Bangladesh Revisited 45 years on – A resurgent nation India can be proud to have partnered to create

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In December 197I I was a 25-year old captain of the Indian Army acting as the second-in-command of a squadron of tanks fighting a war in the then East Pakistan which was to be transformed into a new nation called Bangladesh at the end of fighting that lasted 13 days and saw nearly a hundred thousand Pakistani troops surrender to the allied force of Indian Army and the Bengali Freedom Fighters. 45 years on I was one of the 30 veterans of the war being felicitated by the Government of Bangladesh at Dhaka from 14th to 19th December this year. It would indeed be a nostalgic moment; none of us had any doubt about; but what we weren’t quite prepared for was the emotional high the occasion took us to. This was no ordinary third-world country. The ragtag militia of Bengali youth who had set out to take on the might of the Pakistani military with no arms or training but raw courage to sustain them, and whom we had struggled to train and organize into a cohesive force, had since evolved into a splendid army absolutely capable of defending its nation’s sovereignty; so have their navy which had sailed into troubled waters with just two gunboats in 1971 owning a 60-vessel fleet today and their air force that took to the skies and action with just one helicopter with a composite fleet of copters, transports and fighters now. I couldn’t believe that watching another country’s troops march past could moisten my eyes until I watched the Bangladesh Armed Forces march past elegantly, smartly attired and in a show of superb drill, on their Victory Day Parade.

And their nation’s leader, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, turned out to be a study in inspiring leadership and humility. As she mingled with us veterans as if she had all the time in the world, even having tea with us and making a point that she had a word with each one of us and our spouses, she stole our hearts. Addressing the gathering, as she recounted her traumatic past when barely four years after independence her father and the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with his entire family – except Hasina and her one sister who was away from the country – she paused as if at a loss of words. There was pin drop silence in the hall till she could resume. It was as if the entire audience was one with her in her moment of grief. I have seldom witnessed such a genuine and dignified gesture of personal feelings by a public figure. This soft spoken lady, with tremendous courage and resilience, had turned the fortunes of her country from the brink of disaster, by steering it away from the stranglehold of pro-Pakistani fundamentalist elements that had hijacked the country and kept it depraved for two long decades after the 1975 coup. Today Bangladesh is forging ahead in almost every human development indicator, be it child mortality or women’s emancipation, even besting us in many areas. There couldn’t have been a better demonstration of it than the number of smart young ladies we could find among their armed forces officers.

Fighting the war 45 years ago, we only knew we were doing our duty, contributing to a noble cause; but we had never imagined that one day it will lead to a country and its people blazing such magnificent trails. Hats off, Bangladesh; We salute you!

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Ahmed Ferdous
Ahmed Ferdous
7 years ago

Dear Sir. This is Major Retired Ahmed Ferdous commissioned in 1990 & voluntarily retired in 2003. Nicely articulated & felt the warmth in the expressions. I’d like to share my experiences on 45 years of our independence. ” 45 Years of Comparison between Pakistan & Bangladesh: Today December 16, 2016 is the 45th victory day this flag is enjoying flying high on a sovereign state. Witnessing today’s victory day parade, I was just wondering to bring an apple to apple comparison between 2 Nations separated by a 9 month bloody war known as “ SHADHINOTA JUDDHO ” that took place… Read more »

AKM Mizanur Rahman
AKM Mizanur Rahman
7 years ago

O Captain! My Captain!!
You fought in 1971, the time that pointed the peak of Glory for a nation. We owe our today to your sacrifice in those days. Thanks for your kindest words and feelings for Bangladesh. May the Almighty bless you always.
Salute again.
Bangladesh Ansar VDP.

AKM Mizanur Rahman
AKM Mizanur Rahman
7 years ago

Thank you sir. I am grateful to BG Nanda, HE the DA IHC in Dhaka for sharing this blog with me.

7 years ago

Dear Captain,
Thank you very much indeed for augmenting our bravery. We waited long time to reciprocate.
Brig Gen Shameem Ahmed, ndc, psc

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