In the tapestry of history, certain moments transcend the pages of time, etching tales of valor, sacrifice, and indomitable spirit. The Victory Day celebrations of 2023 stand as a luminous chapter in the shared chronicles of Bangladesh and India, a poignant reminder of a triumphant collaboration that unfolded in 1971. As part of the annual Victory Day exchange program, 30 veterans, accompanied by their spouses or Next of Kin, and six serving officers of the revered Indian Armed Forces along with their spouse descended upon Dhaka.
Simultaneously, an equal number of Muktijoddhas and serving officers accompanied by their spouse/Next of Kin embarked on a reciprocal journey to Kolkata, weaving a symphony of camaraderie that echoes the shared commitment to honor December 16th—the day that witnessed the liberation of Bangladesh.
This article is a narrative woven with the threads of this historic exchange—a journey that traverses geographical borders to explore the profound connections between the heroes of 1971. Beyond the ceremonial receptions and diplomatic protocols, this exchange becomes a bridge between the past and present, rekindling the spirit of solidarity that flourished on the battlegrounds of yesteryears. As the delegation navigates through the cultural tapestry of Dhaka, pays homage at memorials, and engages in diplomatic discourse, it tells a tale of resilience, friendship, and remembrance.
The Victory Day celebrations of 2023 are not merely a commemoration; they are a testament to an enduring alliance, reborn in 2005 after nearly three decades of silence. The annual tradition has become a living embodiment of the commitment to honor the sacrifices made during the Liberation of Bangladesh. Beyond the historical significance, this exchange seeks to foster a deeper understanding among newer generations about the valiant struggles that paved the way for an independent Bangladesh.
As we embark on this narrative, we delve into the heart of the 2023 Victory Day celebrations—a celebration that transcends time and geopolitical boundaries. Through the lens of this exchange, we witness not just a diplomatic event but a cultural odyssey, a journey of rediscovery, and a reaffirmation of the enduring sentiment encapsulated in three simple words: Bangladesh-India friendship, long live!
A bridge spanning decades and borders, forged in the flames of liberation, reverberated anew on the 53rd Victory Day celebrations of Bangladesh. As Dhaka echoed with the joyous thunder of commemoration, a unique exchange program brought together Indian and Bangladeshi veterans, weaving a tapestry of shared sacrifice and enduring friendship.
From December 14th to 19th, 2023, Dhaka pulsed with the vibrant spirit of Victory Day. Amidst the national celebrations, a special delegation of 30 Indian veterans and serving officers, along with their spouses, arrived in Bangladesh, carrying with them the legacy of a shared victory in 1971. This annual exchange program, now in its 18th year, stands as a testament to the unbreakable bond forged between the two nations during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
The Indian delegation’s journey began with a warm welcome at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The next day, they embarked on a poignant pilgrimage to the “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum” and the “Liberation War Museum,” paying homage to the Father of the Nation and the countless heroes who gave their lives for Bangladesh’s freedom.
The 16th of December, Victory Day itself, vibrated with an electrifying intensity. The veterans and serving officers paid their respects at the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar, their hearts echoing with the whispers of history. A privileged meeting with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, further underscored the significance of the day. In the evening, the delegation received a grand reception at Bangabhaban, hosted by the Honorable President of Bangladesh. The day culminated in a heartfelt dinner hosted by the Chief of Army Staff, Bangladesh Army, at the Army Multipurpose Hall.
The following days were filled with meaningful interactions. The Indian delegation met with the Service Chiefs of Bangladesh, exchanged stories of valor and shared visions for the future. A moving lunch hosted by the Principal Staff Officer, Armed Forces Division, provided another platform for forging friendships and deepening understanding. In the evening, the Honorable Minister of Liberation War Affairs, Mr. AKM Mozammel Huq, hosted a captivating dinner, where an enchanting cultural program brought alive the essence of Bangladeshi heritage.
A leisurely River Cruise on the 18th offered a serene respite from the official engagements, allowing the veterans to reminisce about their youthful days and relive some of their wartime experiences on Bangladeshi soil. The grand finale of the visit was a reception hosted by the High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh, where laughter and heartfelt farewells resonated through the evening.
The Indian delegation’s departure on the 19th marked the end of a five-day journey that was much more than just a diplomatic exchange. It was a celebration of shared triumph, a reaffirmation of unwavering friendship, and a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by generations past. These visits foster not only solidarity but also bridge the gap between past and present, ensuring that the spirit of the Liberation War continues to inspire future generations.
As the echoes of Victory Day celebrations reverberate in the hearts of both nations, the 2023 exchange between the Indian Armed Forces and Muktijoddhas stands not just as a commemoration of a historic triumph but as a testament to the enduring friendship between Bangladesh and India. The annual tradition, rekindled in 2005 after a three-decade hiatus, has become a symbol of unity, mutual respect, and shared history.
The journey of the delegation through Dhaka’s historic sites, the tributes paid at memorials, the diplomatic interactions, and the cultural exchange all weave a narrative of friendship that transcends borders. The memories carried back to Delhi by the veterans and serving officers are not just personal recollections; they are threads that strengthen the fabric of the deep-rooted camaraderie between the two nations.
The Victory Day celebrations of 2023 have once again underscored the significance of fostering awareness among newer generations about the sacrifices made by the Valiant Muktijoddhas and the Indian Armed Forces during the Liberation of Bangladesh. The annual exchange program has become a living testament to the historical bond forged in 1971 and a commitment to preserving and honoring that legacy.
As the delegation departs, the sentiment echoes loud and clear: Bangladesh-India friendship, long live! Beyond the diplomatic niceties and cultural exchanges, it is the people-to-people connection, the shared narratives of struggle and victory, that form the bedrock of this enduring friendship. In an ever-changing world, where international relations face various challenges, the Bangladesh-India bond serves as a beacon of hope—a reminder that through remembrance, solidarity, and mutual understanding, nations can build bridges that withstand the tests of time.
The Victory Day celebrations of 2023 have not only strengthened diplomatic ties but have also sown the seeds for future collaboration and understanding. The annual exchange program, a tradition born out of a historic victory, has become a living embodiment of the spirit of friendship that binds these two nations. May the Bangladesh-India friendship continue to thrive, enduring through the chapters of history, and may the shared commitment to peace and cooperation inspire the world. Long live the enduring friendship between Bangladesh and India!
Abul Hasan Chowdhury
Fmr. State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
& Executive Advisor, Diplomats Publication