The prime minister said none will deny that a huge part of the population in South Asia is still living below the poverty line, of which a large number of people are still going to bed every night with half-stomach or no food.

“Even many people are deprived of the minimum necessities of the life,” she noted.

Sheikh Hasina said it is possible to alleviate poverty of the people of South Asia by ensuring optimum utilization of the natural resources that are naturally endowed in this region.

The premier vowed to turn South Asia into a poverty-free developed region through friendly relations and cooperation of all countries.

“We’ll continue our strides to transform South Asia into a poverty-free developed and prosperous region by maintaining friendly ties with each other,” she said.

Paying glowing tributes to Bangabandhu, Sheikh Hasina said he had always fought for the freedom of the people under exploitation and deprivation as well as always vocal for establishing basic human rights and wanted the people of independent Bangladesh to be economically self-reliant.

“He (Bangabandhu) was on a mission to ensure basic rights like food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and education for all. But, it was very unfortunate that the progress of Bangladesh came to a halt after his assassination with most of his family members by the killers on 15th August ,1975,” she said.

Referring to the journey of the last 12 years of the present government, the premier said: “We’ve been tracking through the path guided by the Father of the Nation.”

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has achieved tremendous successes beyond imagination in all socio-economic indicators, and last month, it received a final recommendation to graduate from a least developed country to developing country status.

The prime minister congratulated the government of Nepal and its people as the country also received a final recommendation to step-up to a developing country status with Bangladesh simultaneously.

“Excellent friendly relations have existed between our two countries since independence. . . we uphold similar views on various regional and international issues,” she said.

Stating that Nepal is a very close neighbor and friendly country, Sheikh Hasina said during Bangladesh’s great liberation war in 1971, the then government of Nepal and its people extended a helping gesture to the freedom-loving Bengalis in various ways, including providing weapons to the freedom fighters.

The premier said Nepal was among the first-phase countries to recognize independent and sovereign Bangladesh which formally did it in January 1972.

“We gratefully remember the contribution of the people of Nepal. In reciprocity of their contribution to our war of Independence, we honored 11 Nepali citizens with the ‘Friends of Bangladesh’ award in 2012 and 2013 respectively,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina said cooperation between Bangladesh and Nepal in the fields of trade, road-rail-air connectivity, power-energy particularly hydropower, tourism, and water management is boosting day by day.

Citing the signing of the BBIN agreement and providing access to Nepal by Bangladesh in using its Syedpur Regional Airport as well as Mongla and Chittagong Seaports, she said mutual cooperation between the countries of the region will be strengthened further.

“On behalf of myself, my younger sister Sheikh Rehana and the people of Bangladesh, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the honourable President of Nepal for attending the occasion,” she said.

“The presence of the Nepalese President has added more beauty and more honour to the event,” she said.

“Our gratitude to all of them,” the prime minister said, extending her heartfelt thanks to those who sent greetings and video messages on this auspicious occasion.