Task Force 74

Task Force 74

The US Task Force 74 was a US Navy task force of the 7th fleet that was deployed to the Bay of Bengal by Nixon administration in December 1971, at the height of the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Led by the Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise, the deployment of the task force was seen as a Show of force by USA in support of the beleaguered East Pakistani forces, and was claimed by India as a vindication of US "tilt" towards Pakistan at a time that Indian forces were close to capturing Dhaka. The Task Force withdrew from the Bay of Bengal after reports of Soviet submarines dispatched to shadow the fleet.Harvnb|Rais|1987|p=46] Harvnb|Belchman|Kaplan|1978|p=188] The Task Force number is now used by the Seventh Fleet's Submarine Force.


The Indian Ocean had, in the post-colonial cold-war situation in the 1960s, a strong British presence which projected Western interests in the region, and carried out peacekeeping and security operations, as well as a deterrence against Soviet overtures in this area. US navy's role at this time was confined to a limited presence in Bahrain.Harvnb|Rais|1987|p=40]

Naval deterrence in the Indian Ocean

By mid 1960s, a failing economy, Britain began to roll-back her role in the region. In a situation of political instability in the region, the Soviet Union also began a strong diplomatic initiative in the littoral states and initiated limited naval deployments, prompting fears that withdrawal of western peacekeeping role would allow the Soviet Navy to fulfil it's aspirations in the region, threatening western economic and military interests in the region and leading to loss of this area from western-sphere of influence.Harvnb|Rais|1987|p=41] This lent a strong voice to the proponents of a strong US naval presence in the Indian Ocean, among the Elmo Zumwalt, as a diplomatic as well military deterrence against Soviet moves. US security interests in the Indian Ocean were, however, initially restricted to the countries of Ethiopia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.Harvnb|Rais|1987|p=44]

The superpowers in the sub-continent

Both the United States and the Soviet Union had attempted to establish strong links with India following the Sino-Indian war of 1962, much to the disturbance of Pakistan especially since she was already in military alliance with the United states. India had obtained substantial military and economic assistance from the United states towards the end of the conflict, but remained committed to the Non-aligned movement. Following the end of the conflict, Soviet offers of Mig fighter aircraft, as well as offers for transfer of technology and production facilities for military hardware confirmed India's preference for Moscow in terms of long-term security collaboration. In 1963,the The US Navy deployed its first Carrier group in the Indian Ocean close to the Indian coast. However, since this was within a year of the end of the Sino-Indian conflict, where the US and Britain had offered substantial help to India, this was not interpreted as a diplomatic pressure or a show-of-force, and was in all probability training exercises to familiarise the navy with the Indian ocean area. India had also at this time allowed the US to install intelligence gathering devices in the Himalayan peaks close to China, on the conditions of intelligence-sharing.

By the end of the 1960s, the Vietnam War became the focus for the United States, with the Indian Subcontinent receiving much less attention. Peace in the region was assumed by the US to be the responsibility of the regional powers of Pakistan, India and China.

Bangladesh Crisis

The Bangladesh crisis brought the Indian subcontinent back into the focus of the cold-war confrontations. The crisis had its roots in the economic and social disparities between the Eastern and Western wings of Pakistan and a dominance of the Eastern wing by the west since the creation of the nascent state in 1947 that increasingly divided the two wings through the 1960sHarvnb|Belchman|Kaplan|1978|p=176] By the last quarter of 1971, Pakistan was in a state of civil war, its eastern arm locked in a ferocious battle for independence from the West. The crisis precipitated in March 1971 when rising political discontent and cultural nationalism in East Pakistan was met by Yahya Khan with what has come to be called Operation SearchlightHarvnb|Belchman|Kaplan|1978|p=177] cite web
author = Adam Jones
publisher = Gendercide Watch
title= in Bangladesh, 1971
] . The majority of East Pakistan's political leadership, including Mujibur Rahman, were arrested and, following brief confrontations and bloody battles between Bengali nationalists and some 40,000 strong Pakistani military, political order was forcibly and temporarily reimposed by the end of April amidst strong protests from India, the Soviet Union and other countries against the atrocities against the Bengali civilian population. The massive and disproportionate crackdown by West Pakistan forcesHarvnb|Shanberg S.The Pakistani Slaughter That Nixon Ignored, Syndicated Column|1994|p=New York Times. May3, 1994] engendered a sea of refugees (estimated at the time to be about 10 million)Crisis in South Asia - A report by Senator Edward Kennedy to the Subcommittee investigating the Problem of Refugees and Their Settlement, Submitted to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, November 1, 1971, U.S. Govt. Press.pp6-7] [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,910155-2,00.html "India and Pakistan: Over the Edge." TIME 13 December 1971 Vol. 98 No. 24] ] who came flooding to the eastern provinces of India. Facing a mounting humanitarian crisis, India started actively aiding and re-organising what was by this time already the nucleus of the Mukti Bahini.

In the months before the war, both Pakistan and India attempted to shore up diplomatic support. On 9 August 1971, India signed a twenty-year co-operation treaty with the Soviet Union, followed by a six-nation tour of Europe and USA by Indira Gandhi in October. This tour was intended to intended to demonstrate India's professed neutrality despite the Indo-soviet treaty, as well as to highlight the refugee problem faced by India.Harvnb|Belchman|Kaplan|1978|p=178] Pakistan came under increasing criticismIndia: The Soviet Stake in Stability. Donaldson R H. Asian Survey Vol. 12, No. 6. (Jun., 1972), pp. 475-492] from India, the Soviet Union, Japan, and Europe as the plight of the refugees and their impact on the Indian economy were highlighted by Indira Gandhi in the UN and on a number of global tours [Wikipedia:Footnotes| [broken footnote] . However, the United States and China showed little interest in the crisis and actively opposed aid, intervention or support to the Mukti Bahini [http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/W_0020.htm War of Liberation, The . Banglapedia Encyclopedia Entry] ] Remarks of President Richard M Nixon on April 10, 1971 at State Department Signing of Biological Weapon's Convention.

Every Great Power must follow the principle that it should not directly or indirectly allow any other nation to use force or armed aggression against one of its neighbours.
. USIS Text, pp 1-2.] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at this time led a high level delegation to Beijing to obtain commitment from China of support in case of Indian intervention while Pakistan pressed at the UN for an International Peacekeeping Force for the India-East Pakistan border. The Pakistani efforts at the UN were however blocked by the Soviet Union in the Security council. India's aid to the Mukti Bahini continued unabated, and fighting between the Mukti Bahini and the Pakistani Forces grew increasingly vicious. Indo-Soviet Treaty and the Emerging Asian Balance. Kapur A. Asian Survey, Vol. 12, No. 6. (June 1972), pp. 463-474.]

3rd Indo-Pak war

The Indo-soviet treaty had provided India with cover against any possible Chinese intervention in aid of Pakistan if and when the conflict precipitated. To the Pakistani leadership, it became clear that armed Indian intevention and secession of East Pakistan was becoming inevitable. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,878969,00.html Bangladesh: Out of War, a Nation Is Born. TIME. Dec 20, 1971 Vol. 98 No. 25] ]

On December 3, Pakistan launched Operation Chengiz Khan, marking the official initiation of hostilities of the Indo-Pak war of 1971. The Indian response was a defensive military strategy in the western theatre while a massive and coordinated and decisive offensive thrust into the Eastern theatre. On December 5, United States began attempts for a UN-sponsored ceasefire, which were twice vetoed by the USSR in the security council. India extended her recognition of Bangladesh on December 6. On December 8, Washington received intelligence reports that India was planning an offensive into West Pakistan. It was in this situation that the United States despatched a ten-ship naval taskforce, the US Taskforce 74, from the seventh fleet off South Vietnam into the Bay of Bengal.

US diplomatic initiatives

Taskforce 74

With intelligence reports indicating the Indian cabinet was discussing the scopes of offensive into West Pakistan, the white house had to act fast. On December 10, the decision was taken to assemble a task force at Malacca strait, spearheaded by USS Enterprise. The force was to be capable of overshadowing the four Soviet ships already in the Bay of Bengal.

Deployment of the Taskforce

The Taskforce was to be headed by USS Enterprise, at the time the largest Aircraft carrier in the world. In addition, it consisted of Amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli, carrying a 200 strong Marine battalion and twentyfive assault helicopters; The three Guided Missile escorts "USS King", "Decatur", and "Parsons"; four gun Destroyers "USS Bausell", "Orleck", "McKean" and "Anderson"; and a nuclear attack submarine. The "Enterprise" was assigned by the Central authority, while the other ships were assigned by local commanders.Harvnb|Francis|Ives|2003|p=182] Enterprise was at this time at the Tonkin Gulf area. Recovering her airborne aircraft and transferring personnel who were required to stay to the "USS Constellation", she prepared to head off. The task force was delayed while the support ships refueled, it held off East of Singapore, and was ordered into the Indian ocean on 14 December. crossed Malacca straits on the nights of 13-14 December and entered the Bay of Bengal on the morning of 15 December. The group was required to proceed slowly, averaging a speed of 15 Knots, both to conserve fuel as well as to allow advance information on its heading.


The US government announced at the time that the task force may help evacuate Pakistani forces from East Pakistani following a ceasefire.



1971 war

oviet Naval deployment

Indian security strategy

Indian Nuclear program


* Harvard reference
Surname1 = Rais
Given1 =R.B
Year = 1987
Title = The Indian Ocean and the Superpowers
Publisher = Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN= 0389206954
*Harvard reference
Surname1 = Blechman
Given1 =B.M.
Surname2 = Kaplan
Given2 =S.S.
Year = 1978
Title = Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces as a Political Instrument
Publisher = Brookings Institution Press
ISBN= 0815709854
*Harvard reference
Surname1 = Francis
Given1 =Patricia B
Surname2 = Ives
Given2 = Burditt
Year = 2003
Title = The Brown Shoes: Personal Histories of Flying Midshipmen and Other Naval Aviators of the Korean War Era.
Publisher = Turner Publishing Company
ISBN= 1563118580
* [http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/NAVY/History/2000s/Hiranandani.pdf THE INDIAN END OF THE TELESCOPE. India and her navy. Vice Admiral (retd) G Hiranandani] .Bharat-rakshak.com
*Harvard reference
Surname1 = Garthoff R.L
Given1 =B.M.
Year = 1994
Title = Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan. pp 297-312
Publisher = Transaction Publishers
ISBN= 081573042X

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