Dhaka, Jul 25 : Congress party president Sonia Gandhi arrived here on Sunday to receive Bangladesh's highest state honour awarded posthumously to her mother-in-law, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for her outstanding contribution to the country's 1971 ‘Liberation War'.
Sonia, who is visiting Dhaka at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was warmly welcomed by Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and ruling Awami League general secretary and Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 8.50 pm local time.
Last week, the cabinet decided to confer posthumously the country's highest state honour, ‘Bangladesh Swadhinata Sanmanona' on the assassinated Indian Prime Minister for her outstanding contribution to the country's independence. She will receive the award on behalf of her mother-in-law from President Zillur Rahman at a grand ceremony in the presidential palace on Monday.
The Congress leader will also be the chief guest at the inaugural function of a five-day conference on ‘Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia' on Monday. The 24-hour visit, ahead of the official tour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in September, is expected to boost Indo-Bangla ties, which many believe is going through its best phase in the last decade.
Hasina and Sonia are expected to discuss bilateral issues, as the two neighbours move to deepen ties after the formation of the Awami League-led government. Moni earlier said Bangladesh was “looking forward to the visit of Sonia Gandhi”.
“She is a family member of Indira Gandhi who was our great friend during our war for freedom, the President of Congress and the chairperson of UPA,” the Foreign Minister said.
Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said it expected the visit to strengthen bilateral ties.“We expect Sonia Gandhi's visit to cement further Bangladesh-India relations,” BNP's acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told reporters. PTI