Bangladesh High Commission in London had commemorated the 50th anniversary of Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s maiden visit to the United Kingdom at a high-profile event titled “Bangabandhu in Britain:
The Historic January” 8 where British ministers, cross-party senior parliamentarians, diplomats, academics and eminent members of the British-Bangladeshi community paid rich tributes to Bangabandhu and highlighted diplomatic and geopolitical significance of this historic visit.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen graced the hybrid event as the chief guest while UK Conservative Party Chairman and Minister Oliver Dowden was the guest of honour and Minister of State and Economic Secretary to Treasury Department John Glen, MP, was the special gust.
Chairman of Labour party Anneliese Dodds, Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the House of Lords Lord Newby, Vice Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh Bob Blackman, MP, and Chair of House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tom Tugendhat, MP, spoke, representing Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democratic parties.
Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, Director for India and Indian Ocean Directorate at the UK FCDO Ben Mellor and High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom Gaitri Issar Kumar spoke as special guests. Eminent British-Bangladeshi Community member Syed Sajidur Rahman Faruk also spoke at the event.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said: “Bangabandhu’s maiden visit to the UK on 8 January 1972 as the President of Bangladesh bears an unparallel historic, geo-strategic and diplomatic significance in the robust Bangladesh-UK diplomatic relations of 2022 and beyond.”
The Foreign Minister thanked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for recognising Bangabandhu’s 8 January visit to UK and Downing Street as instrumental in forging a friendship between Bangladesh and the UK.
High Commissioner Saida Muna Tasneem said: “On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of 8 January visit of Bangabandhu to the UK and to honour the value-based friendship between Bangladesh and the UK, the Bangladesh High Commission, London has launched the ‘Bangabandhu-Edward Heath Friendship Award’. The award will be given to those who would make extraordinary contributions in promoting Bangladesh-UK friendship.”
The High Commissioner also announced the formation of an “8 January Foundation” in order to promote the significance of 8 January among younger people.
Conservative Party Chairman and Minister Oliver Dowden called Bangabandhu’s 8 January visit to the UK and meeting with Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath a milestone in establishing diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and the UK, adding: “It was a powerful symbol of the deep and enduring bonds between the UK and Bangladesh bound by kinship, culture, and shared prosperity.”
Minister of State and Economic Secretary to Treasury Department John Glen, MP, said Sheikh Mujib’s maiden visit to the UK 50 years ago and his meeting with Edward Heath paved the way for a value-based relationship between the two countries.
Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds, MP, said that Labour Prime Minister Sir Herold Wilson met Bangabandhu during his maiden UK visit and later when he came to London and maintained a close relationship with him until his assassination in 1975. She mentioned that Herold Wilson described Bangabandhu’s killing as a personal loss.
Lord Newby, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, praised Bangladesh’s astounding socio-economic progress and said future relations between the UK and Bangladesh should be based on sharing prosperity.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, Tom Tugendhat, MP, said that the meeting between Sir Edward Heath and Bangabandhu marked the beginning of a close relationship between the peoples and governments of the two countries.
Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland said: “The Commonwealth was the first major international organization that independent Bangladesh joined, and Bangabandhu’s values matched those of the Commonwealth.
High Commissioner of India Gaitri Issar Kumar said: Bangabandhu continues to be regarded by the people of India as a charismatic and visionary leader, and it is in this spirit that we honour his legacy. Today, honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, is admirably leading the nation in realising his vision of a democratic and secular Bangladesh.
The event began with laying of floral wreaths at the life-size portrait of Bangabandhu by the High Commissioner along with mission officers. A documentary produced by London mission on Bangabandhu’s historic 8 January visit was shown.