Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 September 2019
On 3 December 1971, for the third time since the partition of British India in 1947, Pakistan and India went to war. In the words of the political scientist Sumit Ganguly, Pakistan’s pre-emptive air strikes on Indian air bases ‘failed miserably on all counts’. India retaliated with a combination of its own air strikes, naval bombardments, and land operations using tanks, artillery, paratroopers and six infantry divisions. The fighting, most of which took place in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), showcased India’s military superiority over its neighbour and continued until 17 December when the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered a ceasefire. Pakistan’s President, Yahya Khan, recognising the resounding defeat of his forces, accepted the ceasefire, and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 ended.