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Prime Minister Narendra Modi being felicitated by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as he arrives for a two-day visit to Bangladesh, in Dhaka on Friday, March 26, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Dhaka: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hailed 'Bangabandhu' Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's leadership and the contributions of the Indian Army in Bangladesh's 1971 Independence War as he emphasised that the two friendly neighbours must remain vigilant and united to counter threats like terrorism.

Addressing the main golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh's Independence and the birth centenary of its founder here in the presence of his counterpart Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Modi said that Bangabandhu had a mesmerising personality and was blessed with an unwavering commitment to further human empowerment. No wonder all sections of society were inspired by him.

"Both our nations possess the power of democracy, with a clear vision to move forward. That India and Bangladesh move forward together, is equally important for the development of this entire region," he said.

"We must remember that we've similar opportunities in fields of trade and commerce, but at the same time, we've similar threats like terrorism. The ideas and powers behind such types of inhumane acts are still active. We must remain vigilant and united to counter them,' he added.

Modi, who was wearing a 'Mujib Jacket' as tribute to Bangladesh's Father of the Nation, said: "Bangabandhu was a ray of hope for the people of this land and for us Indians," he said.

Under his leadership, common people of Bangladesh across the social spectrum came together and became 'Muktibahini', Modi said, adding Bangladesh's Liberation War had support from all corners of India, from all parties, every section of the society.

Modi Sheikh Hasina india bangladesh
In this handout photo released by Bangladesh Prime Minister Office and taken on March 26, 2021 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) hands over the Gandhi Peace Prize given posthumously to the late Bangladesh's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to his daughters Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (C) and Sheikh Rehana, in Dhaka. Image Credit: AFP

"This is one of the most memorable days of my life. I am grateful that Bangladesh has included me in this event. I am grateful that Bangladesh has invited India to take part in this function. It is a matter of our pride that we got the opportunity to honour Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with Gandhi Peace Prize," he said.

The Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 was conferred on Bangabandhu this week.

Modi said the efforts of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi and her important role in Bangladesh's freedom war are well known.

He also named several Indian Army officials such as Field Marshal S H F J Manekshaw, General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General J F R Jacob, Lance Nayak Albert Ekka, Group Captain Chandan Singh, Captain Mohan Narayan Rao Samant and others who were instrumental in Bangladesh's freedom.

Modi said the next 25 years are crucial for both India and Bangladesh. "For both our nations, the journey of the next 25 years in the 21st century is crucial. We have descended from a shared heritage, and we are advancing towards shared development. We have shared goals, and shared challenges," Modi said.

He also invited 50 Bangladeshi entrepreneurs to India to get associated with innovation ecosystem and meet venture capitalists.

Modi also invoked Bengali poets and writers Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore in his speech to highlight the common heritage of the two countries.

Earlier, the programme began with the religious leaders from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity reciting prayers from their holy books, projecting a secular image of Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was made the state religion in the 1980s. In 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.

Modi was the guest of honour while Bangladesh President Hamid was the chief guest at the function chaired by Prime Minister Hasina.

Meanwhile, at least four people were killed and dozens injured when some Islamist organisations protesting Prime Minister Modi's visit to Bangladesh clashed with police on Friday afternoon.

In Dhaka, at least 50 people, including two journalists, were injured when clashes broke out between a group of protesters, mostly members of Islamist groups, and police in the Baitul Mukarram area on Friday.