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Message from Bangladesh
Bangladesh celebrated Armed Forces Day on November 21. It is appropriate to pay homage to the soldiers who laid down their lives for their country and remember India, which has always stood by us
Bangladesh Independence War is the finest moment in the thousand years of the nation’s history. Unarmed and peace-loving Bangladeshi people, in response to the clarion call by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation, on March 7 and 26, 1971, had valiantly fought the Pakistani occupation forces that had launched the treacherous genocidal war on our people on March 26, 1971.
The entire nation had risen like a man to defend the motherland, and to make Bangladesh free from alien rule. It was a people’s war — people from all walks of life had come forward and fought the war on every front. While our valiant soldiers and freedom fighters fought the war on the battlefield, our journalists, educationists, civil servants, administrators, diplomats, singers and cultural activists confronted the challenges in their respective areas.
It is a matter of pride and honour for the nation that Bangabandhu’s historic speech of March 7, 1971, has now been included in the memory of the World International Register, a list of world’s important documentary heritage, maintained by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and an announcement to that effect was made by the Director General of Unesco on October 30, 2017. What a befitting tribute to a historic speech by the Father of our Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman!
Armed Forces Day is observed in Bangladesh on November 21. It signifies the day in 1971 when the members of the Army, Navy and Air Forces of Bangladesh were fully operational and had launched a coordinated offensive against the Pakistani occupation forces, although our Armed Forces had been fighting since the beginning of the liberation struggle, November 21, marks the formal ‘Raising Day’ of our combined Armed forces. It is their ceremonial birthday, a day of rejoicing and celebration, a day of remembrance and paying gratitude and tribute to our valiant martyrs and freedom fighters, and our Indian friends who had fought side by side with us in our War of Independence.
On this day, we pay homage to the Father of our Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had led and inspired our people to fight for our freedom and independence despite heavy odds.
Our people paid a very heavy price for our freedom and independence. Three million people were killed, 10 million had to take shelter in India, millions were internally uprooted from their homes, thousands of women were raped and assaulted, countless number of people were injured and maimed and our economic infrastructure was totally destroyed. Here, I recall a British journalist once commenting in an article, “If blood is the price for freedom and independence, then Bangladesh has overpaid.”
As a freedom fighter diplomat staying in Washington, DC, at that time, I recall with deep appreciation and gratitude the whole-hearted support which we had received from the Government and people of India, in their country and abroad. They not only gave shelter to millions of our people but also extended all possible assistance to us at those critical hours of our nationhood.
On this day, we pay homage to those brave Indian soldiers, who had laid down their lives for our independence. We also pay tributes to the valiant war veterans who had fought side by side with us in our War of Independence. They are our comrades-in-arms. We will always remember their contributions and they remain the most endurable link in friendship and cooperation between our two countries.
After assumption of office for the second time in 2009, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — the able daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, decided to confer ‘Friends of Bangladesh’ award on our Indian and other foreign friends, who had stood by us during our War of Independence through award-giving ceremonies in Dhaka.
During her state visit to India last April, she personally honored members of families of war martyrs through an unprecedentedSommanona ceremony in New Delhi. At that ceremony, she said, “History of Bangladesh has been written by the blood of Indian martyrs along with valiant freedom fighters of Bangladesh. They fought together for the independence of Bangladesh. The story of their sacrifice would be remembered from generation to generation in our countries”.
This year, we will be observing the day at a watershed moment, when our two Prime Ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi have taken our bilateral ties to a new level which is well beyond ‘strategic partnership’. The 11 agreements and 24 Memorandum of Understandings, signed during the visit, virtually encompass every important sector in our bilateral cooperation, namely security, trade, connectivity, energy, civil nuclear agreement and defence.
The visit was also high on optics. The fact that Prime Minister Modi broke protocol and received our Prime Minister at the airport and was present at Sommanona and other events clearly underscored the very special relationship which exists between the two countries. Moreover, a prominent road in New Delhi has been named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of our Nation.
In addition to the two earlier Line of Credits (LoC), India, during this visit has extended a fresh LoC to the tune of five billion dollars, which also includes $500 million for defence purchase. Bangladesh will utilise this credit for the projects that it needs on priority basis.
The country’s private sector also made valuable inputs when they signed MoUs for the investment to the tune of $13 billion. primarily in the energy sector.
Bangladesh also figures prominently in India’s ‘Look East, Act East policy’ and both the countries are currently cooperating actively with each other as well as with other countries in the region under the aegis of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMESTEC) and other regional fora.
In sum, our relations is “best ever since 1974” as was noted by former President Pranab Mukherjee. President Ram Nath Kovind has also termed Bangladesh as “India’s closest neighbour”.
Long live Bangladesh-India friendship. Joy Bangla!
(The writer is Bangladesh High Commissioner to India)
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