During about 8 to 9 months of 1971, the Pakistani Army and its local collaborators killed nearly 2.5 million people , raped over 3 lakh women and uprooted nearly 10 million from their homes in Bangladesh ( then known to the world as East Pakistan) in a genocidal crackdown.
This was not hidden from the world at all. There was widespread recognition of the reality at world level. It could be denied only by those who deliberately wanted to remain ignorant , or turned their eyes away from reality.
At world level only two major countries extended full support to Pakistan led by Yahya Khan during this genocide. These were Nixon-led USA and Mao-led China. China even used its veto at the UN in support of the actions of Pakistan.
Such are the ironies of history!
Despite the support of the two big powers to Pakistan, thanks to the courageous resistance of the freedom fighters of Bangladesh and the no less courageous intervention of India, Bangladesh soon became a free nation.
Soon many countries recognized the new country but China did not. Instead China used its veto to deny Bangladesh’s entry to the UNO for a long time!
Then on the dawn of August 15 1975 Banglabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the popular, democratically elected Prime Minister of Bangladesh, also called the father of the nation even today, who had expressed his firm commitment to secularism and socialism, was brutally murdered along with his family members, followed by murders of all other leading popular leaders, paving the way for a military regime which would facilitate the rehabilitation of the same fanatic fundamentalist forces which had collaborated in the mass murder of their own people.
As the military regime took over, it got solid support of two major countries. One was Ford-led USA, the other was Mao-led China.
Such are the ironies of history!
China , which had not recognized Bangladesh so far, now hastened to establish diplomatic relations with Bangladesh. Those who were known to have played a leading role in regime change and murder visited China and were warmly welcomed. Military and economic cooperation between the new regime and China soon increased rapidly and steadily at several levels.
Why was China so supportive towards Pakistan at the time of genocide? Why did it fail to extend even lip sympathy to the liberation struggle of Bangladesh? Why did it lose the opportunity to make amends by warming up to Mujibur after the liberation by recognizing his government ? Why was it so welcoming towards the new military regime which had the blood of the most popular leaders on its hands?
There are certainly no easy answers to these troubling questions. All countries keep in view their narrow geo-strategic interests, but should this blind them to such an extent towards their commitment to basic human rights and democracy? And should the geo-strategic interests also be defined in such narrow and distorted terms as to bring the country so close to the perpetrators of genocide?
The options before China in 1971 were clear. It had to choose between (1)– playing an important supportive role for a genocide aimed at suppressing a liberation struggle with the help of the biggest imperialist power on earth and (2)– supporting the liberation struggle , or at least avoiding support for those engaged in its brutal repression. China under Mao was by then already a very powerful country perfectly capable of taking an independent decision and exercising any of these two options. It chose to exercise the former option of supporting the genocide.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Man Over Machine.