December 16 marks an important day for India. On this day in 1971, 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the Indian army were handed over to that country. The event that led to the creation of Bangladesh reminds us of the brave military capability of India.
While both the military and the political leadership at that time needs to be lauded for this important historic victory, another story related to the missing 54 soldiers of India on that war provokes us to ask whether the political leadership of those days had failed to bargain the due from the country that was defeated.
As many as 54 soldiers, pilots and officers of the Indian Army and Air Force were labelled “missing in action” or “killed in action” in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. But many believe they are alive and imprisoned in various Pakistani jails.
It was reported that once Benazir Bhutto, former PM of Pakistan once admitted to the Indian officials that these soldiers are languishing in Pakistani jails. Soon, the Pakistani establishment went into denial mode.
There is ample evidence to show that the missing Indian soldiers in 1971 indeed landed in Pakistani prison. One among the missing soldiers, Major Ashok Suri had managed to send a communication to his father in 1974, informing that 20 soldiers including himself are in the captivity of Pakistan.
Some people who are released from the Pakistani prison to come back to India have registered their account saying that they have seen the soldiers languishing in prison.
A photograph in the Time magazine dated December 27, 1971, had shown the picture of Major A K Ghosh in Pakistani prison.
The family members of these missing 54 soldiers were given an opportunity of a ‘guided tour’ to various prisons in the times of Parvez Musharraf, they couldn’t find these soldiers, but they claimed that the guards privately admitted to them that the Indian soldiers were alive.
After the Balakot airstrike, when our captain Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani side, the Modi government threw all the necessary weight to secure back the brave pilot and Pakistan was made to handover the Indian pilot without any conditions.
In the hindsight, the painful question does arise whether the political leadership of that time did not think through enough to secure each prisoner of war belong to India before releasing the 93,000 PoWs of Pakistan?