International recognition of Bangladesh

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The Bangladesh Liberation War[a] (Bengali: মুক্তিযুদ্ধ Muktijuddho) was a revolutionary independence war in South Asia during 1971 which established the republic of Bangladesh.[3] The war pitted East Pakistan against West Pakistan, and lasted over a duration of nine months. It witnessed large-scale atrocities, the exodus of 10 million refugees and the displacement of 30 million people.[4]

The war broke out on 26 March 1971, when the Pakistani Army launched a military operation called Operation Searchlight against Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia and armed personnel, who were demanding that the Pakistani military junta accept the results of the 1970 first democratic elections of Pakistan, which were won by an eastern party, or to allow separation between East and West Pakistan. Bengali politicians and army officers announced the declaration of Bangladesh's independence in response to Operation Searchlight. Bengali military, paramilitary and civilians formed the Mukti Bahini (Bengali: মুক্তি বাহিনী "Liberation Army"), which engaged in guerrilla warfare against Pakistani forces. The Pakistan Army, in collusion with religious extremist[5][6] militias (the Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams), engaged in the systematic genocide and atrocities of Bengali civilians, particularly nationalists, intellectuals, youth and religious minorities.[7][8][9][10][11] Bangladesh government-in-exile was set up in the city of Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the Indian State of West Bengal.

India entered the war on 3 December 1971, after Pakistan launched pre-emptive air strikes on northern India. Overwhelmed by two war fronts, Pakistani defences soon collapsed. On 16 December, the Allied Forces of Bangladesh and India defeated Pakistan in the east. The subsequent surrender resulted in the largest number of prisoners-of-war since World War II.

Foreign reaction[edit]

United Nations[edit]

Though the United Nations condemned the human rights violations during and following Operation Searchlight, it failed to defuse the situation politically before the start of the war.

Following Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration of independence in March 1971, India undertook a worldwide campaign to drum up political, democratic and humanitarian support for the people of Bangladesh for their liberation struggle. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi toured a large number of countries in a bid to create awareness of the Pakistani atrocities against Bengalis. This effort was to prove vital later during the war, in framing the world's context of the war and to justify military action by India.[12] Also, following Pakistan's defeat, it ensured prompt recognition of the newly independent state of Bangladesh.

Following India's entry into the war, Pakistan, fearing certain defeat, made urgent appeals to the United Nations to intervene and force India to agree to a cease fire. The UN Security Council assembled on 4 December 1971 to discuss the hostilities in South Asia. After lengthy discussions on 7 December, the United States made a resolution for "immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of troops". While supported by the majority, the USSR vetoed the resolution twice and the United Kingdom and France abstained on the resolution.

On 12 December, with Pakistan facing imminent defeat, the United States requested that the Security Council be reconvened. Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was rushed to New York City to make the case for a resolution on the cease fire. The council continued deliberations for four days. By the time proposals were finalised, Pakistan's forces in the East had surrendered and the war had ended, making the measures merely academic. Bhutto, frustrated by the failure of the resolution and the inaction of the United Nations, ripped up his speech and left the council.

Most UN member nations were quick to recognise Bangladesh within months of its independence.[12]


Bhutan became the first country in the world (second India) to recognise the newly independent state on 6 December 1971. Muhammad Ullah, the 3rd President of Bangladesh visited Bhutan accompanied by his wife to attend the coronation of Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King of Bhutan in June 1974.[13][14][15][16]

USA and USSR[edit]

Senator Ted Kennedy led congressional support for the liberation of Bangladesh
The Nixon administration was widely criticised for its close ties with the military junta led by General Yahya Khan. American diplomats in East Pakistan expressed profound dissent in the Blood telegram

The United States supported Pakistan[17] both politically and materially. US President Richard Nixon denied getting involved in the situation, saying that it was an internal matter of Pakistan, but when Pakistan's defeat seemed certain, Nixon sent the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal,[18] a move deemed by the Indians as a nuclear threat. Enterprise arrived on station on 11 December 1971. On 6 and 13 December, the Soviet Navy dispatched two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok; they trailed US Task Force 74 in the Indian Ocean from 18 December until 7 January 1972.[19] [20][21] Nixon and Henry Kissinger feared Soviet expansion into South and Southeast Asia. Pakistan was a close ally of the People's Republic of China, with whom Nixon had been negotiating a rapprochement and which he intended to visit in February 1972. Nixon feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan would mean total Soviet domination of the region, and that it would seriously undermine the global position of the United States and the regional position of America's new tacit ally, China. To demonstrate to China the bona fides of the United States as an ally, and in direct violation of the US Congress-imposed sanctions on Pakistan, Nixon sent military supplies to Pakistan and routed them through Jordan and Iran,[22] while also encouraging China to increase its arms supplies to Pakistan. The Nixon administration also ignored reports it received of the genocidal activities of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, most notably the Blood telegram.

The Soviet Union supported Bangladesh and Indian armies, as well as the Mukti Bahini during the war, recognising that the independence of Bangladesh would weaken the position of its rivals – the United States and China. It gave assurances to India that if a confrontation with the United States or China developed, the USSR would take countermeasures. This was enshrined in the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty signed in August 1971. The Soviets also sent a nuclear submarine to ward off the threat posed by USS Enterprise in the Indian Ocean.

At the end of the war, the Warsaw Pact countries were among the first to recognise Bangladesh. The Soviet Union accorded recognition to Bangladesh on 25 January 1972.[23] The United States delayed recognition for some months, before according it on 8 April 1972.[24]


As a long-standing ally of Pakistan, the People's Republic of China reacted with alarm to the evolving situation in East Pakistan and the prospect of India invading West Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Believing that just such an Indian attack was imminent, Nixon encouraged China to mobilise its armed forces along its border with India to discourage it. The Chinese did not, however, respond to this encouragement, because unlike the 1962 Sino-Indian War when India was caught entirely unaware, this time the Indian Army was prepared and had deployed eight mountain divisions to the Sino-Indian border to guard against such an eventuality. China instead threw its weight behind demands for an immediate ceasefire.

When Bangladesh applied for membership to the United Nations in 1972, China vetoed their application[25] because two United Nations resolutions regarding the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners of war and civilians had not yet been implemented.[26] China was also among the last countries to recognise independent Bangladesh, refusing to do so until 31 August 1975.[12][25]

List of countries that have first recognised Bangladesh[edit]

Country[27][28] Date of recognition
1  Bhutan 6 December 1971 [29]
2  India 6 December 1971
3  Poland 12 January 1972
4  Bulgaria 12 January 1972
5 Burma 13 January 1972
6  Nepal 16 January 1972
7  Barbados 20 January 1972
8  Yugoslavia 22 January 1972
9  Tonga 25 January 1972
10  Soviet Union 24 January 1972
11  Czechoslovakia 26 January 1972
12  Cyprus 26 January 1972
13  Hungary 26 January 1972
14  Ukrainian SSR 24 January 1972[30][31]
15  Australia 26 January 1972
16  Fiji 26 January 1972
17  New Zealand 26 January 1972
18  Byelorussian SSR 24 January 1972[32][31]
19  Senegal 1 February 1972
20  United Kingdom 4 February 1972
21  West Germany 4 February 1972
22  Finland 4 February 1972
23  Denmark 4 February 1972
24  Sweden 4 February 1972
25  Norway 4 February 1972
26  Iceland 4 February 1972
27  Israel 4 February 1972
28  Japan 8 February 1972
29  Luxembourg 11 February 1972
30  Netherlands 11 February 1972
31  Belgium 11 February 1972
32  Ireland 11 February 1972
33  Italy 12 February 1972
34  France 14 February 1972
35  Canada 14 February 1972
36  Singapore 16 February 1972
37 Mauritius 20 February 1972
38  United States 4 April 1972
39  China 31 August 1975[citation needed]


  1. ^ This war is known in Bangla as Muktizuddho or Shawdhinota Juddho.[1] This war is also called the Civil War in Pakistan[2]


  1. ^ Historical Dictionary of Bangladesh, Page 289
  2. ^ Moss, Peter (2005). Secondary Social Studies For Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press. p. 93. ISBN 9780195977042. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  3. ^ Library of Congress
  4. ^ en, Samuel; Paul Robert Bartrop, Steven L. Jacobs. Dictionary of Genocide: A-L. Volume 1: Greenwood. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-313-32967-8.
  5. ^ "Leading News Resource of Pakistan". Daily Times. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  6. ^ "New Year 2013". The Daily Star. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  7. ^ Bangladesh Genocide Archive | Collaborators and War Criminals. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  8. ^ New York Times, 30 July 1971
  9. ^ The Wall Street Journal, 27 July 1971.
  10. ^ Daily Sangram, 15 September 1971
  11. ^ "Letters To The Editor | We are mere throwaways?". Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  12. ^ a b c "The Recognition Story". Bangladesh Strategic and Development Forum. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  13. ^ "Constitution Issued: Rahman Resigns". Altus, Oklahoma, USA: The Altus Times-Democrat, via Google News. Associated Press. 11 January 1972.
  14. ^ "Bangladesh-Bhutan Relations". Embassy of Bangladesh in Bhutan. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  15. ^ Lal Babu Yadav (1996). Indo-Bhutan relations and China interventions. Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 198. ISBN 978-81-7488-218-9.
  16. ^ Narendra Kr. Singh (2003). Encyclopaedia of Bangladesh. Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd. pp. 151–56. ISBN 978-81-261-1390-3.
  17. ^ "Nixon and Pakistan: An Unpopular Alliance". Miami, Florida, USA: The Miami News, via Google News. Reuters. 17 December 1971.
  18. ^ Scott, Paul (21 December 1971). "Naval 'Show of Force' By Nixon Meant as Blunt Warning to India". Bangor Daily News. Google News.
  19. ^ India's Borderland Disputes: China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, Anna Orton
  20. ^ White, M. (2011). Atrocitology: Humanity's 100 Deadliest Achievements. Canongate Books. ISBN 9780857861252. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  21. ^ "The New York Times". Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  22. ^ Shalom, Stephen R., The Men Behind Yahya in the Indo-Pak War of 1971
  23. ^ "USSR, Czechoslovakia Recognize Bangladesh". Sumter, South Carolina, USA: The Sumter Daily Item, via Google News. Associated Press. 25 January 1972.
  24. ^ "Nixon Hopes for Subcontinent Peace". Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA: Herald-Journal, via Google News. Associated Press. 9 April 1972.
  25. ^ a b "China Recognizes Bangladesh". Oxnard, California, USA: The Press Courier, via Google News. Associated Press. 1 September 1975.
  26. ^ "China Veto Downs Bangladesh UN Entry". Montreal, Quebec, Canada: The Montreal Gazette, via Google News. United Press International. 26 August 1972.
  27. ^ Online BCS Exam Preparation
  28. ^ "Recognition of Bangladesh in 1971: Accountability to History". Center for Bangladesh Genocide Research. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  29. ^ "Bhutan, not India, was first to recognize Bangladesh - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  30. ^ The Law of Ukraine on Succession of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada (5 October 1991).
  31. ^ a b "Walter Duranty Explains Changes In Soviet Constitution,". Miami News. 6 February 1944. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  32. ^ Constitution of Belarus, Art. 142.