The highest Bangladesh award — the Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona (Bangladesh Freedom Honour ) — was received by Sonia Gandhi here on Monday.
Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman presented the award, the highest honour for any foreign national after 40 years of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan. Sonia got this on behalf of the late Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contributions to Bangladesh’s Liberation War
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was present with her Cabinet colleagues at the ceremony at the President’s House, Bangabhaban.
Ms. Sonia Gandhi recalled the fond memories of her mother-in law during the tumultuous days of 1971, when the great Indian leader took a firm, principled stand to side with the oppressed people of then East Pakistan. She concluded her speech saying: “Joy Bangla, Joy Bangladesh-India Friendship.”
The award included a 200 tola gold medal and a citation which read: “Ms. Indira Gandhi stood by the side of the people of Bangladesh from the beginning of the Liberation War despite various adversities. She provided shelter to about one crore Bangladeshi refugees.
Sri Lankan First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa and Ilham Hussain, wife of Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the Vice-President of Maldives, were special guests.
Ms. Rajapaksa, Ms. Hussain, Zangling Drukpa, Bhutan Health Minister, and A.F.M. Ruhal Haque, Bangladesh Health Minister, spoke on the occasion.