Diplomats of both the countries have been considering this as a rare incident.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Muhammad Imran gave the welcome speech at the programme. Former Indian ambassador to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das also attended the programme.
News agency ANI adds: “Attended the Bangladesh Armed Forces Day event today at the High Commission of Bangladesh. Recalled the heroic fight by the Muktibahini and the Indian Armed Forces in the Liberation of Bangladesh. The spirit of 1971 continues to nourish India-Bangladesh relations,” Singh tweeted.
The relationship between India and Bangladesh is an important element in India’s “Neighbourhood First” and “Act East” policies. The year 2021 is of special significance as both countries celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations which also coincides with the Golden Jubilee of Liberation of Bangladesh and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Armed Forces Day of Bangladesh is observed each year on 21 November. Given the special significance of this year, India’s defence minister attended the commemorative event being hosted by the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi.
During the 1971 War, Indian and Bangladesh forces were put under a joint command structure led by Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, and this force came to be known as Mitro Bahini.
It was instrumental in securing the surrender of the Pakistan Army and the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971. The day of 21 November is of historical significance as this day coincides with the epic Battle of Garibpur during the 1971 war, when armed forces of India supported by Bangladesh Liberation Forces undertook heroic pre-emptive actions to foil Pakistani offensives and took an edge over the Pakistani forces in the war.
Pakistan Army started a genocidal campaign in East Bengal in March 1971. A total of 3 million people were killed and over 200,000 women were raped with horrific brutality by the Pakistan Army. Over 10 million people from East Bengal took refuge in India fleeing from Pakistani atrocities.
India provided moral and material support to the “Muktijoddhas” in their struggle for independence. It was a reflection of deep emotional and civilisational ties between people of two countries. Over 1650 Indian soldiers made supreme sacrifices fighting for the Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Today’s India-Bangladesh friendship is based on this history of shared sacrifices. Earlier this year, at the invitation of Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Bangladesh on 26-27 March, 2021 as chief guest for the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh highlighting the important contribution of India in the liberation of Bangladesh.
Today, India extends close to 30 per cent of its total global developmental assistance to Bangladesh. India has extended total concessional credit of close to USD 10 billion, including three Lines of Credit (LoC) to Bangladesh, the largest amount to any country.
Enhancing comprehensive connectivity has been a common objective being pursued by both sides. In recent years, not only the pre-1965 connectivity links have been restored, new channels like waterways, passenger and cruise shipping, energy and power lines were added to the connectivity mix.
Today, Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second-largest trade partner of Bangladesh in Asia and Bangladesh has become the 4th largest export destination for India. Despite Covid-19 related disruptions, bilateral trade grew at an unprecedented rate of 14 per cent from USD 9.46 billion in FY 2019-20 to USD 10.78 billion in FY 2020-21.
Defence cooperation between India and Bangladesh is robust with regular exchange of high-level visits, joint training of the Armed Forces and joint exercises. This year, Gen MM Naravane, Chief of Army Staff, Indian Army visited Bangladesh in April and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria Chief of Air Staff visited in June. From the Bangladesh side Gen SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, Chief of Army Staff, Bangladesh Army visited India in September and Admiral M Shaheen Iqbal Chief of Naval Staff, Bangladesh Navy in October this year.
India has extended USD 500 million Defence Line of Credit to further consolidate ties. Armed forces of both countries are celebrating the victory of 1971 with a series of events. A Tri-service contingent from Bangladesh Armed Forces participated at the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi this year. Similarly, a marching Tri-service contingent of 122 members from India is expected to participate at the Victory Day Parade in Dhaka on 16 December, 2021.
India-Bangladesh cooperation continued during the pandemic. India gifted essential medical supplies and two ‘Mobile Oxygen Plants’ to Bangladesh to support the fight against Covid-19.
In a first, India operated ‘Oxygen Express’ trains to transport Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) in railway containers. In addition, the India government gifted 3.3 million Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines) to Bangladesh. Bangladesh also supplied essential medicines to India during the pandemic.