Premier Sheikh Hasina on Thursday told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India is Bangladesh’s true friend and expressed her gratitude to the country for the support during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan, as the two countries signed seven agreements to enhance bilateral ties. Addressing a virtual summit with Modi, Hasina said that she is happy to meet her Indian counterpart again, “particularly on this month of victory”.
On Wednesday, Bangladesh celebrated the 49th anniversary of its victory against Pakistan. Bangladesh won the war against Pakistan on December 16, 1971, with Indian support.
“December evokes in all Bangladeshis the spirit of joy, freedom and celebration as we recall with deep gratitude our ‘Father of the Nation’ Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Under whose dynamic leadership we earned our great independence,” she said. “India is our true friend,” the Bangladesh Prime Minister said.
“I pay deep homage to the three million martyrs who laid down their lives. I pay tribute to the members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the war and to their families. I pay my gratitude to the government and the people of India who extended their whole hearted support for the cause of our nation,” she said.
India, Bangladesh sign 7 pacts
During the summit, India and Bangladesh signed seven agreements to expand cooperation in diverse areas, and restored a cross-border rail link which was in operation till 1965.
"Concerned officials signed the memorandums of understandings (MoU)s on behalf of Bangladesh while Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Vikram K Doraiswami inked them on his country's behalf," a Bangladesh foreign ministry spokesman said.
The official said Bangladesh's agriculture minister Dr Abdur Razzaque, junior minister for cultural affairs Khalid Hossain and foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen witnessed the event at the state guest house, shortly before premiers of the two countries joined their virtual summit from their respective offices.
In her address, Hasina also lauded India’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. “I must commend the way India confronted the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope India will contribute significantly in the recovery of the global economy,” she said. “I commend the manner in which the concerned authorities on both sides have taken forward our bilateral cooperation during these trying time,” Hasina added.
The war in 1971 broke after the sudden crackdown at midnight past on March 25, 1971 in the erstwhile East Pakistan by the Pakistani troops and ended on December 16. The same year Pakistan conceded defeat and unconditionally surrendered in Dhaka to the allied forces comprising the freedom fighters and the Indian soldiers. Officially three million people were killed during the nine-month-long war.
Modi and Hasina jointly inaugurated a digital exhibition on Mujibur Rahman and Mahatma Gandhi in an effort to celebrate the life and legacies of the iconic leaders. Hasina and Modi also relaunched a trans-border rail route between Chilahati and West Bengal's Haldibari which has been inoperative for almost 55 years.
The ties between India and Bangladesh have witnessed a significant upswing in the last few years. Both sides have scaled up trade and economic engagement besides implementing a number of connectivity and infrastructure projects.