Feature Img
Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

The occasion is momentous. We are honouring a friend who played the most critical role amongst all our foreign friends in our nation’s journey to Statehood. Smt. Indira Gandhi changed the course of events in the fateful months of 1971 and, with the support she gave to our embattled people, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was born. Today, we recognise, express our gratitude and honour Smt. Indira Gandhi. And on this occasion, I pay my deepest respect to the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the four national leaders and the three million martyrs of 1971.

One of the imperatives of the present Government has been to restore the ideals and aspirations upon which the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was founded; that is, of secularism, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, the fight against injustice, oppression and intolerance; to remember our history, culture and values, and to enable a higher quality of life for our people.

Cognisant of the fact that the history of the birth of the Republic has to be portrayed in its correct perspective for the sake of future generations, the Government took the initiative to form a National Committee for Honouring Foreign Friends who contributed towards the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign State. Over the past fourteen months, the Committee has compiled a list of friends, each of whom had made contributions in their unique way. The Committee consulted historic records and documents, both personal and public, and numerous sources to put together a list of our Foreign Friends who stood by us in our War of Liberation. It has been an inspiring and humbling experience. Many, who could have just let the events of 1971 go by unremembered, became involved without any thought of personal gain.

When the Committee began its work, the one person who stood above every one else was Smt. Indira Gandhi. Her role was so seminal, so singular and so comprehensive that she is in a category by herself. Her role was multi-faceted. She internalized our issues. On one hand, she recognized that Bangalees were fleeing their homeland in unending numbers. There was genocide, atrocities, rape and torture. There was no foreseeable end to the misery and exodus. She represented sanctuary. On the other hand, she knew she had to “mobilise” her own people, not all of whom lived in areas bordering Bangladesh, to come to the support of the Bangalee nation. Whilst she made resources, human and material, available in infinitesimal terms within India’s borders, she drew the attention of the world to end a problem that was not Pakistan’s internal problem, but that of the world community. She foresaw the eventuality of war. She decided to stand by our most fundamental cause — the right to self determination. In order to do that, she needed to “mobilise” the world. And so she did, in the era of the Cold War.

It is no secret that, over the years, since our independence, the nation has been deliberately misled about the basic facts and processes of our own history and of our liberation. Forty years later, it is now time to rectify these wrongs and set the records straight so that our children know the facts. The National Committee for recognizing the Foreign Friends of Bangladesh is a small part of that effort. It is a matter of great satisfaction to all members of the Committee and, indeed, the entire Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, that the First Foreign Friend to be honoured for contributions to the Bangladesh Liberation War is Smt. Indira Gandhi.

It is a great day in our own history that we are able to recognise the unequalled role played by Smt. Indira Gandhi, to be able to convey our gratitude to Smt. Indira Gandhi and to honour Smt. Indira Gandhi. We are fortunate that we are able to do so through Smt. Sonia Gandhi who is here, not only as a family member of Smt. Indira Gandhi, but also as President of the Party she had led.

Dr Dipu Moni is foreign minister and chair of the National Committee for Honouring Foreign Friends. The article is an abridged version from the speech she delivered at the July 25 Bangabhaban ceremony to confer the Bangladesh Freedom Honour, the country’s highest for a foreign national.

14 Responses to “Bangladesh repays a debt”

  1. zakir

    We really want India our biggest friend to stand besides Bangladesh the way they did during our Liberation War.

    But in over three decades our friendship has changed. We are surrounded by barbed wire, rivers are blocked and waterless, poor farmers are killed by the BSF, CHT is burning, our food grains are stopped at the border, no passage granted to Angorpota-Dohogram, our lands are occupied by the BSF and Indians, Talpotti, etc. still remains missing from our map.

    But we are giving to India no less than the largest corridor. Think about it.

  2. Monirul islam

    Although India helped us in 1971 mainly for maintaining the balance of power it was a historical cooperation to help achieve our long cherished freedom. So it’s a historical moment indeed handing over this award to Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

    Time has come to rebuild strong relation between two countries on the basis of mutual respect and equality. People of these two countries should come forward to maintain peace and progress.

    • Muktar Ahmed Mukul

      Why “Although India helped us in 1971 mainly for maintaining the balance of power”? Why can’t you be satisfied with what you got at the end?

  3. M. Haque

    There is no denying the fact that India helped us in our War of Liberation. But, the other side of the coin should also be examined and highlighted i.e. it had a strategic interest to see Pakistan divided and its interest in helping us was self-serving.

    Since coming to power, this government has gone out of the way (too much) to express its ‘gratitude’ to India with all kinds of deals and pacts – without taking into consideration the will of the people and national interests, while the Indian government flouts all norms of diplomacy and neighbourly behaviour and continues with its killing of our nationals at the border.

    The FM would have done better to voice these rather than spending time in addressing Mrs. Indira Gandhi with the ‘Smt’ title. Think of national interests first, dear FM.

    • Muhammad Nazrul Islam

      Dear FM,
      Good write-up indeed!

      It is not bad to be gracious. I also feel indebted to India for what they did for us during that crucial time. It was a multi-dimensional risky venture for them. They were successful from different perspectives, circumstantially though. We are grateful to them, but with the passage of time, their leadership due to their own big brotherly attitude and dealings, made the relationship bitter. You may overlook or hide, we commoners are more alert now and will hardly appreciate such attitude by our neighbour. Time will prove. People do not like your, for that matter our government’s grovelling attitude. As a free country, it is disgraceful and a bad precedent. Try to act as a soverign nation that we are.

      We, as a nation are still reeling from the hard slap from people like Mamata. I adore her patriotism. Why not you people try to learn from her. See, what patriots they are!

      We, as a nation, all the time feel the pinch of their big brotherly attitude, be it at the border, in business fields, in dialogues, in diplomacy. Please try to set examples worth to follow by others.

      Wish you better days ahead.

  4. Treble Em

    Good piece! We actually feel satisfied at the event that finished a long overdue historical task. The award has truly reflected the feelings and Liberation War sentiment of the nation. We are NOT an ungrateful nation at all.

  5. A.K.M. Raisul Huq Bahar

    Dr.Dipu Moni most correctly and precisely depicted the seminal role of Smt Indira Gandhi during the trial and tribulation period of our nationhood in 1971. The Bangladesh Freedom Honour conferred upon Indira Gandhi was long overdue. At long last we admitted our debt to her.

    A.K.M. Raisul Huq Bahar

    A grateful freedom fighter
    in the liberation war of
    Bangladesh, trained in
    Halflong, India.

    • russel ahmed

      Mr. Bahar Sir,
      I am really proud of you. We want to know more about Srimoti Indira Ghandi from the actual freedom fighters. Thank you for your support on bestowing honour upon this great lady. Being a freedom fighter your support makes us feel proud.

  6. syed Imtiaz Ali

    Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, and the support of Indian people, the nature and amount of all round help that Bangladesh got in 1971 is invaluable and cannot be equated with debt repayment. If we say the debt is paid, we shall do injustice to their cooperating with us.

    But there is no denying the fact that the Indian involvement was mainly to win its own war. Pakistan had always been an irritant to India, and we also had known about balance of power between the two countries in its military strength. India’s help was also directed towards ensuring the so-called ‘balance’ is abolished and made history once and for all. And given the stage that was made possible and mobilisation of resources and opinion, India triumphed, while Pakistan got more and more soiled.
    So, it was not a selfless war that India had mobilised, fought and in the final count, and with direct help of the Bangladesh forces, Bangladesh was born. We got our long cherished homeland.
    Let us therefore learn to call a spade a spade, with self-respect. We never got Bangladesh in a platter! Along with Bangabandhu, millions fought in his/her own way, and millions more had suffered and gave lives. It is our glorious history and hope one day the real historians will do justice to their conscience and put the facts in its right spirit and perspective.

    With this long-due posthumous honouring, we wish to tell India that we as a tiny neighbour, always wish them well. So, we also expect and deserve a well-wisher friend. We hope and pray, all our long standing issues, numerous as they are, will be gradually ironed out amicably. We also wish to get India’s wider and more effective role in our economic and educational development. I hope our leaders will grab them with both hands, thankfully, upholding our national interests.

  7. Golam Arshad

    FM Dipu Moni: In praise and in salutation to late Sri Mati Indira Gandhi! Good piece!

    • M. Haque

      Dear Mr. Arshad

      Please do not go overboard in your ‘praise’ and ‘gratitude’ to our big neighbour that you have to address, like our FM, late Premier Indira Gandhi with the title of ‘Sri Mati’. The word is more suited to be used by people in India or those subscribing to ‘Bangalee’ culture. The word convey high elevations and may sometime be equated with divinity. Let us try to keep our ‘Bangladeshi’ culture and try not to sell our soul in expressing this ‘deep and profound’ gratitude. Of course, I do not want to go into the logic of this deep sense of rebirth and gratitude here. Appropriate gratitude have already been expressed and do not let them extract undue gratitude.

      • Ali

        The much revered, universal “Mrs. Indira Gandhi”, late Indian premier, should be just fine, as is used anywhere, including the UN, to refer to her.

        Let us keep in mind that even India in 1971 has had her own agenda to fulfil. While we gratefully acknowledge India’s contribution in the 1971 war, we can’t forget that NOTHING comes free! Reciprocal payment is made today or tomorrow, in cash or kind. We have to be comfortable with this fact. If we want to sell, let it be our saleable commodities, not our souls in its entirety.

        Let our mutual respect continue along with our fruitful friendship.

      • M Mustafa

        Some people think that India gained leverage over Pakistan by dismembering it in 1971. The reality is different. It was the loss of the leverage India enjoyed comfortably in the eastern theatre with an organ of Pakistan, lying unprotected next door (practically and militarily it was never possible for Pakistan to hold on to its eastern wing). Now Pakistan focuses fully on its eastern front without the possibility of being held hostage further east.

        What India had in mind is unfolding now. The corridor and the unilateral construction of all the hydra-power and other structures. These are just a few to mention. God knows, how many other projects are in the pipeline.

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