Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday urged India to play a pioneering role in building a stable and politically-economically vibrant South Asia.
“India is the largest country in the region. India needs to play a pioneering role in building a stable and politically-economically vibrant South Asia. If we move forward hand in hand, development of our people is inevitable,” she said.“Let’s pledge to forget all differences and work together for the welfare of our people to establish South Asia as a developed and prosperous region,” the premier added.
Sheikh Hasina made the call while addressing the closing ceremony of a 10-day state programme (March 17 to March 26) with the theme ‘Mujib Eternal’, marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence.
President Abdul Hamid attended the concluding ceremony at National Parade Square in the capital as the chief guest while visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi graced the occasion in person as guest of honour.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a great believer in regional cooperation.
“In addition to political freedom of the oppressed people of the world, he dreamt of economic emancipation. That made him to emphasize regional cooperation based on mutual trust, confidence, and equality,” she said.
The premier thanked the Indian government, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for awarding the prestigious ‘Gandhi Peace Prize-2020’ to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at this auspicious moment.“I must say, India indeed honoured a worthy leader in South Asia as well as a real fellow of Gandhiji through this award,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the two countries decided to hold several joint programmes on the occasion of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu, the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence, and 50 years of Dhaka-Delhi diplomatic relations,
The premier said India is not only our next-door neighbour, we have historical, social, cultural, heritage, and geographical rapports with this country.
“Our relations with India have now risen to new heights. We laud Prime Minister Modiji’s ‘neighborhood first’ policy. Sending vaccines for preventing coronavirus to the neighboring countries, including Bangladesh, must be a reflection of that policy,” she said.
During the last few years, Bangladesh has increased cooperation with India in various sectors,
including trade and commerce, communication, power, energy, and agriculture. India has now become one of our development partners, she said.
“The Maitree Bridge over the Feni River has recently been inaugurated to increase connectivity between the North-Eastern Indian states and Bangladesh. These Indian states are now able to use the seaport and airport of Chattagram,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also recalled India’s contributions to our war of independence and the final victory was achieved on 16th December through a joint operation of the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces.
“The self-sacrifice, support, and cooperation of the people of India during our liberation war will never be forgotten. In recognition of outstanding contributions to our liberation war, we have dedicated the ‘Independence Award’ to the late Indian Prime Minister Shreemati Indira Gandhi, the ‘Liberation War Friendship Award’ to 225 Indian citizens, including the ‘Liberation War Award’ to former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also expressed her personal gratitude to the people and government of India for sheltering her younger sister and her family after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu along with most of his family members on August 15 in 1975.
“We, two sisters, survived, as we were at that time on a visit to Germany. We were prevented from returning to our country, thus, we became homeless. My family and my younger sister Sheikh Rehana were given shelter by the Indian government,” she said.
Over the country’s overall progress made during the last 12 years, the premier said her government has placed Bangladesh on the track of prosperity by overcoming multiple obstacles.
“Through our relentless efforts in the last 12 years, Bangladesh has received the final recommendation for Bangladesh’s shifting from a least developed country to developing country status. We’re working hard to make Bangladesh an upper-middle-income country by 2031 and a developed and prosperous one by 2041,” she said.
The premier also extended her government’s gratitude to those world leaders who had sent messages on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the great independence and the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation.
Maldives president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Sri Lankan premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering have already attended the grand celebrations in person.