In a historic recognition spreading over two years, Bangladesh concluded giving awards to its ‘foreign friends’ who played a crucial role for her independence 42 years ago.

In the seventh and last phase of recognition, the country this week honoured more than 60 foreign dignitaries and organisations, including 44 from India. The process began on July 25, 2011.

In all a total of 338 foreign nationals and organisations, mostly from India, were felicitated for supporting the nation’s liberation war against Pakistan.

The former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the first among prominent foreign friends who was given posthumously the highest state honour — Bangladesh Freedom Honour. Her daughter-in-law and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, received the award in Dhaka on her behalf. President Pranab Mukherjee received the award in February this year.

On October 1, the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honour’ was conferred on the former Indian President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, and the former Prime Minister, Gulzarilal Nanda.

V.K. Krishna Menon was one of the prominent recipients of the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honour’ for his contribution to the country’s independence as the Defence Minister of India. The award was received by Radha Anand Menon, grand niece of Menon, from Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Ms. Radha and her husband Anand Menon were in Dhaka to receive the award as guest of Bangladesh government.

Four award recipients were each from Pakistan and the U.S., two each from the U.K., Japan and Egypt, and one each from Sri Lanka and Turkey. The State accolades were given in two categories — ‘Bangladesh Liberation War Honour’ and ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour.

These friends extended all possible help to Bangladesh refugees and freedom fighters providing them food, humanitarian relief, medical facilities, military training, access to global media, generation of public opinion and mobilisation of financial assistance.

Mr. Hamid expressed deep gratitude to the foreign nationals and organisations. “We know, we have not been able to confer honour to many of our friends who had sacrificed a lot for the independence of Bangladesh,” he said. “But they silently stood beside us during the war.”

Ms. Hasina sought global support to accomplish the war crimes trial, to try those who had perpetrated crimes against humanity as cohorts of the Pakistani Army. She told the foreign guests that her government was determined to complete the trial of war criminals in a fair, neutral and transparent manner to bring an end to the culture of impunity.

The prominent Indian nationals who received “Friends of Liberation War Honour” in the concluding phase were, among others, Air Vice Marshal Swaroop Krishna Kaul, Maj. Gen. Lachhman Singh Lehl, film actor Waheeda Rehman, Zainal Abedin, Biswajit R. Chatterjee, Gouri Ghosh, Shakti Chattapadhaya, Pannalal Dasgupta, Shaheed Capt. Manmohan Sagor Duggal, Asghar Ali, Snehangshu Kanta Acharyya, Somnath Hore, Maulana Syed Asad Madni, Suchitra Mitra, Kulwant Singh Pannu, Kishore Parekh, Subhash Mukhopadhaya, Samar Sen, Shaheed Subedar Mailkiat Singh, Sukhdev Singh Sanhu and Tapishwar Narain Raina.

One of the award recipients, Swaroop Krishna Kaul, a retired Indian Air Chief Marshal, led a fleet of aircraft which bombed the Government House in Dhaka on December 15, 1971, where Pakistani General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi was holding a meeting with his officials. The surprise attack played an important role leading to the historic surrender of the Pakistani forces to the India-Bangladesh Joint Command on December 16, 1971.