US, Britain tried to block Bangladesh’s birth: book

November 24th, 2008 - 10:52 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) The US and Britain tried to persuade a top advocate of Bangladesh to help roll back the country’s liberation struggle in 1971, citing future threats from “Hindu majority India”, says a book by a former Indian diplomat.But Justice Abu Sayeed Choudhury, who was based in London, not only rejected the Western interventions but personally conveyed the secret American move to then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

According to Sashanka S. Banerjee, author of “A Long Journey Together: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh”, Choudhury told Gandhi in London that US Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco hurriedly contacted him on behalf of the Nixon administration, which was against Pakistan’s break-up.

Choudhury, a former chief justice of the Dhaka High Court, was also told that if he stopped backing the then jailed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, he would be rewarded with the presidency of a united Pakistan.

Banerjee says Choudhury’s revelation did not shock Gandhi. “Those were the days of the Cold War… It confirmed the rock-solid permanence of the US-Pakistan strategic relationship.”

Choudhury, the book says, correctly interpreted the American diplomat’s suggestion as a last ditch attempt “to save Pakistan from disintegration”.

“He told Gandhi that the State Department official had also taken the line that Hindu-majority India could make it quite difficult for a breakaway Islamic East Pakistan to retain its independence once it had been achieved.”

British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home separately met Choudhury and stressed that “India with its large Hindu majority” would end up surrounding a future mainly Muslim Bangladesh. Choudhury assured him that there was nothing to worry on that count.

Choudhury, also a former vice chancellor of Dhaka University, led the Bangladesh independence struggle from London. He was appointed president of Bangladesh and held the post from 1972 to 1975. Another reason Choudhury met Gandhi in London was to persuade her to quickly recognise Bangladesh. He felt that an Indian diplomatic recognition would greatly boost the independence struggle.

When Pakistan finally released Mujibur Rahman, he flew to London. From there he was to originally fly to New Delhi, on his way to Dhaka, in a special Air India plane.

“Fearing that the (Air India) flight could be booby-trapped by enemy agents, Gandhi requested British Prime Minister Edward Heath to provide an RAF (Royal Air Force) plane to fly the Bangladesh leader first to New Delhi, then on to Dhaka. It was a move with a motive.”

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