Spirit of Gandhi, Bangabandhu at Maitri Diwas in London

Spirit of Gandhi, Bangabandhu at Maitri Diwas in London
Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar (left) with Bangladesh High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem

The High Commissions of India and Bangladesh in London got together for a special joint gala reception to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties, being celebrated as Maitri Diwas or Friendship Day.

The special event this week brought together senior leaders and diaspora members from both countries and included musical performances, including by popular Bangladeshi singer Runa Laila, and special tributes. On December 6, 1971, India became one of the first countries to extend diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh as a sovereign state and during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in March, both countries agreed to jointly commemorate December 6 this year as Maitri Diwas.

“Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangabandhu as he is known with reverence, sought autonomy for his people and then outright independence on the back of a landslide victory. He was arrested and there was a public outcry in India about the unspeakable atrocities,” said High Commissioner of India to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar, tracing the history of India-Bangladesh ties.

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“Indian forces supported Bangabandhu’s Mukti Bahini shoulder to shoulder. And, that is why, it is very appropriate that we remember those martyrs, those heroes… Today, the development partnership that India and Bangladesh share is one of the most comprehensive that India has with any country,” she said.

Paying homage to the martyrs of the 1971 Liberation War and Bangabandhu, Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem hailed the invaluable support that the government of India and its people extended to Bangladesh.

“The value-based friendship between our peoples and our soils, the 54 common rivers, the love, affection and common emotions that connect our two nations and the messages of peace, Ahimsa or non-violence and humanity propagated by Fathers of our two Nations, Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, will take our Bangladesh-India Maitree to even newer heights in the decades to come,” she said.

Besides cultural performances, a documentary on Bangladesh-India historic relations and the 1971 War of Liberation was also screened at the special event.

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“This is a historic occasion as we mark the golden jubilee of the enduring friendship between the two nations of India and Bangladesh,” said Oliver Dowden, UK Cabinet Office Minister and Co-Chair of the Conservative Party of the UK, as chief guest of the event.

“The lasting bond between your two nations is one rooted not only in diplomatic relations but also in geographical proximity and shared history, bound by a common heritage – those deep social, cultural and economic ties – and a shared passion for music, literature and the arts. Through this friendship, India and Bangladesh are really a model of what two nations can achieve by establishing those shared institutions to promote economic growth and enterprise, to invest in connectivity and to champion education and culture,” he said.

The reception was attended by around 400 guests, including parliamentarians, heads of missions, academics, professionals and eminent members of the Indian and Bangladeshi diaspora.

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