This Day in History (2-Jul-1972) – Shimla Treaty’ was singed between Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Pakistani counterpart Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

During 1971 Bangladesh independence war, Pakistan attacked at several places along India’s western border with Pakistan, but the Indian army successfully held their positions. The Indian Army quickly responded to the Pakistan Army’s movements in the west and made some initial gains, including capturing around 5,500 square miles of Pakistan territory. The war came to a temporary halt with the signing of the Shimla Agreement. In the summit, which opened on 28 June 1972 in Shimla, Mrs. India Gandhi warmly welcomed Mr. Z A Bhutto.

The agreement was the result of resolve of both the countries to “put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred their relations”. It conceived the steps to be taken for further normalization of mutual relations and it also laid down the principles that should govern their future relations. The agreement converted the cease-fire line of December 17, 1971 into the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan and it was agreed that “neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations”.

At the time of agreement, the victorious India had with her 90,000 prisoners of war and a large tract of Pakistani territory. In such a favourable state India could have turned a tough bargainer. However Mrs. Gandhi signed an agreement on the night of 2 July after a one-to-one meeting with Bhutto after the parties had packed their luggage for the return. “No one else was present”, but Mrs. Gandhi’s Secretary and economic advisor who was outside the room and has said that there was verbal understanding for a final settlement of the Kashmir question along with an agreement on the Line of Control. Land gained by India in Pakistani Kashmir, Pakistani Punjab and Sindh sectors was returned in the Simla Agreement of 1972, as a gesture of goodwill. There was widespread dissatisfaction in India about the Shimla Accord among the various nationalist outfits, intellectuals and patriots. Strongly condemning this agreement, A B Vajpayee, the leader of the Bharathiya Jana Sangh, described it as a “sell out”.



This Day in History (30-May-1981) – The president of Bangladesh, Zia ur Rahman, is assassinated

Abul Manzoor was a very close friend of President Zia us Rahman since 1971, when they fought in the Liberation war of Bangladesh together. Manzoor wanted to be the Chief of Army Staff of the Bangladesh Army, however Mir Shawkat Ali, another close associate, was senior to him by 2 years. Zia finally got annoyed by the arrogance of both Manzoor and Mir Shawkat Ali and appointed Hussain Muhammad Ershad as Chief of Army Staff of the Bangladesh Army on December 1978. On 20th May 1981, Zia held a conference with military personnel in Dhaka where several Major Generals are believed to have criticised Zia severely for ‘over-democratising’ the political system. The most vocal and outspoken at the meeting was Major-General Manzoor who accused Zia of betraying the army and being ungrateful towards the military which help him attain power. Major Manzoor flew back to Chittagong after the meeting and apparently started planning the coup that cost Zia his life.

At 4 AM on 30th May 1981, three teams of army officiers attacked the Chittagong Circuit House where Zia ur Rahman was asleep. In all there were 16 army officers as soldiers refused to join. They had eleven SMGs, three Rocket Launchers and three grenade firing rifles. The important fact was all members of the attacking team were commissioned officers. Lieutenant Colonel Fazle Hossain started the attack by launching two rockets towards the circuit house which created to large hole in the building. The officers then searched room to room for Ziaur Rahman. Shortly afterwards,  Colonel Matiur Rahman arrived with another team and shot Zia from close range with a SMG. Major Manzoor was not present at the time of attack.

After the assassination of Zia ur Rahman, Hussain Muhammad Ershad, the Chief of Army Staff, remained loyal to the government and ordered the army to suppress the coup attempt of Zia’s associates led by Major General Abul Manzoor. General Manzoor was caught at Fatikchhari by Army force and killed.


This Day in History (4-Mar-1961) – First Indian aircraft carrier naval fighter vessel ”I.N.S. Vikrant” was commissioned in Belfast

Vikrant was ordered as Hercules by the Royal Navy (UK) in 1943. However, with the end of World War II, her construction was suspended in May 1946 and she was laid up for possible future use. In January 1957 she was sold to India. She was towed to Belfast to complete her construction and for modifications by Harland and Wolff. A number of improvements to the original design were ordered by the Indian Navy. Vikrant was commissioned into the Indian Navy by then Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Vijayalakshmi Pandit on 4 March 1961 in Belfast. Captain Pritam Singh was the first commanding officer of the carrier. She formally joined the Indian Navy’s Fleet in Bombay in November 1961, when she was received at Ballard Pier by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In its 36 years of glorious service INS Vikrant was at the centre of action in the 1971 operations for liberation of Bangladesh. On the morning of 4 December 1971, Vikrant’s eight Sea Hawk aircraft launched an air raid on Cox’s Bazar from 60 nautical miles (110 km) offshore. On the evening of 4 December, the air group struck Chittagong Harbour. Later strikes targeted Khulna and Port of Mongla. A Press Trust of India report of 4 December read, “Chittagong harbour ablaze as ships and aircraft of the Eastern Naval Fleet bombed and rocketed. Not a single vessel can be put to sea from Chittagong.” Air strikes continued until 10 December 1971 with not a single Sea Hawk lost. During the war, the crew of Vikrant earned two Mahavir Chakras and 12 Vir Chakras. The Pakistan Navy deployed the submarine Ghazi to specifically target and sink Vikrant. However, Ghazi sank off Visakhapatnam harbour.

INS Vikrant was decommissioned on 31 Jan 1997, after 36 years of glorious service under the Indian ensign. She was preserved as a museum ship in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, until it was closed in 2012 due to safety concerns. It is presently being decommissioned at breaking yard in Mumbai by IB Commercial Pvt Ltd.

Another INS Vikrant  (IAC-I) is the first Vikrant-class aircraft carrier built by Cochin Shipyard Limited for the Indian Navy and the first aircraft carrier built in India and is due to be commissioned in 2018.