Prisoners of war during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

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Military map of East Pakistan.

The Pakistani prisoners of war during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 were the servicemen deployed in the Eastern Command of the Pakistan armed forces who were held in by the Indian Army.[1]

Pakistan's Yahya administration conveyed their intentions to retreat from their eastern wing to the United Nations on 10 December 1971,[2] and a formal surrender was submitted and accepted when the Commander of Eastern Command and Governor of East Pakistan, Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi, signed an instrument of surrender with his counterpart, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, GOC-in-C of Eastern Command, on 16 December 1971.: 136 [3]

The surrender ultimately culminated in the conclusion of liberation efforts in East as India accepts the unilateral ceasefire to end its war efforts in the western theatre on 17 December 1971.: 136 [3] The surrender was the largest surrender that the World had witnessed since the end of World War II,: 17 [4][5][6][7] with Indian Army taking approximately 93,000–95,000 Pakistani service personnel as war prisoners in East.: 513 [8][9][7]

Due to the concern of their safety and wellbeing, the war prisoners were transported via train and air, where they were held in the war camps by the Indian Army in different parts of India.[10] The issue of transfer and transportation of war prisoners to India was very controversial between the India and Bangladesh since the Provisional Government of Bangladesh had shown strong resistance and opposition of such act to India as they wanted to bring charges on the war prisoners on the crimes against humanity in their special courts established in Dhaka.[1]

The overwhelming majority of war prisoners were officers, most of them were in the Army and Navy, while relatively small number of Air Force and Marines; others in larger number had served in paramilitary forces.[1] India treated the war prisoners in accordance to the Geneva Convention, ruled 1925, but used this issue as a tool to coerce Pakistan into recognizing the sovereignty of Bangladesh after three countries reached compromised in 1974.: 78 [11][2] The issue of war prisoners contributed in quick recognition of Bangladesh but it also had effects on India securing its eastern front from Pakistan-controlled hostile state, East-Pakistan, to India supported Bangladesh.: 314 [12]

According to Pakistani observers and commentators, India, by taking and managing the ~97,000 war prisoners in Indian Army-ran camps, had gained itself a bargaining chip to remove its security threat faced by its eastern front by recognizing the sovereignty of the country, Bangladesh, they had intervened to help.[13] However, according to Indian author, M. Ragostra, the war prisoners were actually more of liability than leverage since it became India's responsibility to protect and feed the prisoners that were in great numbers.[10]

Custody and detainment[edit]

After conceding defeat and accession of the instrument of surrender in 1971, the Indian Army took the responsibility to protect the Pakistan's joint servicemen in East-Pakistan.: 211 [14] During the early phases of the surrender, Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora allowed the Pakistani servicemen their right to bear small arms for their protection against the insurgents of Mukti Bahini who were seeking their revenge on Pakistani servicemen.: 211 [14]

In December 1971, the Provisional Government of Bangladesh had shown their intention to India regarding the war prisoners, creating controversy between the India and Bangladesh, as Bangladeshis wanting to hold the cases on the Pakistani servicemen who would be charge with the crimes against humanity in their special courts, and strongly opposed the Indian Army's plan for transferring of war prisoners.[1] From 1971 till 1972, the Indian Army quickly transferred the war prisoners to their special war camps in different parts of India through train and air transportation, mainly due to prisoners safety and wellbeing.: 211 [14][10]

The military commanders of Eastern Command of Pakistani military were held in Fort William in Calcutta, and were transferred by the Air India's commercial plane.: 212 [14] Later, the commanders were held in Jabalpur Cantonment.[15] In 1973, majority of the war prisoners were then shifted to Red Fort and Gwalior Fort in New Delhi.: 213–214 [14]

The Indian government treated all the war prisoners in strict accordance with the Geneva Convention, ruled in 1925.[1] These 93,000 war prisoners were slowly released by India who were repatriated at the Zero Point, Wagah, and the Line of Control (LoC).: 214 [14] India took approximately 93,000 prisoners of war that included Pakistani soldiers as well as some of their East Pakistani collaborators. 79,676 of these prisoners were uniformed personnel, of which 55,692 were Army, 16,354 Paramilitary, 5,296 Police, 1000 Navy and 800 PAF. The remaining 13,324 prisoners were civilians - either family members of the military personnel or Bihari Razarkars.

Before the war prisoners were repatriated, Pakistan and India had to sign the Simla Agreement in 1972 but it was not until 1974 when the Delhi Agreement was signed that marked the repatriation.[1] The Simla Agreement treaty ensured that Pakistan recognized the independence of Bangladesh in exchange for the return of the Pakistani POWs.[16]

Notable Pakistani POWs[edit]

Foreign relations impact[edit]

The foreign reaction to India's taking of these 90,000 POWs varied from nation to nation. The United Nations supported India's move as they condemned the human rights violations the Pakistani Armed Forces inflicted upon Bangladeshis. As a result, the U.N. was quick to accept Bangladesh's independence. Bhutan became the second country after India to recognize Bangladesh's independence and did so with no issues. The United States however, was an ally of Pakistan both materially and politically, and as a result they did not support India's taking of 90,000 Pakistani POWs. The U.S. saw India's actions as threatening especially since India had just become a nuclear power and maintained close military ties with the U.S.S.R. The Soviet Union supported both the armies of Bangladesh and India and thus supported Bangladesh's unwaveringly. As a result of Soviet support, all nations that were part of the Warsaw Pact also recognized Bangladesh's independence.[17] Soviet backing ensured that the states in the U.S.S.R.'s sphere of influence, including Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania all recognized Bangladesh's independence. China, despite being a communist nation, was also an ally of Pakistan and did not support the measures India took to have Bangladeshi sovereignty recognized. China even went as far as vetoing Bangladesh's application to become a member of the United Nations and was one of the last nations in the world to recognize Bangladeshi independence, not doing so until 31 August 1975.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Cloughley, Brian (2016). A History of the Pakistan Army: Wars and Insurrections. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781631440397. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b "The Separation of East Pakistan | Great setback to Pakistan in year 1970". Story of Pakistan. Islamabad: Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust. 1 June 2003. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b Sabharwal, Gopa (2007). "Indian forces liberate Bangladesh" (google books). India Since 1947: The Independent Years. Penguin Books India. ISBN 9780143102748. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  4. ^ Aoyagi, William Shurtleff; Akiko (24 April 2017). History of U.S. Federal and State Governments' Work with Soybeans (1862-2017): Extensively Annotated Bibliography and Sourcebook. Soyinfo Center. p. 2595. ISBN 978-1-928914-91-4.
  5. ^ Koul, Bill K. (2020). The Exiled Pandits of Kashmir: Will They Ever Return Home?. Springer Nature. p. 254. ISBN 978-981-15-6537-3.
  6. ^ Preston, Ian; Rowe, Annamarie (2001). Ian, Preston (ed.). A political chronology of Central, South and East Asia (1st ed.). London: Europa Publ. p. 17. ISBN 1857431146.
  7. ^ a b "India Pakistan | Timeline". BBC News. 6 December 1971. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  8. ^ Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2010). History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in South Asia / Indian Subcontinent (1656-2010): Extensively Annotated Bibliography and Sourcebook. Soyinfo Center. ISBN 9781928914310. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  9. ^ Singh, Air Commodore Jasjit (15 March 2013). "Role of Indian Air Force in 1971 War". KW Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN 9789385714825. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Rasgotra, Maharajakrishna (2016). A Life in Diplomacy. Penguin UK. ISBN 9789385890956. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  11. ^ Dash, Satya Prakash (2004). Constitutional and Political Dynamics of India. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 9788176255325. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  12. ^ Jayapalan, N. (2001). Foreign Policy of India. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. ISBN 9788171568987. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  13. ^ Herrick, Christopher; Gai, Zheya; Subramaniam, Surain (2016). China's Peaceful Rise: Perceptions, Policy and Misperceptions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781526104809. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Salik, Saddique (1986). "Fall of Dhaka". In Fazl, Azim (ed.). Witness of Surrender: Urdu Version (google books) (in Urdu) (2nd ed.). Karachi, Sindh, Pk: Urdu Publishing co. p. 276. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  15. ^ Far Eastern Economic Review. Far Eastern Economic Review Limited. 1974.
  16. ^ "Indo-Pak Shimla Agreement: 40 years later". IBNLive. Archived from the original on 5 July 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Bangladesh - Countries - Office of the Historian". Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  18. ^ Copper, Jolin F. (1 May 1973). "China's Policy Toward Bangladesh". China Report. 9 (3): 11–17. doi:10.1177/000944557300900303. S2CID 154070892.