High Commissioner’s Speech on the occasion of
71st Republic Day Reception on 26 January 2020 at International Convention City Bashundhara
H.E. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Bangladesh
Secretaries of various Ministries of the Government of Bangladesh,
My Colleagues from the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Guests and friends of India,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very warm welcome to each and every one of you on the occasion of 71st Republic Day of India. My special thanks to H.E. the Minister of Foreign Affairs for honouring us with his presence as the Chief Guest.
India became independent on 15th August 1947 and immediately set about the task of drafting a constitution for the newly independent nation. The Indian Constitution is an extremely forward looking document which blends the aspirations of a diverse population with their developmental needs.
The Constitution has 395 Articles, 8 Schedules and 22 Parts. The Indian Constitution is a living document which has responded to the needs of the time and has since 1950 seen more than 100 amendments. The original Constitution was hand-written with each page decorated by artists from Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan including Beohar Rammanohar Sinha and Nandalal Bose.
The Indian Constitution has been crafted very carefully and embodies in it the idea of India as envisoned by the national leaders who, through their struggle and sacrifice, brought us our freedom. It is extremely gratifying that a large number of the leaders of India’s independence have their ancestral homes in present day Bangladesh and we proudly share the vision and heritage of Surjya Sen, Pritilata Waddedar, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and Prafulla Chaki, Bipin Chandra Pal and Bagha Jatin. Interestingly Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's last public meeting in British India, before his daring escape in disguise from Kolkata to Kabul was in Dhaka on 20 May, 1940. This is our shared patrimony and we are proud of it.
The last 70-plus years have seen India emerge as a vibrant and successful democracy which has been able to also achieve consistent economic growth. The last six years have seen India strive ahead with innovative initiatives for socio-economic development like Start up India, Make in India, Skill India Mission, Jan Dhan Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission, AMRUT, Mudra Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Stand up India to achieve a new growth trajectory in order to realize the dreams of our people. Equitable development has been the corner stone of our various socio-economic policies in Independent India. In line with this objective, various programs are aimed to empower people rather than the Government to further the social and economic growth of the people.
Democracy, pluralism and unity in diversity are the traditional cultural ethos of Indian society. These values make us a proud member in the comity of nations. We believe in our ancient beliefs of ‘sarvadharma sambhava’ (equality of destination of paths) and ‘vasudhaika kutumbakam’ (the world is a family) and these beliefs also guide our foreign policy.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
The relationship between India and Bangladesh is anchored in history, culture, language and shared values of secularism, democracy and countless other commonalities between our two countries. It is based on sovereignty, equality, trust, understanding and an all round partnership that has now gone beyond a strategic partnership. Some of the revered names in India – litterateurs Mahasweta Debi, Rajanikanta Sen, Shankha Ghosh, Jibanananda Das, Buddhadeb Bose, Sunil Gangopadhyay, thespian Utpal Dutta, actresses Suchitra Sen and Sabitri Chatterjee, Film maker Bimal Roy, Mrinal Sen, Ritwick Ghatak, scientists Jagadish Bose, Meghnad Saha, maestro Sachin Dev Burman, Baba Allauddin Khan – all had their roots in Bangladesh. I don’t know how many of you know that Indian tennis player Leander Paes is a direct descendant of Michael Madhusudan Datta of Jashore, the creator of ‘Meghnad Badhkavya”.
Our neighborhood policy follows our Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, which envisions that we prosper together. The Government of India accords top priority to relations with Bangladesh. For us, it is neighborhood first and in the neighborhood, it is Bangladesh first.
Our ability to resolve various long outstanding issues including land boundary agreement and maritime boundary indicate that we have traveled a long way. This also sets an unique example to the world on good neighborly relations. Our multidimensional cooperation ranges from traditional sectors of tourism, health and education to frontier technologies of nuclear science, space and information technology. Mutual inter-dependency and collective prosperity are the norms of our bilateral relations.
India and Bangladesh can look back on a fruitful year in our bilateral relations. The successful visits of Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in October 2019 played an important role in strengthening of our partnership. Both the Governments have undertaken various initiatives in the past year to promote the economic well being of citizens including improved connectivity between Bangladesh and the neighboring States of India, increase in the frequency of train services between both the countries, consolidation of development partnership and strengthening defense relations.
The bilateral trade prospects for the future are brighter with Bangladesh exports crossing one billion dollar mark. The recent purchase of two large shipping vessels from Bangladesh by an Indian firm is another milestone in our bilateral trade relations.
Expansion of our bilateral cooperation to new frontiers including training of Bangladeshi scientists in civil nuclear energy, establishment of IT parks and Centers of Excellence by the Government of India in Bangladesh reflects overall evolution of our partnership.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Promotion of people to people contacts and human resource development are key components of our bilateral relations with Bangladesh. I am immensely proud to inform that we had issued over 16 lakh visas to Bangladesh nationals in 2019 for visiting India. We are committed to further promote the ease of travel for our Bangladeshi friends.
The Government of India had trained around 8000 Bangladeshis in India under various scholarship programs since 2013. In addition, every year around 180 Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarships are being offered for Bangladeshi students to pursue their under graduation and post graduation in educational institutes of India including the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the National Institutes of Technology (NITs).
To mark our special relationship, Government of India honoured two of our distinguished friends with the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri. Distinguished diplomat and colleague whom we lost recently H.E. Syed Muazzem Ali will be awarded the Padma Bhushan and Prof Dr. Enamul Haque will be honoured with the Padma Shri for his outstanding contribution to archaeology. We are honoured to honour our illustrious friends.
India and Bangladesh share historical legacy of fighting and winning the 1971 Liberation War together. This is a unique example in modern history where people of two nations have fought a war as an integrated force and defeated a common enemy. For the welfare of Muktijoddhas, Government of India has taken various welfare initiative like the Muktijoddha Scholarship Scheme, Treatment of 100 Muktijoddha patients free of cost in Indian Military hospitals and Five Year multiple entry visas.
The histories of our two countries are intertwined. As Bangladesh gets ready to celebrate Mujib Borsho from 17 March, 2020 onwards, we reflect back on those years when Bangabandhu suffered immense hardship and sacrifice to give dignity and freedom to the people of Bangladesh. India stood firmly, albeit sometimes alone, by Bangladesh as thousands of people from Bangladesh escaped unimaginable horror and misery and poured into India and the people of India on their part opened their homes and hearts to them. Today, when Bangabandhu’s daughter Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is striving forward to make Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla a reality, India stands by Bangladesh as a committed friend and partner. Bangabandhu famously said, “আমরা যখন মরতে শিখেছিতখন কেউ আমাদের দাবায়ে রাখতে পারবা না। We can see that very indomitable spirit in Bangladesh today where বাংলাদেশকে কেউ দাবিয়ে রাখতে পারবে না. Bangladesh’s biggest strength is its people. As Bangabandhu said, আমার সবচেয়ে বড় শক্তি আমার দেশের মানুষকে ভালবাসিসবচেয়ে বড় দুর্বলতা আমি তাদেরকে খুব বেশী ভালবাসি। As Bangladesh celebrates Mujibbarsho, India also stakes a claim to Bangabandhu- he belongs to us too and we are privileged to be Bangladesh’s neighbour.
Before concluding, let me thank various Ministries and organizations of the Government of Bangladesh for their support and cooperation as we take our relations forward. I would, in particular, like to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs for being the Chief Guest tonight. I welcome you to join us in celebrating today evening.
Thank you all for accepting our invitation.
Long live India-Bangladesh friendship!