”

    -> My suggestion is, India should realize and starts to behave ‘properly’ with neighbors. I will not use the term ‘Friends’ cause India doesn’t have any friends and India’s hypocritical (a classic adoption of American Politics) political agendas will not let India have any friends and nonetheless – in Politics no one is a friend ! It’s all business.

    Now every country may/will protect it’s own interest and still can live a harmonious political life. There are hundreds of example. You can’t define Colonial rule as ‘England protecting own interest’ which is rather imperialism/oppression, you can’t define American imperialism as a simple ‘protecting own interest’ which is rather pure aggressive imperialism. Same it is – what India is trying to do with neighbors. You may keep a tunnel vision on that but that’s the fact.

    My suggestion is, you should realize when India will be in trouble, you will be needing your neighbors help. There were signs of it already. When rupees val went down, check out the list of countries that were ‘feeding’ your economy. Check your Govt. revenue dashboard. I think no matter how much you try to keep a blind eye and EAGER TO DENY but you won’t miss Bangladesh’s name on that list 😉

    “Bangladesh should do the same.”

    -> There’s a nice quote on nationalism: “Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill.” – Richard Aldington
    Personally I don’t want to see Bangladesh adopting Indian politics but I don’t want to adopt your hypocrisy, so I admit that the political culture of this Subcontinent is more or less same and I don’t have any high hopes with current politicians.


    “So maybe Bangladeshis must stop getting frustrated and fed up – like Pakistan. Get up, pull up your socks and take care of your interests.”

    -> You must have misunderstood me !! I don’t think Bangladeshis are frustrated with themselves. We are doing ok but we are just fed up with India’s bullying. Not only us- Nepal, Bhutan is fed up too (in case you haven’t noticed) And it’s funny that you are advising us “pull up your socks” when this is happening:
    http://www.bangladeshchronicle.net/index.php/2014/02/indian-expats-remit-3716m-p-a-from-bangladesh/

    “A report from India’s Bangalore-based Siliconindia magazine recently reported that Bangladesh is the fifth highest source of annual remittance from Indian expats amongst the top 15 countries. ”

    May be India should learn to say ‘Thank you’. Our colonial ^mentors^ have taught that, right ? 😉


    “India is OK with Bangladesh – and OK without Bangladesh also.”
    –> I’m sorry, but I think you don’t have much idea on Politics. Let alone history.


    “Bangladesh(is) must remember that if you dont know your friends and thank your friends, soon you will be left with none.”
    –> You know that I can rephrase that with replacing ‘Bangladesh’ with ‘India’.
    Bangladesh has already thanked (with blood) and still doing so. May be India need to start recognizing.
    http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/jun/26/what-does-india-want

    May be it’s time, you ask yourself – who is your friend, have you ever treated any neighbor well ?
    (Leaving out Pakistan,China for your convenience 😉 Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Bangladesh.
    going far, Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipine, Malaysia, Japan … so on.
    Or are you willing to rely more on your new found friend ‘Israel’ ? 🙂 A country’s political ‘choice of friends’ depicts the picture properly for rest of the world.
    Unfortunately history repeats.

    ——
    “why are you so eager to deny credit to India for managing an alliance with Soviets?”

    –> India managed alliance with Russia so that they don’t get raped by US (or may be China). Why are you so eager to deny that fact? 🙂

    —-
    “Also remember that India managed China in 1965, while fighting a war with Pakistan & US in 1965 on two fronts – without any Soviet help.”

    –> May I share your words with little modification:
    “”why are you so eager to deny credit to Russia ” 🙂


    “After all, the idea of Pakistan started in East Bengal – and Jinnah just hijacked it.”
    –> that’s like a one line history leaving out all other contexts. Silly or ignorance or intentional ?


    “So, maybe instead of worrying about giving credit to India, worry more about what lessons Bangladesh needs to get out of this.”
    “Is Bangladesh learning its lessons from Pakistan, India and its own history? Or more worried about denying credit to India?”

    –> Interesting ! Which part of this line you didn’t understood ?
    “Having said that, I still Thank Indian Govt for helping even though they did it for their own benefit ”
    your comment reminded me of this. http://bit.ly/1pdGz6q (to be fair, a generalized fact though)

    The questions you should ask yourself –
    – Why India (and Indians) are so eager to deny what Bangladesh has done/is doing for India ? How long are we going to deny all those injustices (by Indian govt) done on Bangladesh ? Many of those injustices are already noted under ‘Violation of Humanitarian laws .. “, ” Violation of International laws ..”
    – How hard it is for us to understand that it’s time for India to establish good relationship with it’s neighbor. The world is heading towards a more turmoil political situation and living in harmony with one’s neighbor is more important than ever. It’s time for us to re-check what have we done for your neighbors in recent years. How hypocritical our foreign policies are ?”

    Trust me, You may live in a Bollywood bubble but it’s a fact that India’s “We want to be like Umerika” will lead India to the gutter (politically).

    American activists are working hard to open up their people’s eye. It’s your duty not to let the same happen to Indian politics. Rich culture, social tradition etc of this sub continent (which we are also a part) are already fucked up during colonial era and now we are feeling ‘superior & cool’ by adopting Capitalist American social and political cultures (which has the same colonial origin).

    Think !

  11. Truth_Seeker
    November 24, 2014 at 4:58 am

    @Jai Hind:

    It’s just not about treaties and deals. there are more than that.
    It’s a vast topic for discussion but in short, if we need to survive the forthcoming political turmoils then countries of this subcontinent needs to live in harmony (as much as possible) and keep the balance.

    Nobody has any friends in politics. It’s about living in harmony and of course when it comes to National interest, do the right thing without harming anyone else. Recent example: Iceland.

    Instead of blindly following American politics, may be we all should (if we have to) look for better examples like: Iceland.

  1. August 27, 2011 at 10:13 pm
  2. May 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm

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