Speeches/Statements Maitri Diwas Joint Reception on 7 December 2021 – Remarks by Ambassador Suchitra Durai

Maitri Diwas Joint Reception on 7 December 2021 – Remarks by Ambassador Suchitra Durai

MaitriDiwas Joint Reception

 Remarks by Ambassador SuchitraDurai

H.E Amb ChulamaneeChartsuwan, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the MFA,

H.E  MrChayatanPhromsorn, Perm Secretary of the Ministry of Transport,

Ms Armida Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of UNESCAP,

H.E Senator GurdistChansrichawla, President of the Thai-India Parliamentary Friendship Group

Khun TanesPetsuwan, DyGov from Tourism Authority of Thailand

Excellencies Ambassadorial colleagues

Distinguished business leaders

Representatives of the Indian and Bangladeshi community in Thailand

Friends from the media

Ladies and Gentlemen

Nomoshkar, Salam Aleikum, Sawadeekha, Good evening,

This year is indeed a special year for Bangladesh and for India-Bangladesh relations. It is 50 years since 6 December, 1971, the historic day on which India became the first country in the world to accord formal recognition to GanaPrajatantri Bangladesh as a sovereign state.  India and Bangladesh are therefore jointly celebrating the golden jubilee of bilateral diplomatic ties.

It was during the State visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in March this year that both sides agreed to jointly commemorate this day as “MaitriDiwas” or Friendship Day in India, Bangladesh and other countries around the world. Thailand is one of the 18 countries in the world where such joint events are being held.

While today is undoubtedly the time for celebrations, it is also an occasion for us to recall the sombre historical circumstances that led to the birth of Bangladesh. In March 1971, a brutal dispensation unleashed unspeakable cruelty against its own citizens.

The late hours of March 25, 1971, which is observed as the Bangladesh Genocide Remembrance Day, saw the massacre of thousands of Bangladeshis. It was the start of a genocide in which almost 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women were raped. More than 10 million became refugees.

Under the inspiring leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, the people of then East Bengal rose up and fought valiantly against the oppression.

With centuries of common history, culture, kinship and a long land border that we shared, it was only natural that the people of India were deeply distressed by the plight of the people of Bangladesh. There was a public outcry in India against the violence being perpetuated in then East Bengal. There were spontaneous protests and support rallies across India. The millions fleeing from the persecution were received with open arms in India. Towards the end of the liberation struggle, India hosted close to 10 million refugees from East Bengal.

India was at that time struggling with its own problems of economic growth, drought and famine. The conflict in East Bengal and the resultant flow of refugees was certainly a major humanitarian burden on India.

In the initial phase of the struggle, India tried unceasingly, politically and diplomatically, to convince the world on the need to act decisively and stop the genocide in East Bengal. Indian leaders traveled around the world to impress upon world leaders the need to stop this crime against humanity. Many countries responded positively. Despite this, the atrocities went on unabated.

The 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War was the fight of the brave people of Bangladesh. They formed “Muktibahini”, the liberation army and enlisted themselves as “Muktijoddhas”, freedom fighters.

It was India’s honour to be a part of this moral struggle. 1650 Indian soldiers made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of Bangladeshi freedom, over 6,000 were wounded and over 2,000 went missing.

In other words, ours is a bond for which blood has been shed. It is a relationship that is  replenished by shared history, culture and vibrant people-to-people ties.

Over the decades these relations have grown from strength to strength.

Our bilateral relations now go beyond  a strategic partnership.

50 years on, our bilateral cooperation covers the entire spectrum from security, trade, energy and education to space, blue economy and innovation.

We have a booming trade relationship. India is the second largest trade partner of Bangladesh, while Bangladesh is India’s largest trade partner in South Asia.

The people to people ties remain at the core of the bilateral ties. The largest number of  foreign visitors that India receives is from Bangladesh.

Being a fast emerging economy, the developmental requirements of Bangladesh are real and pressing. India has offered uniquely concessional credit lines to Bangladesh, based on their requirements. The development partnership that both countries share is one of the most comprehensive that India has with any country. It is a matter of satisfaction that this demand-driven model, is contributing to the growth and prosperity of Bangladesh. Projects worth close to 10 billion dollars are currently under various stages of implementation. These projects range from roadways to railways, airports to seaports and urban infrastructure to power projects. You would have seen some of these in the photo exhibition on your way to this room.

Our bilateral relations have now acquired a great degree of maturity and comfort. Many longstanding and complex issues have been resolved in an amicable manner. We share one of the longest land boundaries in the world, stretching over 4000 km. Through the historic Land Boundary Agreement, the long pending issue of enclaves was resolved in 2015. The maritime boundary was also settled in 2014.

Water resource cooperation is another important area of bilateral cooperation. The 1996 Ganges Water Treaty was a major milestone in the history of bilateral ties, which to this day serves the interest of peoples in both countries.

The cooperation paradigm has now expanded to forward looking themes like connectivity, sustainable development and blue economy.

Major steps, or should we say strides, have been taken by both countries in the recent past in the field of connectivity. There are multiple railway lines carrying passengers and cargo between India and Bangladesh, bringing real economic benefits to the people. India has been providing transit to goods movement from Bangladesh to other countries within the South Asian region like Nepal, Bhutan. The countries are working towards greater sub regional cooperation in connectivity, power, etc.

The numerous rivers that India and Bangladesh share are fast emerging as the busy arteries of trade and passenger movement.

Beyond the traditional modes of connectivity, both countries are actively exploring newer areas like power and energy connectivity through construction of petroleum and gas pipelines and transmission lines. The geographical proximity is delivering its dividends in multiple ways.

The defence partnership has also flourished with India extending a 500 million defence line of credit to bolster the security of Bangladesh. There are regular exchanges between the defence forces of both countries, at all levels.

Above all, our composite culture and respect for pluralism have enabled us to take a united stand against terrorism and fundamentalism.

Both of us often call the current stage of bilateral relations as “ShonaliAdhyay”, a golden chapter.

A unique symbol of our shared heritage is the national poet VishwaKobi Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose compositions Jana Gana Mana became the Indian national anthem and Amar Sonar Bangla became the national anthem of Bangladesh

We look forward to further strengthening our close cooperation with Bangladesh. It is also upon us to jointly promote the values that we stand for, that of secularism, pluralism and democracy.

I also take this opportunity to thank all of you who are here. We are honoured by your presence.

Long live India-Bangladesh friendship! Jai Hind! Joy Bangla!