Just days after India announced the Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 for Bangladeshi leader “Bangabandhu” Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written an op-ed in a leading Bangladesh daily, The Daily Star, offering tribute to the ‘Father of Bangladesh’.
Rahman is revered for his “immense and unparalleled contribution” in “inspiring the liberation of Bangladesh.” This comes as PM Modi on Friday, 26 March, arrived in Bangladesh for a two-day tour, his first visit to a foreign country since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Modi was received by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. He will attend an event at the National Martyr's Memorial and the National Day programme in Dhaka, later in the day.
What Did the Op-Ed Say?
PM Modi praises Rahman’s “unflinching commitment” to Bangladesh’s independence, noting how his heroic struggle led to him and his family being brutally assassinated in August 1975.
“Despite this unflinching commitment to his cause, and despite all the persecutions he suffered, Bangabandhu retained a generosity of spirit that is a mark of true greatness. His progressive belief in fairness, equality and inclusiveness is captured in the words he wrote in the 1950s, ‘I know at least this much: no one should be murdered because he holds views different from mine,’” wrote PM Modi in The Daily Star.
Calling Rahman the “greatest statesmen of our times”, Modi said that his vision went beyond the “narrow confines of physical borders and social divisions”, because of which India joins neighbouring Bangladesh to celebrate Rahman’s memory in the special Mujib Borsho, which marks the occasion of the centennial birth anniversary of Rahman.
“As we look back on Bangabandhu’s life and struggle, I ask myself, what could our subcontinent have looked like, had this modern-day giant not been assassinated?” asks PM Modi in his op-ed.
‘Bangladesh Would Have Evolved Along a Different Trajectory’
PM Modi noted that with Rahman still at the helm, Bangladesh and India’s region would have evolved differently, stating, “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.”
PM Modi states that he is making an educated guess, that India and Bangladesh would have been able to overcome historical complications sooner had Rahman been at the helm still.
He states the instance of the 2015 Land Boundary Agreement, noting that the historic moment of modern nation-states could have happened earlier with Rahman as the “guiding star”, and wrote, “Had that happened, our cooperation would have reached a different orbit all together, enabling development, economic growth and shared security.”
PM Modi states that the two countries 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.”.
Modi added that the two neighbouring countries could have supported their regions from the impact of natural disasters by sharing geological data. The countries could have propelled economic growth around the Bay of Bengal by joining maritime capacities, and develop infrastructure and connectivity, allowing seamless movement of goods and products across highly modernised borders.
"“Most of all, imagine a scenario wherein our people could study, work, and do business effortlessly across this subcontinent—the world’s largest pool of young people joining their energies to create wealth, innovation and drive new technologies. This would have been the most natural vaccine against the toxic infusion of radicalism, violent extremism and hatred in our societies”" - PM Modi‘This Future Is Once Again Within Our Grasp’
“This is the Shonali Adhyaya... The assassination of the Father of Bangladesh deprived the region of the destiny that could and should have been ours to share,” wrote PM Modi.
However, he praised Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, stating that under her able leadership, Bangladesh is “progressively realising the dream of Bangabandhu”, and this “future is once again within our grasp”.
Praising India’s neighbourly relations with Bangladesh, PM Modi said that the two leaders have resolved complex issues amicably and “people-to-people exchanges remain as robust as ever”.
PM Modi praised the connectivity progress between the two countries stating, “Cargo from Bangladesh can move to Nepal and Bhutan through India. We are in the process of implementing a similar arrangement for Indian cargo to reach India’s North Eastern States through Bangladesh. We are making concerted efforts to operationalise our inland waterways, which will allow Bangladesh barges to reach all the way to Varanasi and Sahibganj in India.”
He added that last year, cargo and parcel services via railways has commenced, and India has “amended its regulations to encourage cross-border trade in power, which will benefit countries in the region.”
Modi ends the op-ed on an optimistic note, stating that the two countries will remain partners, and India is to complete important connectivity projects like the “India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and the Akhaura-Agartala rail link. As our connectivity improves, our business will increase, our partnership will deepen, and we will open new vistas of cooperation”.
PM Modi will be paying his respects to Rahman at his Samadhi, and will participate in Bangladesh’s National Day Celebrations.
The Prime Minister’s visit also comes a day before West Bengal is scheduled for its eight-phase Assembly polls, on 27 March.
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