DHAKA: Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was conferred Award of Bangladesh Liberation War Honour for his "active role" in the country's independence struggle and consolidating India's friendship with the nation.
Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid handed over the award to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a glittering ceremony at Bangabhaban, the President's house, which was attended by Premier Sheikh Hasina and top officials of her government.
"This day is a matter of great pride for all Indians that a great leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee is being honoured. He dedicated his entire life to the service of the country and he fought for the rights of the common man and from a political point of view he was our inspiration for political workers like myself," Modi said after receiving the award.
Modi said that when muktijodhas (freedom fighters) of Bangladesh were shedding blood, Indians too were fighting side-by-side with them and in a way helped realise the dream of Bangladesh.
He said he was one of the young volunteers who came to Delhi to participate in a Satyagraha launched by Jana Sangh to support Bangladeshi freedom fighters in 1971. He also recalled Vajpayee's speech in Parliament on December 6, 1971 in which he had asked government to recognise Bangladesh as a nation.
"If Atalji's health permitted and he was present here, this occasion would be very different," Modi said. The citation of the Award hailed Vajpayee as a "highly respected political leader" and recognised his "active role" in support of the liberation war of Bangladesh.
It said that as President of Bharatiya Jana Sangh and a member of the Lok Sabha Vajpayee took various steps towards that end. "In an editorial column of the 'Organiser' Vajpayee welcomed Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's historic declaration of Bangladesh's independence and called upon the government of India to recognise the government of Bangladesh and provide necessary assistance to the freedom fighters," the citation said.
It also recognised Jana Sangh's role in pressing the demand for Indian government's "expedited support" to the liberation war.