Bangladesh shortlists '1971 foreign friends'

Dhaka: Bangladesh on Monday approved a list of 125 foreign citizens and institutions to be conferred with formal honour and recognition for their contributions to the country's 1971 Liberation War.

"The list of foreign contributors to the liberation war is a short one, and more names will be included later," an official spokesman told newsmen after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina's press secretary Abul Kalam Azad did not name the recipients but said the list included names of foreign state leaders, politicians, philosophers, artists, litterateurs and various institutions.

A high-level national committee had earlier prepared a list of 500 foreign friends included 226 Indians and 40 Pakistanis.

Officials had earlier said the '1971 foreign friends' were expected to be conferred with the honour coinciding with the country's 41st Victory Day on December 16 but a Liberation War Affairs Ministry today said the ceremony would organised later at a "convenient time".

"Bangladesh missions abroad would organise special ceremonies at convenient times in near future to confer the awards on the others of the list at their home countries as many of the recipients may not travel to Bangladesh to receive the award," he said.

Bangladesh in July this year conferred the highest state honour for "1971 foreign friends" on former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her tremendous contribution to its Liberation War 40 years ago.

Congress party chief and ruling UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi received the Bangladesh "Swadhinata Sanmanona" from President Zillur Rahman at a ceremony at Bangabhaban, also joined by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and nearly 1,000 high profile dignitaries.

So far Gandhi is the lone recipient of the honour. Indira Gandhi was India's premier in 1971 when she travelled across the world to mobilise support for Bangladesh's Liberation War against Pakistan while Bangladeshi freedom fighters also received training on Indian soil alongside small weapons to fight back the occupation forces.

Her government provided food and makeshift shelter to an estimated one crore people who fled their home to evade atrocities by the Pakistani troops.