DHAKA: Bangladesh will honour some 500 foreigners, including 226 Indians, for their crucial support to the country's 1971 'Liberation War', as it marks the 40th Victory Day anniversary next year.
"The cabinet approved the proposal to accord reception to distinguished foreign nationals and organisations for their extraordinary contribution in our Liberation War," Abul Kalam Azad, the press secretary of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would be conferred with a special honour for her "immense" support for Bangladesh's independence, officials earlier said.
"Though we have already prepared a draft of the awardees but at this moment it is difficult to say what could be the size of the list," Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, who heads the committee, said yesterday.
A member of the committee on condition of anonymity said they were holding meetings for the past two days to prepare the citations and the list included 226 Indians and 40 Pakistanis.
" India backed us crucially during the Liberation War, but we also want to acknowledge the role of Pakistanis who defied the Pakistani junta risking their safety to support us," he said.
Apart from the late Indian Prime Minister, then Indian army chief, Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw and the army commander in India's eastern theatre, Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, figure in a list of eminent people to be honoured by Bangladesh.
The honour list includes eight Russians, 35 Britons, two Irishmen, five Australians, three Dutchmen, three Argentinians, eight Swiss, two Germans, 13 Frenchmen, three Butanese, 13 Japanese, two Sri Lankans and 15 Nepalese, a committee members was quoted as saying by bdnews24.com.
Former Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and painter M.F. Hussain are among living Indians to be honoured.
Other Indian recipients include former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, former defence minister Krishna Menon, former Congress leader Sachindra Lal Singha, diplomats D.P. Dhar, P.N. Dhar, film maker Satyajit Ray, singer Manna Dey, artist Bishnu Dey and singer Mohammad Rafi, the report said.
Those honoured will receive a 50 gram gold (18 carat) crest and an honourary citizenship of Bangladesh, the report said.
On March 26, 1971, Bangladesh - then East Pakistan - declared its independence from West Pakistan.
According to official figures, Pakistani troops, aided by local collaborators, killed an estimated 3 million people, raped about 200,000 women and forced millions more to leave their homes during the bloody nine-month guerrilla war.