As he paid glowing tributes to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the two countries had not just descended from shared heritage and were advancing towards shared development and opportunities but also faced common challenges like terrorism. The sense of shared concerns and synergy in goals and challenges was reciprocated by Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina, who said, “India is not only our next door neighbour, we have a historical, social, cultural heritage and geographical rapport. The people and government of India were immensely involved in the evolution process of Bangladesh during our liberation war in 1971.”
Modi’s speech on the “historic” visit to mark 50 years of Bangladesh's war of liberation was significant as he slammed Pakistan for the atrocities committed by its army, mentioned Indira Gandhi’s contribution to the liberation and also sought to make a personal connection with the same by “proudly” reminding the people of Bangladesh that he had participated in their freedom struggle by doing a satyagraha and courting arrest at a young age. Modi said he had been traumatised by the actions of the Pakistan army which had committed genocide of its own people. He also hailed the contribution of the Indian Army to Bangladesh’s war of liberation.
In her speech, Hasina spoke at length on Pakistani brutalities against the people of Bangladesh during the struggle for liberation.
In an oblique reference to Pakistan, Modi said the kind of forces and mindset that gave effect to such inhuman acts were still active. “We need to remain alert and united to fight them,’’ the PM said. He quoted late Atal Bihari Vajpayee to say that the blood of Bangladeshi and Indian soldiers ran together and would stand the test of any crafty diplomacy.
Recalling Pakistan’s Operation Searchlight brutalities, Modi said the world had not discussed the issue enough. “In the middle of all this, Bangabandhu was like a ray of hope for people here and for us Indians. His courage and leadership meant that no country could enslave Bangladesh,’’ he said, wearing what is locally known as a ‘Mujib jacket’.
Earlier in the day, Modi was received at the airport by Hasina as he landed in Dhaka with another 1.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines. He then drove to the National Martyrs’ Memorial to pay tribute to the valour and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the 1971 war. At the National Day event, he handed over the Gandhi Peace Prize for Rahman to Hasina.
Thanking Modi and the Indian government for their cooperation and for gifting vaccines to Bangladesh, Hasina said at the National Day event that India had backed Bangladesh both in good and bad times. Modi also met community leaders on the first day of his visit, including minority representatives and Muktijodhas, the liberation fighters. PM Modi also visited two temples during his visit.