This victory of the Indian Army along with the BSF led to the birth of Bangladesh

New Delhi: The operation 'searchlight' carried out by the Pakistani forces in 1971 is one of the most "horrific examples of mass atrocities and brutal killings in recent history", Union minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday on the 50th anniversary of India's victory over Pakistan in the war that year.

The external affairs minister was speaking at a BSF event held to commemorate the day and to honour the role of the troops of the paramilitary force.

Delivering his key note address, Mr Jaishankar said the Border Security Force played a critical role in the liberation of Bangladesh and the country salutes the officer and men whose resolve and valour created history in 1971.

This victory of the Indian Army along with the BSF led to the birth of Bangladesh.

"Operation searchlight truly remains one of the most horrific examples of mass atrocities and brutal killings in recent history. But the people of Bangladesh rose against this brutal aggression under the heroic leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," the minister said.

'Operation searchlight' was the codename the Pakistani Army used for its action against the Bangladeshi nationalist movement.

Mr Jaishankar said there was spontaneous support in India for the people and freedom fighters of the eastern neighbour and "our political, diplomatic and military efforts in support of people of Bangladesh in their struggle to uphold democratic rights is now well recognised." Mr Jaishankar said the BSF, that guards the over 4,000 km long India-Bangladesh border, was a "key stakeholder" in India- Bangladesh friendship.

He said the force, which was raised in 1965, was still in infancy when the 1971 war occurred.

"In many ways, the experience of 1971 was its initiation by fire. Yet, the exceptional bravery displayed by BSF battalions, both at eastern and western fronts, contributed to an outcome that was in India's favour. None of us can ever forget the genocidal campaign launched by Pakistani forces against the people of Bangladesh in March, 1971," he said.

Mr Jaishankar said the BSF during this war, "grappled" with the immediate consequences as 10 million refugees had come to India and they were living in tents in border areas.

"The people of India opened their hearts and extended support... the BSF managed the evolving situation on the ground with unmatched tact and compassion." "Often the generosity of people of India found their way through the BSF personnel on the ground as they provided moral and material support to those who were fleeing from the atrocities of Pakistani forces and taking part in the freedom struggle of Bangladesh," Mr Jaishankar said.

He said the people of 'Awami League' took shelter in India and the BSF played a key role by supporting the "government in exile and the Mukti Bahini..." The minister said both the countries shared "deep historical bonds" and the BSF and its counterpart BGB were jointly undertaking the task of taking the ties between the two neighbouring countries forward.

He said guarding this front was an important task "given the unique nature of this porous border where people live close to the border and share ethic and cultural ties".

The BSF has been undertaking this complex and multi-faceted task for the last five decades and its contribution in ensuring peace at the borders in close cooperation with the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) is "critical in sustaining friendship between our people in partnership," the minister said at the event also attended by the diplomats of Bangladesh and some 'Muktijoddhas' who fought for their country.

Talking about the road ahead, Mr Jaishankar said, "Any contemporary policy naturally rests on our historical foundation and the BSF can truly claim to have shaped both in equal measure." He said the border force "continues to play a crucial role in India's robust engagement with Bangladesh and maintaining a peaceful border, preventing trans-border crimes and other illegal activities.

"There has been a significant progress in terms of opening up of new and pre-existing railways, roads and waterways between India and Bangladesh and several efforts are underway to further boost multi-modal cross-border connectivity for seamless movement of people and goods," he said.

As a result, both countries share a growing trade partnership, he said.

Mr Jaishankar said Bangladesh was India's largest trade partner in South Asia and "despite Covid related impediments bilateral trade between the two nations has now touched USD 10 billion." He concluded by saying that BSF was a "key partner" in this whole of government approach.

The Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India Md Nurul Islam also spoke at the event and said the ties between the two neighbours were "ever growing". He added that "sensitive" issues between the two countries required to be dealt in a "more humane" manner.

BSF director general Pankaj Kumar Singh said the force was proud of the fact that it was the "first point of contact" for the Bangladesh freedom fighters in 1971.

As per official records, a total of 125 BSF personnel were killed, 392 injured while 133 were reported missing after the war ended on this day in 1971 with the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani troops before the Indian forces in Dhaka.