by Nadeem Qadir in Dhaka
Bangladesh in an historical way became a part of India’s 72nd Republic Day on Tuesday amid COVID-19 pandemic when the band played a song dedicated to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman filled New Delhi’s air as the two South Asian neighbours worked to take bilateral ties to newer heights.
A colourful parade was held in New Delhi’s Rajpath to mark the day as the commentators highlighted the heroism of its force members both in war and in peace times.
The parade created history in bilateral ties as the parade ground resounded with band playing “Shono Ekti Mujibirer Kanthe” (The verse of not one, but millions of Mujibur singing) with a 122-member first Bangladesh Armed Forces smartly marched past for the first time in 50 years saluting Indian President Ram nath Kovind with Prime Minister Narendra Modi present. The contingent was led by Lieutenant Colonel Abu Mohammad Shahnoor Shawan.
The other major development marking the Republic Day is India conferring Padma Shri on two eminent Bangladeshis — Tagore song exponent Dr. Sanjida Khatun and decorated Freedom Fighter and Liberation War researcher retired Lieutenant Colonel Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahir.
The participation of the Bangladesh forces amid COVID-19 pandemic brings in a dimension between the traditional “tested friends” of South Asia because the honour will have far-reaching influence between the security forces of the two neighbouring countries.
Bangladesh contingent head, Colonel Mohtashim Hyder Chowdhury told the Time of India “It’s a great honour for us to become part of India’s 72nd Republic Day Parade. Most of the personnel are from those Bangladesh units that were raised during the 1971 Liberation War. “
France in 2016 and the United Arab Emirates in 2017 are the only two others countries who were joined the Republic Day Parade.
India’s Chief of Staff (Delhi area) Major General Alok Kacker, the parade second-in-comment, told the publication that his father fought in the 1971 Bangladesh war as a member of the 9 Gorkha Rifles.
It “is a proud and emotional moment for me as well as I welcome the Bangladesh contingent,” he said.
Separately, the two Padma Shri recipients from Bangladesh echoed similar sentiments on their recognition and being honoured by India. Padma Awards, one of the highest civilian Awards of India, are conferred in three categories. This year 102 eminent personalities were conferred the Padma Shri this time.
The foreigners are from Bangladesh, the United States of America, Indonesia, Greece and Spain.
Tagore exponent Dr. Sanjida Khatun told the media “The award is a recognition that I have worked hard (in my field) over the years.”
Speaking to this correspondent, decorated Freedom Fighter and Liberation War researcher Lieutenant Colonel Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahir said “Any recognition is always a happy moment in one’s life, especially when it is awarded for ones hard work. As a Freedom Fighter I conduct researches to bring out the facts of our great Liberation War of 1971.”
“I recollect the heroic sacrifices made by the Indian forces as they fought with us (Freedom Fighters) during the 1971 war against the brutal Pakistani army who carried out genocide and raped our women.”
Lieutenant Colonel Sajjad added that “Indian people, especially those living in the areas bordering the two countries, sheltered thousands of refugees who fled the Pakistani genocide deserves a salute,” adding “the Indian leadership took a daring step to help Bangladesh by defying international pressures.”
Writes retired Indian Major General Yash Mor in a piece headlined “1971 to 2021 – We fought together, now Bangladesh Army marches with us on Republic Day”
in India’s The Print on Tuesday: “What an occasion to celebrate one of the finest military victories in modern history. Rarely has there been a military campaign like the India-Pakistan war of 1971 in the Eastern theatre.”
“Both India and Bangladesh are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of that war. The participation in the Republic Day parade is just the beginning of year-long celebrations. The 122-personnel strong contingent comprises soldiers from the units that fought alongside the Indian Army in the war. This is an apt recognition of the role played by the soldiers of both countries in 1971,” he added.
Major General Yash Mor is of the opinion that “The Republic Day parade is the harbinger of many new initiatives that India can take to consolidate power in its immediate neighbourhood. Coronavirus vaccination support, mutual aid during natural disasters, combating rogue elements across borders, military training and exercises are other ways to take the India-Bangladesh relationship forward. In the near future, we may see regional military games taking place between the forces of our region.”
PHOTO: Courtesy PTI