Maitri Diwas (Friendship Day) was celebrated on 6 December 2021 marking 50 Years of India-Bangladesh diplomatic ties. The occasion was celebrated in London by the High Commission of India and Bangladesh High Commission by jointly organising a reception and a cultural programme in a Central London hotel.
On 6 December 1971, India recognised Bangladesh and was one of the first countries to extend diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh. During the State visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in March 2021, both countries agreed to jointly commemorate 6 December as India-Bangladesh Friendship Day (Maitri Diwas) in India, Bangladesh and other countries around the world.
At the gala reception guests observed one minute of silence in honour of all martyrs who lost their lives in the Liberation war of 1971.
Paying tribute to Bangladesh's founding father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, High Commissioner of India Gaitri Issar Kumar said, “India was proud to have provided support to Bangladesh in its War of Liberation in 1971.” She highlighted the vibrancy and depth of the bilateral relations including the ongoing development partnership assistance.
Paying homage to the martyrs of the liberation war and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem recalled the invaluable support that the Government of India and its people extended to Bangladesh during the liberation war. She said, “The value-based friendship between our peoples and our soils, the 54-common rivers, the love, affection and common emotions that connect our two nations and the messages of peace, Ahimsa (or non-violence) and humanity propagated by Fathers of our two Nations Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will take our Bangladesh-India Maitree to even newer height in the decades to come.”
Rt Hon Oliver Dowden, Co-Chair of the Conservative Party of the UK graced the occasion as the Guest of Honour, who spoke about the contributions of the British Indian and Bangladeshi community to the UK. Talking about his parents' connection with the Asian community, he also reminded about the 75th year of India’s independence in 2022 as well as 70th anniversary of the Ugandan Asian expulsion. Among other eminent speakers were Professor Dr Gowher Rizvi, International Relations Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Lord Swaraj Paul, Lord Jitesh Gadhia, Lord Dean Godson and Lord Karan Bilimoria.
Lord Bilimoria reminisced about his father Lieutenant General Faridoon Noshir Billimoria’s contribution to the Bangladesh war, as he commanded the Indian army and paid homage to those who lost their lives in the war. He also thanked the Bangladeshi community, especially the strong restaurant community in the UK for providing him with the opportunity and hope, when he started his Cobra beer business, going door to door selling his product.
The reception was attended by nearly 400 guests including UK Ministers and Parliamentarians, Heads of Missions, academics, chamber leaders, professionals, and eminent members of the Indian and Bangladeshi diaspora.
A colourful cultural programme was performed by renowned artists from India and Bangladesh including the celebrated singer Runa Laila. A documentary on Bangladesh-India historic relations and the 1971 War of Liberation was screened.