India-Bangladesh virtual summit Credit: Video grab

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said Bangladesh has always been a significant pillar of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. Holding a virtual summit with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Modi said India has concentrated on keeping strong relations with Bangladesh since his BJP-led government came into power.

“Bangladesh is a significant pillar of our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. To strengthen relations with Bangladesh has been a priority for me since the first day,” Modi said.

Notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic, Modi said, cooperation between India and Bangladesh has been good.

The Bangladesh PM, on her part, said she was happy to meet Modi again, “particularly on this month of victory”.

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“December evokes in all Bangladeshis the spirit of joy, freedom and celebration as we recall with deep gratitude our ‘Father of the Nation’ Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, under whose dynamic leadership we earned our great independence,” she said.

“India is our true friend,” Hasina added.

The summit is being held a day after India celebrated the 50th anniversary of its victory over Pakistan in the 1971 India-Pakistan War, also known as Bangladesh Liberation War.

“I pay deep homage to the three million martyrs who laid down their lives. I pay tribute to the members of the Indian armed forces martyred in the war and to their families. I pay my gratitude to the government and the people of India who extended their whole hearted support for the cause of our nation,” Hasina said.

Modi and Hasina inaugurated the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link between India and Bangladesh, which has been inoperative for almost 55 years. The two leaders also jointly inaugurated a digital exhibition on Mujibur Rahman and Mahatma Gandhi in an effort to celebrate the life and legacies of the iconic leaders.

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