India’s relations with Bangladesh is a “role model” in international affairs, said Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardshan Shringla on Saturday.
Delivering a speech on the role of the IAF in the 1971 War of Liberation, Mr. Shringla recollected the sacrifices that Indians made to assist the people of Bangladesh fight the genocidal violence of the Pakistani military.
“Today India-Bangladesh relations have matured over the years, the two pillars of Indian diplomacy – Neighbourhood First and Act East- find expression in our vibrant ties with Bangladesh,” Mr Shringla said.
In his video address to the Indian Air Force Conclave in Bengaluru, he said the India-Bangladesh relationship today is the continuation of events that defined the course 50 years ago, during the liberation of that country.
“Muktijoddhas (freedom fighters of Bangladesh liberation) are still the bridge between our two countries… regular exchanges between the security forces of our two countries is a reflection of our shared security considerations. India remains a committed partner in Bangladesh’s economic growth and prosperity, and in their social indicators,” he added.
The Foreign Secretary was speaking at the ongoing three-day IAF Conclave at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru to commemorate “Swarnim Vijay Varsh” – 50 years of the 1971 war that gave birth to Bangladesh as a country.
“India-Bangladesh relations today are deeper than any other strategic partnership; it is a role model to the relationship between two neighbouring countries. The spirit of friendship, understanding and mutual respect engendered during the liberation of Bangladesh still permeates different aspects of the relationship,” he added.
On the humanitarian, political and diplomatic aspects of the events that led to the liberation of Bangladesh, Mr Shringla said the shared history of sacrifice and courage has shaped the current day’s close and multifaceted partnership between India and that country.
“1971 was as much a moral and political victory, as it was a decisive military victory for India. We stood on a high moral ground and history proved us right, as the people of Bangladesh vindicated their self-respect and honour and fought their war for freedom and human rights,” he said.
“1971 was indeed a war for justice over cruel tyranny, a quest for hope in the midst of despair, and catharsis achieved through “Dharma Yudha”.”
Terming the military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army in an effort to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in former East Pakistan in March 1971 as an act of “calculated genocide”, Mr Shringla, who had served as the Ambassador to Bangladesh, highlighted the massive humanitarian challenge faced by India as millions fled from there and crossed over to escape persecution.
By the end of 1971, the total number of people seeking refuge in India reached 10 million.
“I consider India’s humanitarian response to the refugee issue to be one of the most sophisticated and empathetic in contemporary history,” he said.
Pointing at India’s economic situation at that time and its per capita income, which was less than $120 a year, he said it was evident that the country could not support 10 million people, yet it marshalled all its resources.
“The monumental challenge that India was facing was well recognised by the international community, yet there was inadequate support from international organisations in real terms. Almost the entire burden of supporting the displaced people fell upon the government and people of India,” he said.
Mr Shringla also listed out the diplomatic outreach launched by India through its diplomats in various capitals and interventions made by the country’s political leadership to highlight the plight of the people of then East Pakistan and draw their attention.
“India supported the democratic credentials of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Founding Father of Bangladesh) and Awami League (his political party), as a result a number of countries came forward to support the cause of the people of Bangladesh,” he said.
Noting that the United Nation’s response on the issue remained “limited” due to disagreement between the great powers during the cold war, he said the UN Security Council did not discuss the matter until December 1971, and when it discussed no consensus emerged, while there was political consensus in India to extend support to the brethren in what is now called Bangladesh.
“On December 3, 1971 India was unwittingly drawn into a war not of its own making… on December 6, India extended recognition to Bangladesh, prompting other countries to follow the suit,” the foreign secretary added.