India-Bangladesh 50 years of friendship
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited Bangladesh at the invitation of the neighbouring country’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The main focus of the visit, apart from reiterating the strong bond– cultural and historical – that ties the two nations together, was the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence or liberation along with the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the iconic leader of Bangladesh’s freedom struggle and the country’s first Prime Minister. The two-day visit (March 26-27), which marked the first international visit of Prime Minister Modi since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries. Prime Minister Modi was the chief guest of the festivities which featured several cultural events.
Overall, the visit was a celebration of the special bond between the two countries while setting a new agenda for the multifaceted bilateral cooperation for the times ahead. In a bid to commemorate the shared history between two neighbouring countries and honour the martyrs of the Indian Armed Forces, who valiantly fought in Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971, a memorial is being constructed at Ashuganj in Bramhanbaria, Bangladesh. The foundation stone of the memorial was laid during Prime Minister Modi’s visit. Improving connectivity and re- establishing old linkages that have been eroded by the passage of time were discussed as a priority area of bilateral cooperation during the visit. Both countries announced the decision to connect the historic stretch of road between the town of Mujibnagar (Bangladesh) and the district of Nadia (West Bengal, India) and named it “Shadhinota Shorok”.
The visit also witnessed the inauguration of a new train service named “Mitali Express” connecting Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh) and New Jalpaiguri (West Bengal, India) to further strengthen people-to- people contacts between two countries. During the visit, Prime Minister Modi also inaugurated Bangabandhu-Bapu Museum at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka, along with his Bangladesh counterpart Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
As a result of similar language and culture, and a shared history, the bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh are deeply rooted in people-to-people contacts and not just restricted to the boundaries of strategic consideration. During the visit, Prime Minister Modi stressed on deepening engagement among the youths of both countries. Some of the key initiatives to expand engagement with the youth included India’s ‘Swarna Jayanti Scholarships’ for the youth of Bangladesh for studying in India. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between Bangladesh National Cadet Corps and National Cadet Corps of India to increase interaction among youth of both countries.
For India’s Act East policy, which aims at establishing better connectivity with ASEAN region and other countries of the Indo- Pacific, Bangladesh has emerged as a steadfast pillar. Guided by the shared past while keeping an eye on the future, the trajectory of bilateral ties between the two neighbours points upwards with mutual trust and amalgamation of strategic and economic priorities. Prime Minister Modi’s successful visit to Bangladesh further strengthened this relationship that will aid South Asian cooperation for the greater goal of development and prosperity of the people of the region