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President Kovind leaves for Bangladesh, to be Chief Guest at 50th Dhaka Victory Day celebrations

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New Delhi, Dec 15: In his first trip abroad since the Covid outbreak, President c will embark on a three-day visit to Bangladesh starting Wednesday for the celebrations of its 50th Victory Day and liberation in Dhaka and to represent India as the guest of honour. In a reflection of close ties, India is also hosting a number of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1971 India-Pakistan war that led to the liberation of Bangladesh.

President Kovind leaves for Bangladesh, to be Chief Guest at 50th Dhaka Victory Day celebrations

Briefing reporters on the visit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the occasion is of great historical significance. It commemorates the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between the two countries, the great victory over the Pakistani army and their unconditional surrender on December 16, 1971, he said.

The visit being the President's first trip abroad since the Covid outbreak signifies the importance both countries attach to it, Shringla said. The foreign secretary said President Kovind will be the only foreign dignitary who will be there as the guest of honour at the Victory Day celebrations. President Kovind will visit the National Martyrs' Memorial on Wednesday morning and pay homage to those who died in the Bangladesh War of Independence of 1971, Shringla said.

The president will also visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum. Kovind will hold a delegation-level meeting with Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Bangladeshi foreign minister will also call on him. The Bangladeshi president will hold a banquet in honour of Kovind on Wednesday.

President Kovind will also attend the Victory Day parade, which will include a 122-member tri-services contingent from the Indian armed forces, as the guest of honour, Shringla said. He said 1,660 of India's gallant men in uniform paid the ultimate price for the freedom of Bangladesh and this visit will also be an occasion to pay a tribute to them.

During his visit, President Kovind will also interact with 'Mukti Jodhas' of Bangladesh and Indian veterans. Asked about the US imposing sanctions on certain security officials of Bangladesh, including the former army chief, Shringla said, "Like with all other relationships, our focus is on the bilateral relationship and we normally don't comment on relations between third countries.

On this occasion also I would like to refrain from making any comment that would be extraneous to both the visit as well as our immediate priorities." Emphasising the close ties between the two countries, Shringla said Bangladesh has been the largest recipient of India-made vaccine doses. So far, India has exported 2 crore and 18 lakh vaccines to Bangladesh.

Out of these, 33 lakh were gifted, 1.5 crore were commercial exports and 35 lakh were given through the COVAX facility, Shringla said. On whether there is any unease in ties following the Citizenship (Amendment) Act controversy and the Durga Puja violence in Bangladesh, he said, "I would completely dispel any sense or any perception that there is any unease in the relationship. There is no unease in the relationship." "The relationship is an extraordinary one, it is a close relationship with our multi-faceted ties. The ties are at a high point," Shringla said.

"The visit of our president provides opportunity to renew our bonds based on... shared heritage, shared history and the shared experience of our support for Bangladesh during its liberation war. It is also an occasion to take note of the depth, breadth, vitality and dynamism of contemporary ties," the foreign secretary said.

Around 93,000 Pakistani troops had surrendered before the joint forces of the Indian Army and the "Mukti Bahini" on December 16, 1971, that paved way for the birth of Bangladesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Bangladesh in March to join the celebrations of the golden jubilee of its independence, the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of establishment of diplomatic ties.

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