Script: Dr SMRUTI S PATTANAIK, Strategic Analyst on South Asia
Bangladesh celebrated the 50th anniversary of her liberation on 26 March this year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited to attend the golden jubilee celebrations in Dhaka. India had contributed significantly towards Bangladesh’s liberation.
India’s participation in the golden jubilee celebrations and Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Dhaka reflects the bond of blood the two countries share. The Prime Minister started his visit to Dhaka by paying homage at the National Martyrs Memorial at Savar. He attended the National Day programme where India conferred the Gandhi Peace Prize posthumously on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for his outstanding contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violent and other Gandhian methods.
The role of Bangabandhu in liberation is an indelible fact. Prime Minister Modi emphasised the relevance of Mujib in today’s world. Highlighting the genocide and the threat of ideology of hate, the Indian Prime Minister said, “the ideologies and forces behind these inhuman acts are active even today. We not only need to be alert but also need to stay united to fight them.” Mr Modi spoke at length about the role of Indian military leadership during the war as well as the Bengali freedom fighters without whose joint efforts, winning the war was not possible.
Prime Minister Modi along with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina jointly inaugurated a Digital exhibition on Bapu and Bangabandhu. Prime Minister Modi also met leaders from the 14 party alliance and also opposition leaders belonging to various political parties and community leaders, friends of India and youth icons.
As a mark of respect to the great leader, Prime Minister Modi visited Bangabandhu’s mausoleum at Tungipara. He spent some time there learning about Mujib’s life. Prime Minister visited and offered prayers at the Jeshoreshwari Kali Shaktipeeth in Satkhira, which is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths as per Puranic traditions. He announced a grant for the construction of a community hall-cum cyclone shelter attached to the temple. This is a significant move as India is a pioneer in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. At Orakhadi, he emphasized that the two countries prefer stability and peace and a world free of terror.
The two countries inked five MoUs at the end of the Prime Minister’s visit related to disaster management, resilience and mitigation, cooperation between the National Cadet Corps of the two countries and establishment of a framework of cooperation in the areas of trade remedial measures. The remedial measures were necessary to improve bottlenecks that prevent the trade to achieve its potential. Tripartite agreements were signed relating to the Integrated Container Terminal and the establishment of sports facilities. The two countries also discussed issues of
water sharing, the issue of Rohingyas and Covid19 vaccination. The two sides also discussed incidents of firing on the border which would require ground-level cooperation.
Bangladesh is one of the most important neighbours of India. India has accorded priority to Dhaka that is reflected in the fact that New Delhi had provided US$10 billion as a Line of Credit including grants, the largest in the region; India has gifted the largest number of 2 million corona vaccine doses, to Bangladesh; also New Delhi provides the largest number of visas anywhere in the world to Bangladesh.
This was Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to Bangladesh. Moreover, after the post-Covid 19 lockdowns, this was the first visit of the Indian Prime Minister to any foreign destination. This shows his emphasis on the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy that he has built assiduously since 2014.
On the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation, the two countries can take satisfaction at the various milestones they have achieved. Prime Minister Modi’s visit is much about celebrating this relationship that is paved with the blood of martyrs who laid down their lives for the liberation of Bangladesh and also can be considered as the golden chapter in our bilateral relations.
As Prime Minister Modi said in his speech in the parade ground in Dhaka, “The future of India and Bangladesh is just waiting for countless such moments full of goodwill and mutual trust” that would traverse the challenges and make it truly transformational for the betterment of people.