Sonia Gandhi, daughter-in-law of the late Indian prime minister, received the citation from President Zillur Rahman at Bangabhaban.
"Her role was so seminal, so singular and so comprehensive that she is in a category by herself. She internalised our issues," Dipu Moni said on Monday at a ceremony where Indira was awarded the highest civilian honour Swadhinata Sommanona (Bangladesh Freedom Honour), posthumously.
Indira also drew the attention of the world to end a problem that was not just an internal issue of Pakistan but also that of the world community, she said.
"She foresaw the eventuality of war. She decided to stand by our most fundamental cause — the right to self-determination. In order to do that, she needed to 'mobilize' the world. And so she did, in the era of the Cold War."
"It is a great day in our own history that we are able to recognize the unequalled role played by Indira Gandhi," she observed.
The prime minister said, "Indira Gandhi raised consensus across the world for Bangladesh. We will remember the contribution of India in the Liberation War."
She also paid homage to the martyrs of Indian army during the war.
Born on Nov 19, 1917, Indira was assassinated on Oct 31, 1984. She was elected prime minister four times from 1966 until her assassination.
During the 1971 war, besides accommodating Bangladeshi refugees, India also extended diplomatic and military assistance to the interim Mujibnagar government.
Indira also played a key role in the global arena for winning recognition to Bangladesh after the war. She visited several countries to campaign for Bangladesh despite protests from the US.
Daughter of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira also facilitated the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first president of independent Bangladesh.
The president in his speech said, "It's an occasion that would certainly be written in golden letters in the history of both the nations."
Calling Indira a 'towering personality', he said her "contribution in our War of Liberation was very distinct, critical and singular. By her political wisdom and vision, she influenced the course of history and fate of generations."
In her brief speech, Sonia recalled Indira and said that she was proud to receive the award, which was for the whole of India, not for Indira alone. “
We all Bangladeshi appreciate the decision of awarding Smt. Indira Gandhi, PM of India in 1971 because of her role as an ally in Bangladesh’s war of independence. It shows close proximity of two histories, Indian and Bangladeshi.
We all know that “Indira faced several challenges both within and outside India. So there she was, guiding India to its finest hour. She had reined in her squabbling bureaucrats and generals and put them under one flag. She effectively neutralized the US moves and ensured that China couldn’t do much even if they wanted to. She organized Russian support for her cause and later at the UN to forestall a Cease Fire resolution before the war was won. She made sure she won the war.”
The award will definitely distinguish her contribution, her place in history and her capability to mange such a complicated regional war which has inputted so much into the birth of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh will not forget her sacrifice and her memory keeps our independence radiant. Each one of us wishes “ may God bestow his Love on her”.