Today marks 50-years since India became the first country to recognise the birth of a brand-new nation in its eastern border. On December 6, ten days before the liberation of Bangladesh, India decided to formally acknowledge the new country. This day will be commemorated by the two nations each year as 'Maitri Diwas' or 'Friendship Day', adding one more layer to the memory of Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan and India’s role in its liberation. The decision to mark Maitri Divas was taken by the two prime ministers, during Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in March this year.
"The holding of Maitri Diwas is a reflection of the deep and abiding friendship between the peoples of India and Bangladesh that has been forged in blood and shared sacrifices,’’ foreign office spokesman Arindam Bagchi said while announcing the decision.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted to mark the occasion, commemorating '50 years of friendship' between Indian and Bagladesh.
Today India and Bangladesh commemorate Maitri Diwas. We jointly recall and celebrate the foundations of our 50 years of friendship. I look forward to continue working with H.E. PM Sheikh Hasina to further expand and deepen our ties. #à¤®à¥ÂÂÂà¤¤à¥ÂÂÂà¤°à¥ÂÂÂ_à¤¦à¤¿à¤µà¤¸ #à¦®à§ÂÂÂà¦¤à§ÂÂÂà¦°à§ÂÂÂ_à¦¦à¦¿à¦¬à¦¸#MaitriDiwas— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 6, 2021
The occasion will be observed in 18 countries across the world. Meetings, exhibitions, and seminars will be organised by either the Indian or Bangladesh missions in the UK, Australia, Singapore, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Qatar, France, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE and the US.
Sheikh Hasina and her ruling Awami League remember with gratitude India and former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s pivotal role in the struggle for independence. Unlike the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Sheikh Hasina has made friendship with India the centre-stage of her foreign policy in the region. This policy has paid rich dividends to both countries, though she was constantly derided by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally the Jamaat for taking dictation from New Delhi. But in the last decade and more of Sheikh Hasina’s rule the main opposition parties back has been broken with Khaleda Zia now seriously ill, tried and convicted of corruption. Her son and successor have also been convicted of corruption in absentia. He and his family are in the UK. The BNP is rudderless and senior leaders busy fighting court cases.
India and Bangladesh's ties have flourished with better connectivity between the two neighbours. Yet there are headwinds but so far the political leadership in both capitals have exhibited remarkable maturity. The recent communal flare-up triggered by an attack on a Durga Puja pandal in Comilla had triggered counterattacks in states like Tripura and protests in several states. Despite assurances by New Delhi on the NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Act, the people, mainly the Jamaat and the BNP have tried to exploit this to attack both Sheikh Hasina and India.
China too is spreading its wings across Bangladesh as it has done across the neighbourhood. How it all pans out in the future remains to be seen. But both India and Bangladesh leaderships at the highest level know that maintaining the momentum in ties is a win-win situation for the development of the region. New Delhi has so far been able to insulate Bangladesh from its domestic politics, it remains to be seen if they can continue to do so and keep the Hindutva forces under control.