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Remembering Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

  • Geopolitics
  • 7 Months ago
  • 3 min read
Remembering Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman - NatStrat

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Pankaj Saran
Pankaj Saran - Convenor, NatStrat

August 15th is a special day for both India and Bangladesh. India won its freedom from the British on this day in 1947. Bangladesh lost its soul and way on August 15. The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, or the father of the nation, on 15th August 1975 was among the most brutal political killings the world has ever witnessed. No cause, no faith and no ideology can justify the cold-blooded murder that was carried out against an entire family. The government of Bangladesh has taken courageous steps to bring the conspirators and killers to justice.

I have visited the house at Road number 32, Dhanmondi many times, the first time as a young Indian diplomat in 1989. As High Commissioner of India many years later, I recall every visiting Indian dignatory making Sheikh Mujib’s house an essential part of their visit to Bangladesh. In fact, no visit would be complete without paying respect to the Bangabandhu, and being moved by the bullet marks and blood stains that are still preserved in the house.

All Indians join the people of Bangladesh in their moment of grief on this day every year. Bangabandhu was a great patriot. He was also a deeply religious man, who believed in the idea of a homeland for the Muslims in a post-British India. But he was also strongly rooted in his identity as a Bengali and loved his land and his people. He always saw himself as one of their own. His charisma and oratory skills were unparalleled and won him the hearts and minds of millions of Bengalis. Sheikh Mujib’s “Unfinished Memoirs” reveal how his political views changed over time, as he grew from a young student leader to the undisputed leader of his Party and then the leader of an independent nation that he created. His life symbolized the betrayal of the Pakistani dream which he had believed in. He alongwith millions were driven to break free from the injustice and discrimination by West Pakistan against the Bengalis, and in the event, fought a victorious battle to assert their rights and dignity.

Today, the spirit of liberation that Sheikh Mujib had ignited has returned to all walks of life in Bangladesh. It is manifested in the extraordinary progress that Bangladesh has made and the self-confidence of its people. Once referred to as a basket case, Bangladesh has today surpassed Pakistan in all indices of economic and social growth. In some areas, it is ahead of India. This is all the more commendable in the light of the political instability that Bangladesh witnessed in the post-Mujib years. The point at which Bangladesh stands today is a ringing endorsement of what Sheikh Mujib had foreseen, and for which he sacrificed his life.

For India, Bangladesh is an important and critical neighbour. The bilateral relationship has made rapid and significant strides under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and successive governments in India. The relationship took off during the period of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but has acquired new heights under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This shows that there is a national consensus in India on maintaining the best possible relations with Bangladesh.  The relationship has matured and stabilized. This has enhanced mutual security and prosperity. The land boundary issue was finally solved. Both sides have cooperated successfully in fighting radical ideologies, terrorism and insurgency.  These gains must be preserved at all cost.

Both countries have led the way in inter-state cooperation in areas such as building cross-border transmission lines, energy pipelines, free trade, revival of waterways, railways and bus services. People to people contacts have flourished. We have helped each other during the pandemic and in other crises. We have corrected the distortions of history and taken control of the destiny of our two nations as independent, sovereign nations without interference from others. Neither country should allow itself to be used to harm the interests of the other. We should be wary of attempts by third parties to create misgivings and suspicion between us. In this manner we can set an example for the rest of the region. Neither geography nor history can be wished away.

Today is also an opportunity to remind ourselves that we cannot take our successes for granted. The price of success is eternal vigilance and continuous hard work. Even as we must draw the right lessons from the past, we should look ahead and prepare ourselves for the future. Both countries have enormous challenges facing them which require continued close cooperation. These relate first and foremost to meeting our developmental aspirations, providing jobs to our youth, maintaining social harmony and inclusion, improving the quality of lives for our people and preserving our environment. Many of these will be discussed at the forthcoming G20 Summit in Delhi at which Bangladesh has been specially invited.

India believes that the voice of the Global South must be heard while setting the international agenda. These include issues such as debt sustainability, transparent financing and battling corruption. In our region, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have fallen victim to opaque, one sided and reckless bilateral development cooperation schemes and initiatives that have led to their economic collapse. These are warning signs which Bangladesh is fully aware of.

One of the attributes of nationhood is the right to choose a government that represents the will of the people. In the next few months both India and Bangladesh will be engaged in such an exercise. We have enough experience and wisdom to do so in a peaceful and orderly manner. India has always maintained that it will respect the decision of the people of Bangladesh and will not interfere in its internal affairs. This is how neighbours such as us can peacefully coexist.

India is proud that it understood the sentiments and mitigated the sufferings of the people of East Pakistan very early on, even when other countries had turned a blind eye and their backs to the large-scale persecution, torture and killings that were going on. While those countries were driven by geopolitical interests, and declined to recognize a new born country, India’s approach was based on the highest principles of humanitarianism and empathy. India believed in the justness of the cause and the future of an independent Bangladesh.

(Article was first published in The Daily Ittefaq Newspaper, Dhaka on August 15th 2023)


     

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