Bangladesh will confer the Friends of Bangladesh Award on a retired Indian Army officer for his outstanding contributions in the 1971 war. Colonel Ashok Tara, now retired from service, rescued Sheikh Hasina, who is now Prime Minister, her mother Begum Fajilatunnesa Mujib, her sister Sheikh Rehana and her brother Sheikh Rasel from a house in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi where they were held captive by Pakistani military throughout the nine months of the country’s liberation war. A team led by Colonel Tara rescued them on December 17, a day after the Pakistani Army surrendered to the joint Bangladesh-India command in Dhaka.

Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuyan said the award was decided on Monday at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hasina.

Earlier this year, the Hasina government prepared a list of 561 “foreign friends” to be honoured. The highest national award, the ‘Bangladesh Freedom Honour’, was awarded to Indira Gandhi for her role in the country’s liberation. In March this year, the government conferred awards to a total of 83 individuals, institutions and organisations in two categories — the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour and the Friends of Liberation War Honour. The maximum number of individual awardees, 31, were from India followed by 15 from the United States, seven from the former Soviet Union, five from the United Kingdom, three from Japan, two from Germany and one each from Nepal, Bhutan, the former Yugoslavia, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark.

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