Sheikh Hasina honoured with Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace

Sheikh Hasina honoured with Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace

President Pratibha Patil presents the 2009 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

"We want to have good and friendly relations with all our neighbours. We must work for a South Asia where peace, harmony and progress will prevail. Till we achieve this, our struggle will continue," she said after accepting the prestigious award from President Pratibha Patil.

Recalling her association with Indira Gandhi, an emotional Hasina referred to the gruesome assassination of her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and 18 other family members and said, "We had nowhere to go at that time. Our government then did not allow us to return to our homeland."

"It was Indira Gandhi who gave us shelter. We took political asylum and stayed in Delhi for six years," she said, adding that Indira Gandhi was "truly like our mother".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Bangladesh's voice was today heard with respect in the international fora and India was honouring "not only a great daughter of Bangladesh but a distinguished world leader."

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi said a peaceful, secular and democratic Bangladesh was India's "wish and hope and we have no doubt that under your (Hasina) leadership it will be realised." The award carries a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh and a citation.

"It is really a great honour to get the award instituted in the name of a great leader. I do not know whether I am worthy of this," the 62-year-old Hasina told the gathering at Rashtrapati Bhavan which included several union ministers, diplomats and MPs including Rahul Gandhi.

Hasina, who was given the 2009 award for her "outstanding contribution to the promotion of democracy and pluralism", said India and Bangladesh were neighbours committed to peace as was conceived by Indira Gandhi.

While India succeeded largely due to the strength of democracy nurtured by great visionary leaders, Bangladesh's progress was "frustrated by frequent intervention of undemocratic forces," the Bangladesh premier said.

She said she was determined to "free my people from the shackles of poverty and my country from the scourge of terrorism. I also consider it my duty to uphold human rights and the rule of law."

Giving away the award, the President said both India and Bangladesh were committed to strengthening bilateral relations and determined to forge stronger bonds of cooperation and trust.

"We seek to forge greater trade, investment and cultural exchanges. We also face common challenges which require close cooperation with each other," Patil said, adding that Hasina had left "an indelible imprint on her country's growth and development."

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