Forty-five years have passed since India and Pakistan fought a regular war, not counting the bitter and bloody conflict on the icy heights of Kargil which stands on a separate footing by virtue of its geographical setting. Most of those who are crying for war in the wake of the attack on the Uri army base are people who are too young to know about the situation at that time. They will presumably be happy to hear that similar slogans were heard then too. Mercifully, the war cries of those days were not too shrill or too loud as news channels and Goswamis and social media and cyber sepoys were not around.
The chain of developments that culminated in the war of December 1971 began at the beginning of that year with the elections held by Pakistan President Gen. Yahya Khan to transfer power to a civilian government yielding an unexpected verdict. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League secured a clear majority in the National Assembly by making a near-total sweep of the East wing seats. Pakistan People’s Party’s Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was unwilling to concede the Prime Ministership to him and Yahya Khan lacked the courage to put national interests above the West wing’s.
Kashmiri dissidents dragged India into the developing imbroglio by hijacking an Indian Airlines plane on a Srinagar-Jammu flight to Lahore. The hijackers freed all aboard the plane unharmed. Later they blew it up. In retaliation, India denied Pakistani aircraft permission to overfly. As a result, Pakistani planes flying from one wing to the other had to go via Colombo. This severely limited Pakistan’s ability to send reinforcements to the East wing when the army crackdown of March 25 provoked a guerrilla campaign.