Bangladesh today conferred its second highest award on President Pranab Mukherjee for his valuable contribution to the country's liberation war in 1971.
"Your support towards our War of Liberation in 1971 was for the cause of humanity and justice... your support gave us courage and motivation," President Zillur Rahman said after handing over a crest of 'Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sanmanona' (Liberation War award) to Mukherjee at a ceremony at the Darbar Hall in the Presidential Palace (Bangabhaban) here this evening.
Mukherjee, 77, received the crest amid a standing ovation of more than 200 local and foreign dignitaries including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The President responded to the honour by saying "I feel humble as I receive this prestigious award and I feel that my contribution was modest".
"As I stand here tonight, I am filled with memories of the events of 1971. I was 36-years-old and an MP when the people of Bangladesh engaged themselves in their liberation struggle," he added.
He recalled that on June 15, 1971 he had the privilege to initiate a discussion at Rajya Sabha when he suggested that India should accord recognition to Bangladesh exile government.
Mukherjee said India has an abiding interest in the all-around development of Bangladesh.
However, the full potential of our cooperation is yet to be tapped, he said.
"Our endeavour will be to see how our bilateral cooperation can bring sustained benefits to our people and improve the quality of their lives. This will be the litmus test of the success of our relationship," he said.
Hasina described Mukherjee as "a real friend" of Bangladesh who "braving all obstacles from different quarters stood beside us when the war was waged at the call of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and played a big role in mobilising support of the international community for our independence."
"As a nation, it's an immense pride for us to have opportunity to confer the 'Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sammanona' on you." she said.