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Address by the External Affairs Minister at the Vijay Diwas Commemoration Event by BSF

December 16, 2021

Director General Pankaj Kumar Singh
Former Director Generals of BSF
Officers and men of BSF
Senior Police officials from various organizations
My Ministerial colleague, Meenakshi Lekhi ji
Distinguished War Veterans and Muktijoddhas
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my privilege to be present here today for the Vijay Diwas celebration commemorating 50 years of Liberation War of Bangladesh.

2. Fifty years ago, on this day, Pakistani force surrendered to the joint forces of India and Bangladesh in Dhaka, thereby liberating Bangladesh.

3. The Border Security Force played a critical role in the Liberation of Bangladesh. We salute the intrepid BSF officers and men whose resolve and valor created history in 1971. Our deepest respects to all those BSF soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during the war.

4. Today, I am really very pleased to see War Veterans and Muktijoddhas from India and Bangladesh, who are present here. Your presence reflects the enduring bond shared during the historic struggle of 1971. They will always be a source of inspiration for stronger India-Bangladesh ties.

5. This year is of special significance for both India and Bangladesh. Hon’ble Rashtrapati ji, as you all know, is currently on a State Visit to Bangladesh as the Guest of Honour in the celebration of Vijay Diwas in Dhaka.

6. Earlier, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh in March for the Golden Jubilee celebration of the independence of Bangladesh, 50 years of diplomatic relations and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh. This year on the 6th of December, India and Bangladesh jointly celebrated Maitri Diwas worldwide, commemorating the day when India recognised Bangladesh as an independent country in 1971.

7. The events held this year include this one by BSF are reflective of the deep historical bonds between the two countries. Guarding the over 4000 kilometers long India-Bangladesh border, the BSF is a key stakeholder in India-Bangladesh Maitri. Today’s event is, therefore, as much about our shared future as it is about our past.

8. Given the unique nature of this porous border, where people live close by to the border and share ethnic and cultural ties, effective border management is an imperative. The BSF has been undertaking this complex and multifaceted task for the last five decades.

9. BSF’s contribution in ensuring peace at the border, in close cooperation with the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), is critical in sustaining friendship between our peoples. In partnership with BGB, it has initiated a slew of measures to ensure operational coordination and strengthen societal ties.

10. On this momentous day, however, it is only natural that our thoughts turn to the historic role played by the BSF during the 1971 Liberation.

11. Raised in 1965 as a force to guard India’s border with Pakistan, the BSF, as others have said before me, was still at its infancy at that time. In many ways, the experience of 1971 was its initiation by fire. Yet, exceptional bravery displayed by BSF battalions, both on the Eastern as well as the Western frontiers, contributed to an outcome that was in India’s favour.

12. None of us can ever forget the genocidal campaign launched by the Pakistani forces against the people of Bangladesh in March 1971. Operation Searchlight truly remains one of the most horrific examples of mass atrocities and brutal killings in recent history.

13. When the people of Bangladesh rose against this brutal oppression under the heroic leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, there was spontaneous support for them in India. Our political, diplomatic and military efforts in support of the people of Bangladesh in their struggle to uphold democratic rights is now well recognized.

14. Guarding India’s eastern borders, the BSF grappled with the immediate consequences of these developments very early on. Ten million refugees had come to India, living in camps at the border areas. The people of India opened their hearts and extended support to their oppressed brethren. The BSF managed the evolving situation on the ground with unmatched tact and compassion.

15. Often, the generosity of the people of India found their way through the BSF personnel on the ground. They provided moral and material support to those who were fleeing from the atrocities of Pakistani forces and taking part in the freedom struggle for Bangladesh. When the leaders of Awami League took shelter in India, BSF not only received them but also became a conduit for communication as well. It also played a key role by supporting the government-in-exile and the Mukti Bahini that guided the liberation movement.

16. The accomplishments of BSF during these tumultuous times are indeed noteworthy. In May 1971, when Pakistani forces launched an attack against the refugee camp in Killapara in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya, the BSF battalion fought to save the refugees. Nine soldiers made the supreme sacrifice on that occasion. This is just one instance of the courage and service rendered by the BSF.

17. When the war started in December 1971, the BSF took part in some of the most important battles along with the Mukti Bahini. 23 units of the BSF had already come under the operational control of the Indian Army with effect from 15 October 1971. Operating independently, but in close cooperation with the Army, the BSF armed and trained Bangladeshi freedom fighters, especially in guerrilla warfare techniques.

18. The battles of Sylhet, Jhingergacha, Lalmunirhat, Rajshahi, Chaudnaga, Raiganj, Bantara and the courage shown by the 10 Post Group Artillery in the liberation of Nawabganj will remain examples of the BSF’s heroism.

19. On the western front, the battles of Longewala and Raja Mohtam, the capture of Pakistani posts of Jaleli, Vingoor, Paneli and Jattarai, along with the capture as many as 17 enemy BOPs in the Gurdaspur-Dera Baba Nanak sector count among the BSF’s stellar actions.

20. This success was obviously not without its price and the BSF lost numerous brave men and officers in these operations. The bravery displayed by the BSF was recognized in gallantry awards, including a Mahaveer Chakra and 11 Veer Chakras. I pay, today, deep homage to the BSF personnel who gave their lives during the Liberation War.

21. The Bangladesh government recognized the contribution of the Late Shri Golak Majumdar, the Inspector General of the Eastern Frontier of the BSF to the Liberation Struggle and awarded him the honorific ‘Friend of Bangladesh’.

22. Building on its historical role, the BSF continues to play a crucial role in India’s robust engagement with Bangladesh. Maintaining a peaceful border, preventing trans-border crimes and other illegal activities are important for stability and prosperity in bordering areas and beyond.

23. There has been a significant progress in terms of opening up of new and pre-existing railways, roads and waterways between India and Bangladesh. Several efforts are underway to further boost multi-modal cross border connectivity for seamless movement of people and goods.

24. As a result, both countries share a growing trade partnership. Bangladesh is India’s largest trade partner in South Asia and fourth largest export destination globally. India is Bangladesh’s second largest trade partner. Despite COVID related impediments, bilateral trade has now touched US$ 10 billion.

25. Our interconnectedness is assuming new dimensions in the post COVID world where we aim to keep supply chains open and facilitate movement of people, while also ensuring health security.

26. Improvement of border infrastructure, including roads, Land Customs Stations and Integrated Check Points are critical for sustaining this momentum. BSF is a key partner in the "whole of government” approach to upgrade border infrastructure for security, trade and movement of people.

27. With sub-regional integration becoming a shared priority in South Asia, the BSF will also have an increasingly important role in facilitating seamless movement while countering conventional and emerging security threats.

28. The BSF’s continuous engagement with its Bangladeshi counterpart has been central to this endeavour. There are institutional mechanisms for dialogue, information and intelligence gathering, and simultaneous patrolling. More importantly, there is mutual trust and understanding based on historical ties that help in addressing new challenges. Policy makers on both sides recognize its value and envisage it as an important basis for further development of our ties.

29. Vijay Divas is an occasion to recall the sacrifice and service of the BSF in 1971. But it is equally a time to look ahead and acknowledge the real transformation in the region as a result of stronger cooperation and closer friendship. Any contemporary policy naturally rests on a historical foundation. The BSF can truly claim to have shaped both in equal measure. In concluding, I emphasize once again our deep appreciation of the role and contribution of the BSF.

Jai Hind. Joy Bangla

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