During the Bangladesh Liberation War and related Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 which lead to the independence of Bangladesh, the US executive branch is known to have sent Task Force 74 in the Bay of Bengal in support of the Pakistani government. I have recently been told that France did help Pakistan, and sent ships in the Indian Ocean during that period.

From the few sources I could find (the quality of which I'm not able to vet), it seems France and Pakistan had overall good commercial relationships, and France did sell weapons to the Pakistani Navy before and after the war. On the other hand, during the conflict, France abstained from 4 UN votes for resolutions supported by Pakistan, the US, and/or China, de facto supporting the Indian position (or at least not opposing it), along with the USSR and the UK. The linked article also mentions sanctions on Pakistan, but I haven't been able to find confirmation in contemporary French media.

So, overall, it seems to me like France was not siding with Pakistan in any direct way. Is there any reputable source suggesting that:

  1. France helped Pakistan in any meaningful way
  2. France sent any (war)ship in the Indian Ocean
  • It seems the JStor article you cite sums up Frances position during that time (pp36) "Our attitude regarding this crisis is inspired by the general principles which determine our attitude in the international field, that is, non-interference in international affairs" ... and later it mentions 'After the outbreak of hostilities in December 1971, the French Government continued its neutral, non-partisan efforts...including the UN'
    – justCal
    Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 17:31
  • 1
    Given French shipping interests, them sending ships to the fringes of a warzone in order to assist their own commercial vessels in the region makes perfect sense. Doesn't have to mean they're actively supporting one side or the other.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


Did France send ships to the Indian Ocean in 1971 in support of Pakistan?

Highly unlikely!

In 1965, in addition to the UK, France was one of India's critical suppliers of arms during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. The French-made AMX tanks helped Indians win a number of crucial battles, the most prominent one being the Battle of Asal Uttar.

Regarding 1971,

In this paper, nothing about French ships is mentioned. The paper says that, even though public opinion was against Pakistan during the 1971 war, France stayed more or less neutral.

This research paper and this and this articles say that France didn't play any significant role even in the UN.

It seemed to me that the war of 1971 was predominantly a contest between the USA and the USSR.

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