If all countries can live in harmony with their neighbours, it would be a major contribution towards peace, a top Singaporean diplomat here has said while lauding India and Bangladesh for having 50 years of good bilateral relations, which he said was a "precious achievement" worthy of celebration. 'Maitri Diwas' was observed on Monday to mark India recognising the newly-formed country Bangladesh in 1971. The day was celebrated across 18 countries.
"Singapore has a very good relationship with both Bangladesh and India. So, we are happy to join in this celebration," Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh said at an event held at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall here on Monday to mark the occasion. "Bangladesh and India are neighbours. We should celebrate the fact that these two neighbours have enjoyed 50 years of good relations. This is a precious achievement," he said.
A lot of trouble in the world is caused by conflict and quarrels between neighbouring countries. If all countries can live in harmony with their neighbours, it would be a major contribution towards peace, Koh said at the programme organised jointly by the high commissions of India and Bangladesh here. The top diplomat recalled that in 1971, on his return from UN posting, he had helped the United Nations Association of Singapore raise money for the refugees from the then East Pakistan.
"We succeeded in raising a substantial amount of money. I was surprised to see one of our famous philanthropists giving me a bundle of cash saying this is for refugees. The people of Singapore felt for the people of East Pakistan and empathised with them," he said. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh in March to attend the country's national day, it was decided to commemorate December 6 as 'Maitri Diwas (Friendship Day)'.
Ten days before the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, India had recognised Bangladesh on December 6, 1971. India was one of the first countries to establish bilateral diplomatic ties with Bangladesh. Koh noted that one of the things that unite the people of the two countries is the Bengali language, literature and songs.
It is truly remarkable that the national anthems of both Bangladesh and India were composed by the same person — Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. "Tagore won the Nobel Prize for literature at a time when India was not divided, so I can say he belonged to both Bangladesh and India," Koh said.
Appreciating that the event was organised at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall, he said Gandhi was his childhood hero and his teachings continue to inspire people around the world. "Gandhi represents peace and non-violence…inter-religion dialogue and harmony. Gandhi was a champion of the marginalised and the minority," Koh noted.
Indian High Commissioner P Kumaran and Bangladesh envoy Md Tauhedul Islam were addressed the gathering. A short documentary film — 'Tumi Amader Pita' (You are our father) — on Mahatma Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman produced by Singapore Tagore Society in association with the Indian and Bangladesh high commissions here was also screened at the event.