DHAKA: Flags of India and Bangladesh fluttering in warm and humid Dhaka weather, festive decorations of Mujib centenary celebrations and large-than-life posters of Prime Minister Modi and Sheikh Hasina greeted the Indian leader as he began his first foreign visit during the pandemic to the neighbouring country that has a special place in his heart.
In a special gesture, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, accompanied by her senior ministers, personally received PM Modi at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, welcoming her Indian friend with flowers and warm greetings.
PM Modi’s second visit to Dhaka – he is coming here after a hiatus of six years – is steeped in an atmosphere of national rejoicing as Bangladesh celebrates Mujib Borsho- the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, 50 years of Bangladesh’s war of liberation and the two countries celebrate 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties.
Within minutes of arriving in Dhaka, PM Modi began Day 1 of his visit, a national holiday in Bangladesh, by paying tributes to the martyrs of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 at Dhaka’s National Martyrs Memorial and underlined that the sacrifice of the participants in the historic war will remain a lasting legacy in South Asia.
“I pray that the eternal flame at Savar, remains a lasting reminder of the noble victory of truth and courage over deceit and oppression,” wrote PM Modi at the Visitor’s Book at the memorial. He also planted an ‘Arjun’ sapling at the memorial grounds which contain the unmarked graves of the martyrs.
PM Modi interacted with opposition leaders from various political parties of Bangladesh and also met political leaders from the rulling alliance to seek their suggestions for taking India-Bangladesh ties to new heights. He also interacted with a delegation of the Muktijoddhas or former guerrillas who fought in the war of 1971.
Ahead of his bilateral talks with Sheikh Hasina on March 27, Mr Modi discussed a wide gamut of issues with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr A.K. Abdul Momen. “Both the Leaders reflected on deepening the fraternal ties and strengthening the all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership between the two countries,” said India’s external affairs ministry in a statement.
Sporting a ‘Mujib Jacket’ as a tribute to Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation, PM Modi’s voice turned emotional as he described his presence in Dhaka on this historic occasion as “one of the most memorable days of my life” and recalled that how as a young man in early twenties, doing satyagraha for independence of Bangladesh was one of the finest movements of his life. Reciprocating sentiments, Sheikh Hasina also struck an emotive tone, saying “In our independence war, we always remember the contribution of India.”
PM Modi’s choice of Bangladesh as his first overseas destination after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic underscores the growing importance of Bangladesh in India’s foreign policy calculus. The March 26-27 visit of PM Modi celebrates what Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has called a “sonar adhyay” (golden chapter) in the annals of India-Bangladesh relations.
“This is a very special visit. Mr. Modi has come to pay respect to our Father of the Nation and to participate in triple celebrations,” Dr Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, told India Writes Network in Dhaka. “It’s a huge honour for PM Modi to be invited as Guest of Honour at the triple celebrations of Bangladesh. The joint celebrations highlight special friendship and bond that has developed between India and Bangladesh,” Veena Sikri, a former envoy of India to Bangladesh, told India Writes Network in Delhi.
Upscaling economic relations and promoting connectivity and infrastructure projects with a view to accelerating development of India’s Northeast states will among important outcomes of PM Modi’s two-day visit to Dhaka. Moving beyond the emotive resonance of the visit, the two sides are set to unveil new initiatives for cooperation in areas such as health, railway connectivity, border development and start-ups.
(Manish Chand is CEO of India Writes Network and India and the World magazine. He is currently in Dhaka to report on and analyse Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh. Follow him on @scepticcryptic @IndiaWritesTGII)
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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