President Pranab says India and Bangladesh should walk '' shoulder to shoulder''

President Pranab says India and Bangladesh should walk '' shoulder to shoulder'' Dhaka, Mar. 5 : Asserting that the two Asian neighbours are inheritors of an undivided civilizational legacy, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said India and her people share a special connection with Bangladesh.

"It is with pride that Bangladesh engages in the task of building a modern, progressive and prosperous nation. As in 1971, so in 2013, the people of India stand beside the people of Bangladesh. We will walk with you as equal partners, shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm. We are both inheritors of an undivided civilizational legacy. It is no wonder that India and her people share a special connection with Bangladesh. We have an abiding interest in the all-round development of Bangladesh," said President Mukherjee in his acceptance and banquet speech on receipt of Bangladesh ''Liberation War Honour''.

" However, the full potential of our cooperation is yet to be tapped. My discussions during this visit have been extremely rewarding. Our Governments have established a comprehensive framework for cooperation. Our endeavour will be to see how our bilateral cooperation can bring sustained benefits to our people and improve the quality of their lives. This will be the litmus test of the success of our relationship," he added.

President Mukherjee said India is happy to see the tremendous strides made by Bangladesh.

"The impressive and path-breaking manner in which Bangladesh has faced the challenges of eradication of poverty is worthy of emulation. I pay tribute to the people of Bangladesh, its farmers, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, scientists and many others who represent the creative genius of its people," he added.

President Mukherjee said he is delighted to be in Bangladesh and grateful for the affection bestowed on him on his first state visit abroad after the assumption of the office of the President of India.

"As I stand here tonight, I am filled with memories of the events of 1971. I was 36 years old and a Member of Parliament when the people of Bangladesh engaged themselves in their liberation struggle. Many of us were passionately concerned about the events that were unfolding then. 24-hour television channels did not exist in those days - and it was the Free Bangladesh Radio and All India Radio that gave us reports of the heroic struggle of our brothers and sisters in Bangladesh," said President Mukherjee.

"These bulletins were keenly followed by us in India - as the minds and hearts of all Indians were with the people of Bangladesh. The plight of millions of homeless people crossing the border, seeking refuge in the neighbouring States of India stirred the hearts of our people as they felt ine anguish of that hapless multitude. They came forward wholeheartedly to succour and any assistance they could provide to their brethren from Bangladesh in their hour of need. The images of the proud people of Bangladesh and their brave fight for justice and dignity were etched in every Indian''s consciousness," he added.

President Mukherjee recalled that on June 15, 1971, he had the privilege to initiate a discussion on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, when he suggested that India should accord diplomatic recognition to the Government of Bangladesh in exile in Mujibnagar.

"My words are on the record in proceedings of Rajya Sabha. When a Member sought my suggestion on how to tackle the problem, I responded by saying: "I am talking of a political solution which means categorically recognising the sovereign democratic Government of Bangladesh. Political solution means giving material help to the democratic, sovereign Government of Bangladesh...," said President Mukherjee.

" I reminded the House of the many instances in world history when intervention on similar grounds had taken place in past.," he added.

President Mukherjee further said ''as a Member of Indian Delegation in the 59th Conference of Inter Parliamentary Union in Paris (France) in 1971 from 2nd to 10th September, we took the opportunity of the presence of large number of Members of Parliaments of different countries to explain the situation in Bangladesh and urged them to prevail upon their Governments to speak out against the violation of human rights in Bangladesh''.

"I also had the privilege of visiting the United Kingdom and the then Federal Republic of Germany as a Member of the Goodwill Parliamentary Delegation in the same visit. I was mandated to brief the Members of the Parliaments and to the leaders of those countries about the situation. Late Shri H. D. Malviya, former Member of Parliament and activist of the World Peace Council had accompanied me in this mission," said President Mukherjee.

"Later I was given the responsibility of visiting the refugee camps in the neighbouring States of India - including Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya and coordinating with the local Governments on making them functional and comfortable," he added. (ANI)


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