Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have ‘virtual form of presence’ at the birth centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 17.
He will also send a recorded video message on the occasion as Bangladesh and India, with strong relations in place, are looking forward to the mega celebrations.
"We’ll have a virtual form of our Prime Minister's presence and India as well through him," said Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Wednesday highlighting the ‘close and strong’ partnership between Dhaka and Delhi.
India will also provide 150 ambulances to Bangladesh, he said, adding that 100 of them will be provided marking the birth centenary.
Shringla came up with the information during an interaction over lunch at Hyderabad House which he hosted in honour of the visiting 20-member media delegation from Bangladesh.
On donation of ambulances, Shringla said this is a gift from Modi who will make the formal announcement.
He said these are not ordinary ambulances but have systems in place so that victims facing trauma can access the nearby ambulance by calling a dedicated number immediately.
“This is a people-centric idea to promote more people-to-people contact,” the Foreign Secretary said.
Both the countries emphasised the need for greater cooperation to commemorate the two important anniversary years: Bangabandhu’s birth centenary in 2020; and 50 years of Bangladesh’s War of Liberation, and the establishment of India-Bangladesh bilateral diplomatic ties in 2021.
To commemorate these two historic years, the two countries also agreed to enhance cultural interactions.
Modi had specially been invited to participate in the inaugural ceremony of ‘Mujib Borsho’.
India finds Bangabandhu so iconic – as a globally-recognised statesman and iconic symbol of liberation for Bangladesh and for the subcontinent.
For people in India, there is a special resonance to his name.
But after the detection of coronavirus cases in Bangladesh, the year-long programmes taken to celebrate the birth centenary have been rescheduled considering public health.
The grand inaugural ceremony of the birth centenary celebrations scheduled for March 17 next at the National Parade Ground has been put on hold due to the prevailing situation.
Other celebration programmes will also be observed avoiding massive public gatherings.
The decision was taken at a meeting of Birth Centenary Celebration National Implementation Committee at Ganobhaban in presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana.
Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs on Monday confirmed the deferral of Modi's visit to Bangladesh following the rescheduling of programmes.
The Indian government received a formal notification from the government of Bangladesh in this regard.
"Bangladesh has advised us that fresh dates for these commemorative events will be conveyed later," said MEA Official Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
Expressing understanding of the circumstances that necessitates this deferment, he said India is ready to work with Bangladesh, as partners, to combat the spread of this disease in their shared neighbourhood.
The impact of this deferment applies also to the large gathering planned for March 17, at which the Prime Minister of India was invited.
Modi was scheduled to visit Bangladesh on March 17 with a bilateral component. Officials said there have been important initiatives that seek to not only resolve outstanding issues but also take the relationship forward to meet the aspirations of people of the two countries.
US Ambassador Earl Miller and Rear Admiral M Shaheen Iqbal of Bangladesh Navy on Tuesday attended the closing ceremony of a US-UK-Bangladesh special operations exchange.
It was the first-ever exchange including US and UK militaries with Bangladeshi Army and Navy elements to promote regional stability and ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The first of its kind trilateral military exchange aimed at improving joint interoperability in responding to security threats and crisis situations in the region through the exchange of techniques, ideas, and practices.
The exchange – named Operation Monogram - began on February 16 that served to enhance the relationship among US, UK and Bangladeshi military partners.
Speaking at Operation Monogram’s closing ceremony, Ambassador Miller said continuing these cooperative efforts is critical in preventing and countering threats to include drug and human trafficking, piracy, and other challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
"The ideals of sovereignty, open economies that transcend borders, and adherence to the rule of law we aspire to uphold through our mutual security cooperation.”
During the four-week exchange, 40 participants from the Bangladesh Navy’s elite Special Warfare Diving and Salvage (SWADS) unit and 10 participants from the Bangladesh Army’s Special Forces 1st Para-Commando Brigade exchanged techniques, procedures, and best practices with US and UK military members on small unit tactics and maritime tasks to increase interoperability among the three militaries.
Maritime exchange segments incorporated the use of the SWADS’ newly acquired Metal Shark boats, recently transferred from the United States to the Bangladesh Navy, ideal for operating in Bangladesh’s predominantly riverine and coastal landscape.
US Navy Special Operations elements exchanged tactics with the SWADS on vessel boarding, maritime navigation, and maneuvering.
Land-based training aspects focused on marksmanship, movement in urban areas, and medical first responder training.
The exchange further facilitated dialogue and partnership between the Bangladesh Army and Navy and will enhance future joint operations between the two military services.
The military relationship among Bangladesh, the UK, and the United States is vital for the security and stability of the Bay of Bengal and a testament to our three great countries’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee on Tuesday called on the Myanmar government to change course and embrace democracy and human rights during the presentation of her final report to the Human Rights Council.
“I urge the international community most strongly to support the ongoing international accountability initiatives and ensure that victims are placed at the center of all of these efforts,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Lee reported to the Council that the armed conflict between the Tatmadaw – the Myanmar armed forces - and the Arakan Army is well into its second year.
An internet blackout -- that was first imposed eight months ago -- once again extends to nine townships in northern Rakhine and southern Chin, affecting one million of mostly ethnic Rakhine people and seriously hampering humanitarian efforts and independent monitoring.
“When I took up my mandate in 2014, I had thought that by 2020 a rights-respecting democracy would have been firmly established in Myanmar. But devastation and tragedy transpired,” she said in a statement in a video conference from Seoul.
“Rather than a nation that protects human rights, I observe rights violations that continue to routinely occur and a country that stands accused of the most serious crimes under international law."
However, it is not too late for the country to change course and reorient itself to transform into a democracy that embraces human rights for all, the Special Rapporteur told the Human Rights Council.
Lee proposed that Myanmar undertake a national dialogue that is inclusive and firmly grounded in human rights to address ongoing issues including discrimination and inequality.
She also proposed ways to move towards an equal, tolerant and pluralistic society, including through victim-centered transitional justice mechanisms.
The UN expert highlighted the need to bring the entire Government and security forces under civilian control.
She called for wide-ranging reforms to develop modern institutions able to serve the people without discrimination.
She called for extensive legal reforms, including of the Constitution, land laws, the Citizenship Law and laws that violate fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and religion.
“An end to impunity is the lynchpin for Myanmar to succeed in its transition to democracy. Perpetrators of human rights violations and international crimes must be held accountable,” she stressed.
Lee said the Government must meet its responsibility to do so by reforming the justice system, ensuring judicial independence, removing systemic barriers to accountability and building judicial and investigatory capacity in accordance with international standards.
Students who protested the blackout were arrested in Yangon at the end of February. This week, Reuters news agency has become the latest media outlet to be the subject of a defamation claim by the Tatmadaw in relation to its reporting on the conflict.
“Once again the international community is watching on as the Tatmadaw displays its disregard for human life and its contempt for the values of humanity,” the expert said.
Lee told the Council that in the last few months, hundreds of Rohingya have been arrested for trying to flee Myanmar and charged with criminal offences. Some have been sentenced to prison for up to two years. “The Government denies their ongoing persecution, but what else would force them to make such a desperate choice?”
Lee said that the hard-fought democratic space that paved the way for the National League for Democracy to win an election and form a Government is under real threat. Draconian laws remain intact, stifling free expression and exchange of information. “Without decisive action from the Government, I fear these issues will be exacerbated by the elections later this year.”
People in rural areas are also being imprisoned for fighting back against the dispossession of their land as the Government enacts laws that favour the interests of business and developers while neglecting the rights of affected people, Lee said.
“For millions of people in Myanmar, subsistence farming based on traditional and communal practices is a way of life. But for many, this is becoming increasingly uncertain.”
Lee’s mandate finishes this April.
Bangladesh has requested Vietnam to initiate a process under the ASEAN framework for creating a civilian observer group who would monitor the return of the 1.1 million Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homeland Myanmar.
Vietnamese Ambassador to Bangladesh Pham Viet Chien on Tuesday met Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen at his office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and discussed the issue.
The Vietnamese Ambassador assured Bangladesh all out support on Rohingya issue.
Dr Momen welcomed the newly appointed Ambassador and recalled the warm and friendly bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Viet Nam.
He mentioned that Bangladesh and Vietnam are historically close to each other and both countries are bound by common culture, history and aspirations of people, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr Momen said that the common people of Bangladesh hold the freedom loving people of Viet Nam and its legendary leader Ho Chi Minh in high esteem.
The present government attaches utmost importance to Bangladesh’s relations with Viet Nam and is determined to take bilateral ties to a new height.
The Bangladesh Foreign Minister noted that as a non-permanent Member of UN Security Council Member as well as the current chair of the ASEAN Vietnam stands to play a crucial role in resolving the Rohingya crisis.
The Foreign Minister noted that Bangladesh-Vietnam two-way trade is not up to the actual potentials.
He suggested that Vietnam can procure from Bangladesh some unconventional items such as bicycles, light engineering products, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products particularly jute and jute products.
He sought Vietnam’s investments in the Special Economic Zones and Hi-tech Parks where attractive incentive packages are offered to the foreign investors.
Dr Momen pointed out that rate of return through investment in Bangladesh is one of the highest in the Asian region.
The Ambassador was highly appreciative of the tremendous development taking place in Bangladesh in the last one decade under leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He noted that both countries have set similar development goal which is to become developed countries around the middle of the present century. He viewed that in attaining the development goals there is a scope for both countries to join hands and implement programmes together.
Earlier in the day, the Ambassador also called on the State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam.
A couple who returned from Saudi Arabia early Tuesday was sent to a hospital with ‘respiratory problem’ after their arrival at Hazrat Shahajalal International Airport.
Shahriar Sazzad, health officer-in-charge of Health Centre at Hazrat Shahajalal International Airport said the couple was sent to the Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital as they complained of respiratory problem.
A son of the couple, who recently visited China, returned with them but he was allowed to go home from the airport, he said.
Earlier, two Bangladeshis, who recently returned from Italy, were tested positive for COVID-19. A third person was infected after coming in contact with one of the returnees.
On Monday, two other Italy-returnees were sent to Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital with the ‘symptoms of coronavirus ‘ after their arrival at Hazrat Shahajalal International Airport.
Besides, another Italy-returnee Bangladeshi was hospitalised with fever on Monday and kept in an isolation ward at Matlab Uttar Upazila Health Complex in Chandpur district.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Director Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora on Tuesday said the condition of the three patients diagnosed with COVID-19 is stable.
Eight people have so far been quarantined, she said at a regular press briefing at IEDCR, Mohakhali.
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak that began in China climbed to 3,830 till Monday. It has infected 110,071 people globally while 62,280 patients made recovery.