Statement at International Conference on Bangladesh at IIC,  March 3, 1971

 The growing manifestation of Pakistan militarism and the sharpness of conflict in Bangla Desh lead to the conclusion that the safeguarding of peace in our region will not be achieved through further procrastination.

Pakistan militarism is ensured continued vitality on account of the deliberate political line chosen by both the Super Powers. Viewed against the background of the events of the last 30 days, the contradictory elements in both the Soviet and the United States attitudes have served the interests of the revanchist Islamabad regime.

The “wait and see” policy of the Government of India, it turns out, has not been based on a realistic evaluation of the “international equilibrium” strategies of the two Super Powers.

Public opinion in India should, therefore, now be urgently concerned with the specific conceptions which have a bearing on the problem of security which is being endangered by the revenge-seeking policy of Islamabad.

We are concerned with the analysis of a major step which the Government of India should take to strengthen the ability of the Bangla Desh Government and people to defend themselves from the hostile activities of the revenge-seeking Pakistani Army. Our thesis is that in the framework of a Doctrine outlining principles of security in the Bay of Bengal, India can in the naval sphere integrate the powerful influence of the Asian community for a consistent policy of pacification in Bangla Desh. It is a characteristic of the foreign policies of both the Super Powers that they do not ignore a regional initiative in peace-keeping effort. The main objective on the Bay of Bengal Doctrine would be to safeguard the security of the countries which are interconnected in the circumscribing area of the Bay of Bengal. The United Nations Charter grants under Article 51 the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence. The right of the Bay of Bengal countries to set up an arrangement to resist the aggressive actions of the Islamabad regime is consistent with international law. Indian initiatives and those of the other Bay of Bengal countries could be harmonised with the United Nations general system of collective security, but if the objective conditions for the latter must await the transformation of the negative attitudes of the Super Powers towards the Bangla Desh Government, there is scope for effective action by way of “peace keeping operations” to suppress the movement of troops and equipment which threaten regional peace and security.

The international legal basis for Bangla Desh, it is becoming increasingly clear, will be evolved through a process of negotiation and agreement with the Bangla Desh Government. India must soberly and realistically dispel the demagogy of Pakistan which focuses on the alleged “expansionism” of India. India must uphold the outlook of Hindu-Muslim unity, but at the same time our foreign policy must postulate full confidence on the part of Bangla Desh to define its function in the comity of nations. India and the other neighbours of Bangla Desh must be prepared to approve of a perspective of Neutrality if Bangla Desh like Austria or Switzerland should choose to develop a political structure appropriate to its search for peace and stability.

Indian policy has so far failed to focus on the achievement of our prime objectives of regional peace and economic development. The problem of Bangla Desh should not be subordinated to Super Power ideological conflicts or to the dramatic variations in Communist China’s postures. The emergence of Bangla Desh and the attempt of Pakistani militarism to deny it a role within the framework of international life, raises fundamental questions of regional security of specific interest to India and other South and Southeast Asian countries. Different countries may adopt different attitudes, but the key question for the Government of India is whether it will set an example to others by giving a complete formulation of its own policy to counter the “position of strength” which Islamabad is claiming. Indian and Asian effort, owing to specific geographical conditions, can bring pressure to bear upon Islamabad to give up the plan for annexation of Bangla Desh, much in the same way as an Asian coalition frustrated Netherlands aggression against Indonesia. Some of the Asian countries may not envisage measures against Islamabad and may prefer to safeguard certain narrow interests through short sightedness. It would be the task of Indian and Bangla Desh diplomacy to over come these deficiencies. The effort to relate regional security needs and the setting of rational priorities for an Asian strategy would constitute real progress in expanding the power and influence of Bangle Desh for furthering and strengthening its defensive aims.

A very important role can be played by India in safeguarding the security of Bangla Desh, but it will not help to deceive the Indian people or the people of Bangla Desh if for “political reasons” the Indian Government has decided to wait for the go-ahead signal from one or the other of the Super Powers. A foreign policy based on subservience to the status-quo minded Super Powers cannot be successful.

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