On November 22, India marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Garibpur, 1971, a fierce clash with Pakistan in the War of Independence for Bangladesh. The battle gave India several war heroes, who fought the rivals till the end time.
It was fought 12 days before India officially joined the war against Pakistan. This was the first direct encounter between the two countries.
The Indian Army wiped out the Pakistani tank squadron. Besides, the Air Force had shot down three rival fighter jets and injured/killed hundreds of Pakistani soldiers (300 estimated), Hindustan Times reported.
On November 21, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had destroyed 14 American M24 Chaffee light tanks, two F-86 Sabres (fighter jets) and had captured two Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officials of the neighbouring country.
According to the report, the Army created a launchpad into enemy territory and set the stage for the creation of military history 24 days later with Bangladesh's liberation.
"In the run-up to the 1971 war, the Indian armed forces were focussed on creating launch pads across the border fully aware that a full-scale military confrontation was imminent. Garibpur was among the key launch pads because of its proximity to Jessore in erstwhile East Pakistan," Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta (retd), who fought in the Battle of Garibpur, told the media.
The next day, four PAF fighter jets vandalised the Indian airspace to attack the Indian positions, but the IAF Gnats obstructed them. All the IAF fighter jets returned to base unharmed.
Flight Lieutenant Roy Andrew Massey, who had led the aircraft package, was honoured with Vir Chakra and Flying Officer Donald Lazarus and Flight Lieutenant MA Ganapathy.
Besides, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel (later brigadier) RK Singh of the 14 Punjab (Nabha Akal), was awarded Maha Vir Chakra for his leadership. Captain (later lieutenant colonel), GS Gill, was awarded Vir Chakra.
Bangladesh commemorates November 21 as Armed Forces Day. According to the report, Bangladesh's government-in-exile under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had placed the armed forces and freedom fighters directly under the Indian Army's Eastern Command.
Addressing the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh remembered the war heroes and said the year was significant to India-Bangladesh relations.
The day celebrates the golden jubilee of the Liberation of Bangladesh and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In this momentous time, I salute the valiant struggle of the Mukti Bahini in the Muktijuddho, the War of Liberation in 1971," he said.