Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting neighboring Bangladesh as the country marks 50 years of its independence. He was greeted on the tarmac by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed. Modi’s visit to India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia comes as both nations look to strengthen ties that had been under strain in recent years. His visit to Bangladesh is also highly symbolic given the part Indian forces played in securing the country’s freedom:
December 1971. Indian and Pakistani forces troops are locked in a bitter battle to liberate Dhaka. The then capital of East Pakistan, winning it would all but insure an independent state for the Bengalis.
Bangladesh at the time was known as East Pakistan. On the eastern flank of India, it along with West Pakistan formed the nation of Pakistan.
But led Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, East Pakistan’s Bengalis feeling alienated and abused, revolted against their government. A brutal military crackdown ensued. Soon India’s hand was forced and it intervened militarily.
Pakistan lost the war, and with it the state of Bangladesh was born, with Rahman as its first president. That put an end to a bloody conflict that cost an estimated 3 million lives, according to government figures, and displaced more than 10 times as many.
Since then Bangladesh has seen political assassinations and coups. Throughout much of the 80s, the country was run by the military. By the 90s, democracy had returned. And in the 50 years since Bangladesh gained independence, it’s earned praise for turning it’s war-torn beginnings into a hopeful future for its young population.
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