DHAKA, March 27 (BSS) - Bangladesh today honoured a distinguished Indian as a 1971 Liberation war time "foreign friend" along with 82 others as he is regarded for shaping crucial international events abroad that helped the country emerge as an independent nation 41 years ago.
"Sree Durga Prasad Dhar (DP Dhar) is conferred with the Liberation War Friendship Honour (posthumous) in recognition of his pioneering role in concluding the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty, mobilising international support in favour of Bangladesh and playing a special role in support of the Liberation War," read the citation as his son Vijay Dhar received the honour on behalf of his father.
President Zillur Rahman handed over a certificate and a replica of National Mausoleum to each recipient of the awards as Dhar and 82 other foreigners and international organizations were conferred with the honour at a ceremony joined by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Talking to BSS on the sidelines, prominent Liberation War organiser and war time Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed's top aide Barrister Amirul Islam Chowdhury said Dhar pursued Moscow in changing its apparently apathetic attitude towards Bangladesh and played a crucial role as a top adviser of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to expedite Bangladesh's liberation.
"The Soviet support was crucial as the United States already hinted there would be nothing called Bangladesh that would be accommodated in their state department map while other influential players like China and Iran too were opposed to Bangladesh's independence movement," he said.
But, he said, Dhar's role was not only limited in pursuing Moscow as he also played a crucial role mediating disputes among "ourselves (factions within Bangladesh side) during the war time" as a result of which the Liberation War subsequently could be led smoothly.
Approached for comments ahead of the ceremony Vijay Dhar said, like most of the Indian his father did not see it as an Indo-Pak war rather saw it a human tragedy and thus fixed his duty".
"It is embarrassing for me to review his (Dhar's) role being his son . . . but I can recall how he persuaded Soviet Union" to remain with Bangladesh side, said the junior Dhar, who is now 70 and businessman by profession.
A prominent Kashmiri politician with his leniency towards socialism, Dhar was Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union and subsequently became a top policy aide of Gandhi in New Delhi as the 1972 war was underway.
He is regarded also as a principal architect of India's military intervention in neighboring East Pakistan's civil war, which led to the creation of independent Bangladesh.
"We are mindful that your father's (Dhar's) support came at a critical time when we stood up against barbaric atrocities and the worst ever genocide in world history and contributed to the eventful emergence of sovereign Bangladesh," read the official letter inviting junior Dhar earlier to receive the honour.
The letter signed by foreign minister Dipu Moni added: "We are cognizant of the fact that our decision to formally recognise your father's contribution has come 40 years since our achieving independence but that omission today is set right forever for our posterity and for the world".
Most others of the 82 foreigners to receive the honour were Indians and they included PN Haksar, a former close aide to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and, late Field Marshal SAM Manekshaw, Lt Gen (retd) Jack Frederick Ralph Jacob and late Jyoti Basu.
The awardees each received a gold-plated silver metallic plaque in which replica of the national mausoleum has been engraved and a citation on silk cloth, sources in the foreign ministry said.
This was the second phase of awarding foreign nationals and organisations after conferring "Bangladesh Freedom Honour", posthumously on former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi on July 25 last year when her daughter in law and Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi received it on her late mother-in-law's behalf at a function.
"They (awardees) rose in protest against the atrocities committed on the people of Bangladesh. They associated with our aspiration, and our demand for equality, human dignity, and economic and social justice," Sheikh Hasina told the ceremony.