PM Sheikh Hasina’s emotional message to India: Reflecting on shared history since 1975

Against the historical backdrop, Sheikh Hasina’s recent message of gratitude to India carries emotional and diplomatic weight.

As Bangladesh embarks on yet another round of general elections, the political landscape is charged with tension, marked by the absence of the main opposition party and concerns about the legitimacy of the polls. Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent expression of gratitude to India takes on significant importance.

The roots of Sheikh Hasina’s gratitude trace back to the tumultuous events of the Indo-Pakistani war in 1971. Faced with grave human rights violations in East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh, India intervened decisively. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s order for a full-scale invasion marked a turning point, leading to the creation of Bangladesh. The instrument of surrender was signed on December 16, 1971, officially establishing Bangladesh as an independent nation. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of Sheikh Hasina, assumed the roles of the first president in 1972 and the second prime minister in 1974.

In the subsequent years, the echoes of the liberation war continued to reverberate, shaping the diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and India. Sheikh Hasina’s recent acknowledgement of India’s support during those critical times is a poignant reminder of the shared struggles that bind the two nations.

Against the historical backdrop, Sheikh Hasina’s recent message of gratitude to India carries emotional and diplomatic weight. In her expression of thanks, she specifically pointed to India’s support during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan and the refuge provided in 1975, a period marked by personal tragedy for her family.

“You are most welcome. We are very lucky… India is our trusted friend. During our 1971 liberation war, they supported us… After 1975, when we lost our whole family… they gave us shelter. So our best wishes to the people of India,” Hasina conveyed to reporters.

This acknowledgement goes beyond diplomatic courtesies; it serves as a testament to the enduring friendship between the two nations. It not only underscores the shared history but also sets a tone of gratitude amidst the contemporary political challenges Bangladesh faces.

As polling centres opened, Bangladesh found itself in a month-long campaign fraught with challenges. Daily street protests, the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, and controversies surrounding ruling party leaders urging voters to cast their ballots have dominated the electoral landscape.

The decision by the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, to boycott the elections has added a layer of complexity. This move has raised serious questions about the legitimacy of the electoral process and the fairness of the polls. With prominent opposition leaders behind bars and concerns over voter turnout, the election dynamics have become a subject of national and international scrutiny.

The Election Commission’s notices to ruling party leaders for allegedly pressuring voters further heighten the stakes. As the nation anticipates the election results, due late Sunday or early Monday, the political tension remains palpable.

Sheikh Hasina’s leadership has left an indelible mark on Bangladesh’s economic landscape. Under her governance, the country has experienced one of the fastest-growing economies globally, lifting millions out of poverty. Despite these significant achievements, her leadership has been clouded by concerns of authoritarianism.

As she seeks a fourth term, the narrative of economic success contends with discussions about democratic principles and the fair conduct of elections. The juxtaposition of economic growth and governance challenges forms a critical aspect of the ongoing political discourse.