As Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for Dhaka on his first foreign visit after the COVID-19 pandemic, he termed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a statesman whose vision went beyond the narrow confines of physical borders and social division
In a special op-ed for The Daily Star titled ‘Imagining a different South Asia with Bangabandhu’, PM Modi writes: “A sovereign, self-confident Bangladesh, at peace with its neighbours, bearing friendship to all and malice towards none, was rising fast from the ashes of a painful war. If this had continued, perhaps India and Bangladesh could have achieved many decades ago some of the accomplishments that we were able to reach only recently.”
“It was this rare combination of deep-seated belief in his own ideals, and yet the openness of mind to accept a different opinion, that made Bangabandhu one of the greatest statesmen of our times. It endeared Bangabandhu to the people of India as well. In him, we saw a tall leader whose vision went beyond the narrow confines of physical borders and social divisions,” wrote PM Modi for The Daily Star.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known as the architect of Bangladesh’s independence, was killed along with most of his family members at his home in 1975. His daughters, Sheikh Rehana and Sheikh Hasina, the incumbent Prime Minister of Bangladesh, survived because they were living abroad at that time.
“That is why we join our Bangladeshi sisters and brothers in celebrating Bangabandhu’s memory in this very special Mujib Borsho,” he added.
The Prime Minister further said that India would have overcome the complications of history with the 2015 Land Boundary Agreement much earlier if Bangabandhu had been at the helm longer.
“We could have built a closely integrated economic region, with deeply interlinked value-chains spanning food processing to light industry, electronics and technology products to advanced materials. We could have created inter-governmental structures to maximise the economic, scientific and strategic benefits of a community of hundreds of millions of people,” he said.
Had Bangabandhu been alive today, both countries could have set up mechanisms to share meteorological, maritime and geological data, joined maritime capacities and developed a vast multimodal connectivity network of roads, he said.
“This is the ‘Shonali Adhyaya’ that we may have been living in had it not been for that tragic Friday morning of August 1975. The assassination of the Father of Bangladesh deprived the region of the destiny that could and should have been ours to share,” PM Modi wrote for The Daily Star.
Speaking on India-Bangladesh ties today, he said that both nations have resolved complex issues amicably and their land and maritime boundaries stand settled, in the spirit of good neighbourliness. There was substantial cooperation covering all aspects of human behaviour, trade had reached historic levels and people-to-people exchanges remained robust as ever, he added.
He also informed that India plans to implement a connectivity arrangement for Indian cargo to reach northern states through Bangladesh, while concentrated efforts were underway to operationalise inland waterways of the countries. India has also amended its regulations to encourage cross-border trade in power to the benefit of countries in the region.
Looking forward to the completion of important connectivity projects, PM Modi expressed confidence that the nations are “once again striving towards a destiny that the Liberation of Bangladesh had once augured for our region”.
“India will remain Bangladesh’s partner as we jointly march towards the golden future for which Bangabandhu, and millions of patriotic Bangladeshis, and indeed thousands of Indians, gave their all,” he said.
“As I visit Dhaka for the honour of participating in Bangladesh’s National Day celebrations, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and I will recommit ourselves to this vision set out by Bangabandhu. I also look forward to paying my respects to Bangabandhu at his Samadhi,” the Prime Minister said in his concluding words.
After his arrival in Dhaka, PM Modi will attend an event at the National Martyr’s Memorial at 10:50 am. Thereafter, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen will call on Prime Minister Modi at 3:15 pm.
Later, he will attend the National Day Programme at 3:45 pm. He will then inaugurate Bapu Bangabandhu Digital Video Exhibition at 7:45 pm.
Bangladesh FM Momen on Thursday said the people of Bangladesh welcome the visit of Prime Minister Modi.
During his visit, the Prime Minister will also interact with diverse groups of Bangladesh’s polity and society.