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On this day in 1971, one of the largest Genocides in modern history was put to an end

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March 26th 1971 was quite possibly one of the darkest days in the Indian subcontinent as it marks the launch of the Pakastani army operation “Flashlight” in the Eastern Wing of Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. It was a brutal crackdown and systematic elimination of independence-seeking Bangladeshis, through bullets and genocidal rape.

The operation led to the death of 300,000 Bangladeshis and the rape of 200,000 Bangladeshi women according to the most conservative reliable estimates.

I regard this moment of time to be one of the most horrible decisions in Foreign Policy by the West. While keeping in mind the various factors that the Cold war brought into global politics, the amount of destruction this one operation caused was unforgivable. The worst part about it is that it was all done under the guise of extensive support from the Western P5 Nations, who actively contributed to Pakistan and at one point even deployed a portion of the Seventh Fleet to pressure India into stopping their campaign against Pakistani forces in East Pakistan.

Before going further, it is of the utmost importance to understand that not a single person on any side of this brutal war was correct except for the innocents murdered in the vicious war. No power on any side of the war at any time was close to the moral thing to do or even near it. India, who in the end forced Pakistan into leaving the area had all opportunities to do so but only started actively contributing because of the strain to its economy due to new refugees. They joined the war by December but the genocide started by March-end. India, while making smart and strategic military actions did not do so for the moral reason, but for the economic one with the added benefit of being moral. Neither the USSR nor India were perfectly correct or the heroes of the war, but India still made better actions than that of the Western powers or Pakistan.

Putting aside the cold war, the actions of the United States were still one of the worst decisions in American foreign policy to this day. While I agree that India was close to the USSR and the creation of Bangladesh would have just led to another socialist eastern leaning country it did not justify the actions of the United States. The United States actively provided arms and advanced machinery as well as global aid and support while actively not stopping or even acknowledging their close ally’s (under the military regime of Yahya Khan) genocide. Not only did they not dissuade West Pakistan, but they also suppressed and denied its existence. The US was fully aware of the horrors being committed and Nixon was pleaded to multiple times by US consular officials through dissent channels like the Blood Telegram, which is considered to be one of the most strongly worded expressions of dissent in the history of the United States Foreign Service. Authored by then US Consul General to East Pakistan, Archer Blood who was stationed in Dhaka. It reads as follows:

Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pakistan dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy,… But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected in order to salvage our nation’s position as a moral leader of the free world.

Previously, Archer Blood had also sent the following telegram entitled “Selective Genocide”:

Here in Decca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pakistani Military. Evidence continues to mount that the MLA authorities have list of AWAMI League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down
Among those marked for extinction in addition to the A.L. hierarchy are student leaders and university faculty. In this second category we have reports that Fazlur Rahman head of the philosophy department and a Hindu, M. Abedin, head of the department of history, have been killed. Razzak of the political science department is rumored dead. Also on the list are the bulk of MNA’s elect and number of MPA’s.
Moreover, with the support of the Pakistani Military. non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people’s quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus.

After sending the blood telegram, he was recalled and assigned to the State Department personnel office. The telegram was labelled as Alarmist and Kissinger started referring to Archer Blood as a Maniac.

Kissinger and actively ignored the systemic genocide and rape of over 300,000 people simply to establish closer relations with China. Some might say it was justified, others may not agree. But in the end, we need to remember that it happened.

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