ISSN 2330-717X

A Golden Chance For Pakistan – OpEd

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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed has invited Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Bangladesh. She was talking to Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh Imran Ahmed Siddiqui during their meeting in Dhaka on October 25. Pakistan PM Imran Khan should utilize this golden opportunity to visit to Bangladesh for strengthening ties. 

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina on October 25, 2021 reiterated her government’s desire for stronger trade ties and economic collaboration with Pakistan. And that is the peak of the practice. Recent relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh from 2013-2020 are not good, but in the changed situation, this time the opponent, Bangladesh invited Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan should pave the way to smooth the strained ties. Policy makers of Pakistan should visit Bangladesh as soon as possible to pave the way.

Recent incidents in Bangladesh surrounding the violent acts during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja have indeed created some distance between New Delhi and Dhaka. This followed issues like India’s National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act, which had already caused tension between Bangladesh and India. Delay in the resolution of long-pending issues like the signing of the Teesta water-sharing deal despite Dhaka’s persistent demands, killing of civilians across the Bangladesh border, as also the onion crisis have sowed some distrust between the two longtime friends. Pakistan should and must utilize this opportunity.

Relations with Pakistan were strained almost seven years ago over the trial of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 war of liberation. Pakistan then opposed the trial. Against this background, the two countries reciprocally expelled diplomats for non-diplomatic behavior. The post of Pakistan High Commissioner in Dhaka was vacant for almost two years from February 2016. High Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui came to Dhaka in January last year after the Bangladesh government approved ‘Agrimo’ (letter of credence). He met the Prime Minister for the second time on October 2021 after taking charge.

Bangladesh-Pakistan relations have been deteriorating since 2009. Relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate. However, from 2020, Islamabad-Dhaka began to come closer. And then this invitation seems to be quite significant. 

Yes, such an incident has taken place in the diplomatic context of the world. Which is now being practiced in the international arena. A few days ago, Imran Khan also invited Sheikh Hasina to visit Pakistan. The influential Hindustan Times of India published a report in the Bengali edition on October 28, 2021. Earlier, in a meeting with the Prime Minister on December 3, he also expressed Pakistan’s interest in advancing relations with Bangladesh. 

Pakistan wants to improve relations with Bangladesh. The country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has sent a message to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. A few months ago, President Arif Alvi ordered the Pak Envoy Imran to bolster the ties between Pakistan and Bangladesh during the meeting in March, 2021. Prime Minister Imran Khan had in July, 2021 spoken to his Bangladesh counterpart over the phone and expressed his government’s desire to “deepen fraternal relations on the basis of mutual trust, mutual respect and sovereign equality”. Then there was Pakistan and Bangladesh’s mango diplomacy towards each other in July and August month in 2021.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Dhaka Imran Ahmed Siddiqui handed over the message to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Ganobhaban on October 25, 2021. On the other hand, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted Bangladesh’s policy of maintaining good relations and friendship with all. He said Bangladesh’s foreign policy formulated by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is ‘friendship with all, not enmity with anyone’.

On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Independence and the Year of Mujib, Bangladesh last March invited the leaders of India, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka except Pakistan to Dhaka. However, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan sent a video message on the occasion. Now PM Hasina Wazed herself has invited PM Imran to visit in Bangladesh. PM Imran Khan and policy makers of Pakistan should understand the geopolitical scenario in the region. They should utilize this opportunity because Pakistan needs Bangladesh. Pakistan needs Bangladesh’s support in common international regional forum. Bangladesh is going to South Asian economic star. Increasing trade ties with Bangladesh would beneficial for Pakistan. However, Pakistan needs friend in the region.

After meeting the High Commissioner of Pakistan with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has told the High Commissioner that South Asian countries should be freed from the curse of hunger and illiteracy and work for the welfare of the people of the region. Pakistan and Bangladesh with other regional countries should work bilaterally in this regard.

The High Commissioner handed over an original copy of the message of the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to Sheikh Hasina. He also gifted a photo album, painting and video footage of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s visit to Pakistan as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to attend the 1974 summit of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC).

The Prime Minister thanked the High Commissioner for handing over the historical monument of Bangabandhu. The Prime Minister commended the publication of a calligraphy book in Bengali, Pakistan on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence. Ambassador at Large Mohammad Ziauddin and Chief Secretary to the Prime Minister. Ahmed Kaikaus was present at the time. According to the Pakistan High Commission, High Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui thanked the Prime Minister for supporting the implementation of his diplomatic mandate in Bangladesh.

Expressing hope for further development of Pakistan’s bilateral relations with Bangladesh, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Dhaka Imran Ahmed Siddiqui said his country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had invited Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit Islamabad. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has accepted the invitation. The visit will encourage the two countries to work for mutual benefit and deep understanding.

Everyone is monitoring at whether Imran Khan accepted the invitation. India in particular is looking into the matter. However, Sheikh Hasina did not announce any date for the visit. Sheikh Hasina is optimistic about strengthening trade relations with Pakistan.

If Pakistan visits Bangladesh this time, there may be various agreements which would be mutual beneficial for both states. By forming an alliance, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan can work closely for ensuring the greater interest of triad to some extent for the region. Pakistan can offer Bangladesh to utilize Gwadar port and CPEC. Pakistan would be able to resolve the bilateral problems between Bangladesh and Pakistan. Pakistan should fulfill the demand of Bangladesh. Pakistan should formally apologize to Bangladesh for the atrocities committed by Pakistan during the liberation war period in Bangladesh. Because Pakistan has a lot of responsibilities towards Bangladesh. Bilateral relations will be possible if Pakistan seeks formal apology to Bangladesh. However, Pakistan should utilize this golden opportunity for their own interest. PM Imran Khan should visit to Bangladesh as soon as possible. Pakistan should remember and think that opportunity doesn’t come again and again.

The article was first appeared in Pakistan’s leading daily ‘Pakistan Today’

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Pathik Hasan

Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka-based NGO activist, researcher and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS (Peace and Conflict Studies) and MSS (International Relations) under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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