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Authors

Gary J. Bass

Document Type

Article

Abstract

In the intense debates about the legality of humanitarian intervention, commentators have argued at length over the Kosovo war in 1999, as well as other controversial instances of the use of force from Bosnia to Ukraine to Syria. But perhaps the most consequential war is also the most forgotten. This was India's war against Pakistan in 1971, which followed a brutal onslaught by the Pakistani army on its own Bengali populace, and resulted in the independence of the fledgling state of Bangladesh. With hundreds of thousands of people killed in Pakistan's crackdown, these atrocities were far bloodier than Bosnia and, by some accounts, on approximately the same scale as Rwanda. Untold thousands died in squalid refugee camps as ten million Bengalis fled into neighboring India in one of the largest refugee flows in history. The crisis ignited a major regional war between India and Pakistan, intensified their strategic rivalry for decades to come, drove Pakistan to get nuclear weapons, and created Bangladesh, which has the eighth-largest population in the world today. And it brought the United States, the Soviet Union, and China into crisis brinksmanship that could have ignited a military clash among superpowers-possibly even a nuclear confrontation.

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