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In the presence of Lt Gen JS Aurora, GOC-in-C of the Indian Eastern Command, Lt Gen AAK Niazi, Commander of the Pakistan Eastern Command, signed the Instrument of Surrender on December 16, 1971, at precisely 1655 hours IST in Dacca (now Dhaka).

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This concluded a war that had lasted only thirteen days in official terms. Bangladesh was created when Pakistan was divided in half. Approximately 93,000 prisoners of war were taken by the Indian Army, marking the largest force surrender since World War II. And with its win, India gained a firm and permanent advantage in the subcontinent’s power dynamics.

But how, in less than two weeks, were the Indian armed forces able to guarantee such a resounding victory?

Operation Searchlight was initiated by the Pakistan Army on March 25 with the objective of suppressing any political opposition in the Eastern region. The operation targeted academics, intellectuals, and Bengali Hindus in addition to Bengali nationalists. It involved widespread, indiscriminate extrajudicial killings. An estimated 10 million refugees would flee to India, and between 300,000 and 3 million Bengalis would perish.

 

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