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Bangladesh celebrates 40 years of independence

 Photo by: South-South News

Content by: South-South News

29 March 2011, New York, USA | Connor Schratz - Fireworks and vibrantly covered balloons over Dhaka this weekend were signs of the fortieth anniversary of independence for Bangladesh, celebrated within the nation and among Bangladeshi nationals all over the world. 

Bangladesh declared its independence on March 26, 1971, after twenty four years of unity with Pakistan following the dissolution of the British Raj in 1947. This declaration was not accepted by the government of Pakistan, which led to a nine month long war now called the War of Bangladesh Liberation. Bangladeshi forces eventually won, and Bangladesh was recognized internationally in December, 1971.

Celebrations were held throughout Bangladesh, with parades and speeches by political leaders, many of whom played a part in the nation’s independence movement. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan – the first nation to formally recognize Bangladesh independence – came to Dhaka to meet with President Zillur Rahman and congratulate him on his country’s milestone.

Large Bangladeshi expatriate communities around the world also took the opportunity to celebrate their native country’s achievement. Rich Mix, an arts center based in the Bethnal Green section of London, hosted an eight day celebration of Bangladeshi culture and art, culminating in the a viewing of a new documentary called “Bangladesh 40: A Golden Age,” which told the lead up to and effects of the 1971 war.

In New York, the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations sponsored a reception for diplomats and citizens at their headquarters. Ambassador Abulkalam Abdul Momen and his wife Selina Momen greeted ambassadors and statesmen from around the world, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I congratulate your independence and wish you continued success and prosperity, and further development under the leadership of [Prime Minister] Sheikh Hasina Wazed,” the Secretary-General told the Ambassador. 

Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri of India, the country with which Bangladesh shares almost its entire land border, also congratulated Bangladesh on its independence and its historical achievements. At Monday night’s reception, he told South-South News that “the national day of Bangladesh is an occasion when the admirers of Bangladesh, the friends of Bangladesh, gather here to give Bangladesh the best of wishes, to celebrate Bangladesh’s success, and to wish it peace, stability, and prosperity.”

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While Bangladesh has met considerable success in its years as an independent nation, it also faces severe problems. Roughly 40% of the people of Bangladesh live below the poverty line. This problem is intensified by overpopulation. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with almost 1,100 people per square kilometer. Perhaps the most dangerous facing Bangladesh is climate change. Situated at the base of the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is subject to annual monsoon flooding and cyclones, which have ravaged the country in recent years.

Even with these considerable setbacks, Bangladesh continues to grow and develop as a nation. Ambassador Momen was proud of his country’s growth in recent years. “Once we were known as a bottomless basket,” he said. “Now, we have become a model for developing countries.” The poverty rate in Bangladesh has declined about 20% since the early 1990’s, and the inflation adjusted GDP has doubled since 1975. World investment firms have taken notice of Bangladesh’s potential. Goldman Sachs categorized the country as a “Next Eleven,” or one of the eleven developing countries around the world poised to become economic leaders in the twenty first century. In February 2011, Citigroup labeled Bangladesh a “Global Growth Generator,” meaning that the country holds the potential for profitable returns on international investment there. These indicators are signs of a bright future in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s history as an independent nation has been tumultuous. Enviable progress in human and economic development has been tempered by severe natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Now, forty years after declaring their independence, Bangladesh looks to the future with optimism, and the knowledge that the people of Bangladesh have all the skills necessary to govern themselves as a free, autonomous nation.

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