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Pakistanis Retreat to Dacca

The Harvard Crimson, December 10, 1971

Indian spokesmen reported yesterday that thousands of East Pakistani troops were retreating in front of the Indian army’s advance which came within 25 miles of Dacca. East Pakistan’s capital. India claims to have wiped out the last of East Pakistan’s air force during the day.

The Pakistani U.N. delegation told Secretary-General U Thant yesterday that Pakistan accepts the General Assembly’s cease-fire appeal, subject to a call for U.N. observers on both sides.

The East Pakistanis were using sampans, barges and steamers to retreat across the Ganges River into Chittagong, where they hoped to be evacuated. Pakistani forces attempting to escape by river would meet “certain death” at the hands of the Indian Navy.

While Radio Pakistan claimed that Indian invaders had been “blunted on all fronts in East Pakistan,” the Indian Army reported its capture of the Meghna River, 25 miles southeast of Dacca. As Indian forces drew nearer to Dacca, thousands of residents fled the city.

Lt. Gen. Hagjit Singh Aurora, Indian eastern front commander, said yesterday that about 7000 Pakistani troops trying to escape across the Ganges River were under air attack. He said at least one river steamer, carrying an estimated 500 Pakistani troops, had been sunk by Indian aircraft, which made over 100 sorties during the day.

Francis G. Hutchins, assistant professor of Economics, said yesterday that “the conflict seams to be going according to India’s plan of a show, methodical advance on Dacca.” He added that the Pakistanis are probably hoping to make up for their losses on the eastern front with advances in Kashmir, so that if a cease-fire is negotiated. Pakistan will have gained some land in the conflict.

“The Pakistani government, may already have decided to abandon Dacca,” Hutchins said. “The invasion may actually help the Pakistani leaders by allowing them to blame their loss of East Pakistan on India rather than on internal political revolution,” he said.

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