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Bhutan was first to recognise Bangladesh as independent nation, not India

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Dhaka (Dec. 09, 2014): Bhutan was the first country and not India to recognise Bangladesh as an independent nation, Bangladeshi foreign secretary has said, ending decades-old speculation on the issue.

"Bhutan was the first country, there is no controversy about that," Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque told reporters on Monday amid fresh speculation in media here over the first foreign country to recognise Bangladesh after the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Haque said both Bhutan and India had recognised Bangladesh as an independent country on December 6, 1971 but Thimphu's announcement came hours ahead of India's official recognition.

Dhaka was liberated by joint forces of India and Bangladesh on December 16, 1971 with the unconditional surrender of Pakistani troops.

The clarification came as many debated over the years that Bhutan followed India's footstep in recognising Bangladesh as an independent country. The confusion arose afresh in mainstream and social media as Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay this week visited the country which is preparing to celebrate its 43rd Victory Day anniversary on December 16.

The foreign secretary, however, did not specify the time gap between the two countries in recognising Bangladesh.

India's recognition came three days after Indo-Pak war broke out on December 3, 1971 following the pre-emptive Pakistani airattack on Indian territory. Bangladesh won its independence on December 16 in 1971 after nine months of liberation war against Pakistan.

Soon after the Pakistani troops surrendered, the then Indian defence minister in Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's cabinet, Jagjivan Ram announced that Dhaka became the free capital of a free country.

"I have an announcement to make. The West Pakistani forces have unconditionally surrendered in Bangladesh...Dacca (now called Dhaka) is now the free capital of a free country," he had said after Pakistani troops laid down weapons in Dhaka conceding defeat to the Indo-Bangla joint forces after nine months of war.

India extended all out supports for the freedom fighters and accommodated nearly 10 million Bengali refugees who fled to evade Pakistani atrocities during the war.