Kolkata, Dec 2 , At one point of time in 1971, refugees from then East Pakistan in the Indian state of Agartala numbered thrice the local population, Andalib Elias, deputy high commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata noted on Saturday during a curtain raiser ceremony for Vijay Diwas celebrations to mark Indian Army’s victory over Pakistan in the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
Elias was speaking on the kind of support that India provided to his country during their liberation struggle. His statements are of particular significance as general elections in Bangladesh are due in January and the Sheikh Hasina government is facing the heat from the opposition, primarily for its pro-India stance and crackdown on radicals and war criminals.
“The bond with India cannot change. We shall ever remain grateful to India for the assistance she provided during our War of Liberation. Most importantly, this is a relationship that hasn’t remained stagnant. It has grown from strength to strength. The Prime Ministers of the two countries share a particular bond and have met a record number of times to strengthen bilateral ties. This is actually a ‘Swarna Adhyay’ (Golden Era), so far as ties between our two nations are concerned. How can Bangladesh ever forget India’s diplomatic move to get back Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from the clutches of Pakistan? How can we forget that more than 10 million refugees took shelter in India and the local population accepted them with open arms? Can Bangladesh ever forget the kind of support that India provided after Pakistani forces carried out the genocide in Bangladesh on March 25, 1971? The relation between our two nations is cemented in blood and sweat. December is the ‘Month of Victory’ for us and I greet all Indians for being a part of it,” the diplomat said.
The Indian Army’s Eastern Command in Kolkata will host a 30-member Bangladeshi delegation, including Mukti Joddhas and six serving officers of the Bangladeshi armed forces, as well as their families, during the Vijay Diwas celebrations this year. During their stay in Kolkata, they will get to interact with Indian Army veterans who participated in the 1971 War. This was announced by Major General M P Singh, major general (general staff), Eastern Command, during the day. This year’s Vijay Diwas celebrations will comprise interactions, a military tatoo at the Kolkata Maidan and a musical show on the Victoria Memorial lawns, apart from the ceremonial wreath laying at Vijay Smarak on December 16.
“Exactly 52 years ago, on this day, the Indian Army was already on its way to secure firm bases in what was then East Pakistan for the war that was to follow. The Pakistan Army had resorted to unprecedented oppression on the people of East Pakistan, who they considered inferior, in a bid to impose an alien culture and language. Operation Searchlight, launched on March 25, 1971, was an example. What is important here is that the Indian Army followed its highest traditions by not overstaying their invite to the newly liberated nation. Troops started returning from January, 1972 and all of them were back in India by March, 1972. The relationship between the Armies of the two nations continue till date. We participate in joint exercises and training programmes on a routine basis. This is part of the defence cooperation between the two nations,” Major Gen Singh said.