Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi said on Wednesday that the country should remember its 1971 victory in the Bharat-Pakistan war with the spirit of pride, determination and contemplation, and not out of arrogance, or as self-glory.
She made the remarks while taking part in the concluding ceremony of a programme marking the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, following which Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan, was freed from Pakistan and came to be known as a sovereign and independent country.
“I would like to extend a special note of thanks to all the former members of the armed forces for sharing their experiences and talking about the strategy adopted to achieve the ultimate victory,” she said.
The Congress leader said that 50 years ago, “the brave and courageous people of Bangladesh had given themselves a new future”.
“India stood by their side in solidarity to help them in various ways. India has not just given hope, but also humanitarian aid to nearly 10 million refugees. It garnered international support,” she said.
“Bangladesh raised its voice in regional and global fora. When it was attacked, a highly-successful military operation was launched. The fearless freedom fighters of Bangladesh should be remembered and encouraged. The finest Indian civil servants and intelligence agencies of that time should be remembered and appreciated. All those who stood with Bangladesh and India in different countries should be remembered and appreciated,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi further said that above all, the discipline, dedication, valour and sacrifice of the Indian armed forces “should be remembered and saluted”.
“It was this extraordinary convergence of a well-planned and well-executed political, diplomatic and military strategy that earned 1971 war a special place in the history of the subcontinent… a history that also gave a new shape to the geography of the region,” she said.
The Congress leader also spoke about the political leaders who oversaw the Bharat-Pakistan war of 1971. Remembering then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — her mother-in-law — she praised the late leader’s leadership style.
“Today, we remember Indira Gandhi with a great amount of pride. She became an inspiration for crores of Indians due to her boldness and resilience,” Sonia Gandhi said.
The senior Congress leader futher said that it would not be an exaggeration that the year 1971 was “Indira Gandhi’s best year in many ways”.
“She received a huge mandate in March that year. When the crisis erupted in Dhaka, she grasped its implications and swung into action. She contacted all political parties and public figures, and wrote letters the Presidents and Prime Ministers of other countries, apart from sending the envoys abroad.
“She ensured that the USSR stood with India, and sensitised the entire world community towards the interests of the people of Bangladesh through personal interviews, meetings and appeals,” the Congress chief said.
“One can never forget the way she stood up to the bullying of the then US President, and made India proud. Those were some days, weeks and months of stress. However, she remained composed and confident. She also had an able and veteran leader in Jagjivan Ram as Defence Minister in her cabinet,” she said.
Taking a jibe at the Narendra Modi-led Central government, Sonia Gandhi said: “Today, we are celebrating a splendid achievement. But I think Indira Gandhi wanted us to do this not out of arrogance or a sense of self-glory, but out of contemplation. So let us remember and celebrate that glorious occasion and reaffirm our steadfast commitment to those values,” she said.
“Today we also congratulate the people of Bangladesh. The country has made great progress in the face of great challenges. Bangladesh has very cordial relations with India, and there is a special responsibility to maintain and deepen that relationship,” she added.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, ex-Speaker and Union minister Meira Kumar, and senior party leaders A.K. Antony and Mallikarjun Kharge attended the event, among others.
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