B’desh independence: Modi to address 50th anniversary

From a public address at Dhaka’s parade ground as the Chief guest on the occasion of Bangladesh’s 50 years of independence and diplomatic ties with India, new announcements bolstering trade, railway connectivity, border development and start-ups to a visit to Mujibur Rahman’s native village, PM Narendra Modi has a packed schedule on Friday-Saturday on his maiden trip abroad since the outbreak of pandemic.The visit is aimed at upholding the spirit of 1971 — when India backed East Pakistanis led by Mujibur Rehman — to attain independence from undivided Pakistan. The Pakistan army had launched a genocide in Pakistan on March 25, 1971 that ended with the defeat of Pakistan army that December but not before over three million Bengalis were killed by the men in uniform. Ahead of Modi’s visit Bangladesh MPs alleged that Pakistan and ISI were trying to instigate Islamists before the historic trip.The Hasina government has decided to observe a one-minute symbolic “blackout” from 9:00pm to 9:01 pm throughout the country on Thursday to honour genocide victims.The visit of the PM will be historic, given that he will go beyond the capital to three important places on Saturday. First to the Jeshoreshwari temple in Ishwaripur, a temple dedicated to Goddess Kali and one of the shaktipiths of Hindu religion, followed by a visit to Tungipara to pay homage at the Bangabandhu Mausoleum. The father of Bangladesh was born at this place, and finally to a Thakurbari in Orakandi. Orakandi is the birthplace of the Harichand Thakur who formed the Matua sect. Matuas migrated from Bangladesh to West Bengal and can be a deciding factor in the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal.A number of new announcements are also expected to be made following the summits between the two PMs, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said in a special briefing on Wednesday night. Commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan visited Dhaka earlier this month. During Wadhawan’s visit, the two countries decided to expeditiously move forward on the feasibility study on the CEPA. A MoU on trade remedial measures could be signed during the PM’s visit.“Both sides will be signing a range of agreements during the prime minister’s visit. These agreements will be covering a number of areas of our cooperation – disaster management, trade, oceanography,” Shringla said.According to Shringla, the importance of the visit could be gauged from the fact that as Bangladesh commemorates 50 years of independence, “they have invited our prime minister to share the dais.”Relations had evolved since then and were “a model” for others to emulate, Shringla said referring to the depth and breadth of interaction between the two countries.Responding to a question on much-expected Teesta water sharing agreement, he said India will continue to engage with Bangladesh to conclude the Teesta agreement as soon as possible. When asked about Rohingya repatriation issue, Shringla said India is remained engaged with Bangladesh and Myanmar to facilitate the return of “displaced persons” to their home land in Myanmar.“India is the only country which has a border with Bangladesh and Myanmar. So, we are remained engaged with both the countries to address the issue,” he added.The two countries have kept up the momentum of high-level contacts with virtual summits between the two prime ministers in December 2020 and visits by several delegations. On connectivity, the two countries had reconnected five of six rail links that existed before the second India-Pakistan war in 1965 after which the links were severed. Besides, inland water transportation was expanded, port access granted as well as launch of train for goods. Bangladesh has got 90 lakh doses of India-made Covid vaccines, 70 lakh commercially and 20 lakh as a gift.
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