In a rare and unprecedented noble gesture Bangladesh officially honored the Indian war heroes of the 1971 War in Dhaka recently. The Indian war heroes were invited by the Bangladesh Army Chief as part of their National Day celebrations and to commemorate their War of Liberation to free themselves from the tyranny of the Pakistan Army and establishment of Bangladesh as an independent nation.
The Indian war heroes delegation was led by Lieutenant General J F R Jacob and comprised many of the Indian Army Divisional Commanders and Brigade Commanders besides other Indian officers who spearheaded the military operations by the Indian Army in conjunction with the Bangladesh Mukti Bahini Jodhas i.e. Liberation Army warriors.
The noteworthy point is that this rare honor was extended to the Indian Army war veterans by the Bangladesh Army in a year in which the run-up to Bangladesh General Elections is taking place. Also in focus this year is that Bangladesh is wrestling with the issue of commencing war crimes tribunals to try those Bangladeshis who collaborated with the Pakistan Army in its genocide against the Bengali Muslims of what was then East Pakistan.
The Indian Army Bangladesh War veterans laid wreaths at the War Memorial in Dhaka and thereafter feted in a number of ceremonial functions. Media reports indicate that there were tearful though joyous reunions between the war veterans of both the countries who had fought shoulder to shoulder for the liberation of Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Army Chief and the Bangladesh Army deserve a mighty appreciation from India as a whole as this noble gesture carries and conveys a rich political symbolism. It is a reach-out by Bangladesh to improve relations between the two countries and break the existing mould in which Bangladesh- India relations had descended in which mutual distrust and suspicions pervaded more generated by Pakistan and China as part of their effort to drive a wedge between Bangladesh and India and they had succeeded to a fair extent.
India and the Indian Army too deserve credit that never ever after the 1971 War have they played drumbeats to highlight their role in the liberation of Bangladesh. Time itself has brought about a realization at the highest levels in Bangladesh that the Indian Army was a part of the Liberation War of Bangladesh and appreciation of their effort was due. For India it should be a gratifying gesture
Readers would recall that some months back I had reflected in my Column that the new Caretaker Government in Bangladesh with the full backing of Bangladesh Army Chief had made a number of encouraging gestures towards India signifying a possible intent to turn over a new leaf in Bangladesh-India relations. The present gesture of honoring Indian Army war veterans who fought for the liberation of Bangladesh further reinforces the trend set by the people at the helm in Bangladesh presently.
It was in this spirit and reciprocating it fully that India honored the Bangladesh Army Chief during his five day visit to India last month and if I am not wrong it was the first ever visit by a Bangladesh Army Chief to India and therefore it was unprecedented.
All this augurs well for the future of Bangladesh- India relations and a trend which both sides must reinforce with the fullest vigor and determination. Political statesmanship of a high order coupled with a visionary outlook would be required to bind both these nations who stand to gain from each other as neighbors sharing long land borders.