16 Dec 2017
#DefenseDiaries: On this day, India won its greatest military victory
Written byAbheet Sethi
Every year, India celebrates December 16 as Vijay Diwas to commemorate nation's greatest military victory.
It was on this day in 1971 that the then Governor of East Pakistan, Lt. General AAK Niazi signed the instrument of surrender to the Indian armed forces and East Pakistani's Mukti Bahini rebels.
India decisively won the 1971 Indo-Pak War and liberated East Pakistan, giving birth to Bangladesh.
How the war started?
The India-Pakistan War of 1971 commenced on December 3 when the Pakistani Air Force launched a surprise attack on eight airbases in Western India.
Under Indira Gandhi's leadership, India responded by immediately recognizing Bangladesh as a state and declaring war on Pakistan.
The Indian military's strategy was to take strong defensive action on the western front while going on the offensive in the east.
A look at the famous battles fought by Indian forces
On December 4, Hawker Sea Hawk fighter jets launched from aircraft-carrier INS Vikrant bombed Cox's Bazaar, crippling a harbor and airbase.
On December 7, the Indian Army and Air Force gained a strategic victory against a Pakistani tank column at Longewal, Rajasthan.
Indian and Mukti Bahini forces captured Dhaka on December 15
In the course of the war, the Indian Air Force and Navy decisively gained supremacy of the air and seas, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army along with Mukti Bahini rebels made constant inroads against Pakistani troops in East Pakistan.
On the western front, the Indian Army also made large territorial gains into Pakistan.
On December 15, Indian armed forces-Mukti Bahini coalition captured Dhaka.
How India got Pakistan to sign instrument of surrender
On December 16, the Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw ordered the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob to get the surrender from Niazi.
However, Niazi wanted to call it a ceasefire, not a surrender.
Jacob gave Niazi 30 minutes to respond. He didn't.
Jacob then told him, 'I take your silence as a yes.'
Signing of instrument of surrender
On December 16, 1971, at 16:55 hours IST, Pakistan's instrument of surrender was signed by Niazi and Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command.
The instrument of surrender was signed in public at Dhaka's Ramna Race Course.
Niazi, with tears rolling down his cheeks, took out his revolver and gave it to Aurora. The war was over, India won.
Jacob calls surrender "unique"
"This surrender is unique, the only public surrender in history where a ceasefire was converted into surrender and signed in four hours. Niazi had the capacity to fight on for two to three weeks, and the UN was in session," Jacob later recalled.
Why the war remains India's greatest military victory
At least 1,400 servicemen of the Indian armed forces were martyred and 4,000 wounded during the war.
Over 90,000 Pakistani troops were taken prisoners by the Indian Army.
Through clever diplomacy and Soviet help, India prevented the involvement of Pakistan's two main allies China and the US.
Pakistan suffered a humiliating defeat while India established itself as the dominant power in South Asia.