By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Bangladeshi Ambassador to Mexico Abida Islam hosted a lavish, sit-down buffet luncheon for friends and colleagues at Mexico City’s María Isabel Sheraton Hotel on Thursday, March 31, to mark the 51st anniversary of her nation’s independence.
“In 2021, Bangladesh commemorated its Golden Jubilee of Independence, but due to the covid-19 pandemic, we could not celebrate that event,” Islam told her guests at the start of the luncheon.
However, with the global coronavirus pandemic now finally subsiding, the ambassador said that her government is giving special importance to the 51st anniversary of the country’s independence from Pakistan.
“On this auspicious occasion, I pay my deep respect to the millions of our fallen heroes, all our freedom-fighters — men, women and children — who helped make our present a reality,” she said.
Islam went on to praise Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh’s nine-month war for independence, a brutal struggle that cost the lives of more than 3 million people.
“Bangabandhu’s dream of a golden Bengal, a secular and prosperous Bangladesh, is now being translated into reality by his accomplished daughter, our present prime minister, Shiekh Hasina,” she said.
Elected to office three times in a row, Hasina is the longest serving prime minister in the history of Bangladesh and has taken a global position in promoting both women’s and children’s rights.
“Under (Hasina’s) dynamic and visionary leadership, Bangladesh has been one of the the fastest-growing economies in the world over the past decade, with an impressive track record of economic growth, poverty reduction and development, reinforced by a demographic dividend, a strong apparel sector, remittances sent by our expatriate brothers and sisters, and stable macroeconomic conditions,” Islam said.
She also pointed out that Bangladesh now ranks 32nd worldwide in terms of purchasing power parity, and is aspiring to become an upper-middle-income country by 2031.
One of the world’s top producers in rice, jute, vegetables, fruits and inland fisheries, Bangladesh likewise has, in a few short decades, gone from being a nation on the verge of mass starvation to a regional breadbasket.
And Islam noted that the country, already the third-largest export of apparel in the world, is rapidly moving forward in the pharmaceutical, leather, IT, electronics and shipbuilding industries.
In order to court further foreign investment, she said, Bangladesh is currently setting up 100 special economic zones and hi-tech parks.
Islam particularly stressed Bangladesh’s gender equality efforts, and underscored her government’s courageous efforts to provide shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees form Myanmar.
In terms of Bangladesh’s relationship with Mexico, Islam said that there has been growing cultural exchange, although combined two-way trade is limited to less than $340 million a year.
She said that the first-ever bilateral consultation between the two countries took place last November, and in February of this year, Bangladesh and Mexico signed a memorandum of understanding to broaden diplomatic cooperation.
The event included a performance of traditional Bangladeshi music by singer Fahmida Nabi and displays of the South Asian nation’s handicrafts,
As the event’s special guest of honor, Mexican Federal Deputy Rosalina Domínguez Flores, president of the Mexico-Bangladesh Parliamentary Friendship Group, also spoke, outlining the historical and political similarities between the two countries, particularly in efforts to promote gender equality.