Bangladesh’s Close Relationship With Pakistan Is Absolutely Necessary – OpEd
Pakistan and Bangladesh are two countries in the South Asian region. Once upon a time, Pakistan and the former East Pakistan i.e. today’s Bangladesh were a full provincial state called Pakistan, which was born in the partition of 1947. In 1971, Pakistan broke into pieces and a new country was born – Bangladesh. The name ‘East Pakistan’ is erased forever. Despite independence from Pakistan through a civil war, Bangladesh’s then president, the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in 1974 arranged for Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to be given a red carpet reception in Dhaka. In the reality of the day, the incident was criticized by many as the foundation of a new state. Again arguments were presented in favor of the tour. In the same year, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with Tajuddin Ahmad attended the OIC conference held in Pakistan, ignoring the objections of the Indian government and opened the way for improving relations with the Muslim world. Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in February 1974. Subsequent governments took relations with Pakistan further, but to a limited extent. In 1980, Pakistan sold F-6 fighter jets and some tanks to Bangladesh.
Relations with Pakistan had gained a new dimension during the current government. But the autocratic Bangladesh government must come out from their narrow pandora box on the Pakistan issue. Since the ruling Awami League has always played anti-Pakistan politics, it is natural to have a separate appeal for building relations with Pakistan during its tenure. On January 29, 2020, a news item was published in the Urdu edition of Pakistan’s widely circulated Jang newspaper urging Pakistani businessmen to invest in Bangladesh. The news says about Tariq Ahsan, High Commissioner of Bangladesh appointed to Pakistan: We want Pakistan to invest in Bangladesh. There are ample investment opportunities for Pakistanis in Bangladesh’s garment sector. On July 20, 2020, the Bengali edition of South Asian Monitor published an article titled ‘Pakistan’s Diplomatic Initiatives in Re-alignment with Bangladesh’. It is said that Pakistan has quietly started trying to reorganize its relations with Bangladesh. This initiative has been taken as an opportunity to re-establish relations between the two countries in the context of some specific events in the region. The current regional environment has created an environment for renewed relations between Islamabad and Dhaka. On July 23 of the same year, another news titled ‘Silent Diplomacy: Rare phone conversation between Pakistan and Bangladesh Prime Minister’ was published in Asian Monitor. It is said that Pakistan and Bangladesh have started silent diplomatic efforts between themselves. The news, citing diplomatic sources, said that the two sides are trying to mend their troubled relations due to the current regional security environment. Pakistan High Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui held a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in Dhaka in a rare instance. The meeting has raised eyebrows in New Delhi and is eyeing developments with suspicion. The Bangladesh government described the meeting as a ‘courtesy meeting’. But sources said, there are many more factors behind it. Many people believe that the telephone conversation between Imran and Hasina is the result of this meeting. The two Prime Ministers of Pakistan and Bangladesh spoke on the telephone. This is a rare development in the diplomacy of the two countries, especially when both countries are trying to resolve their differences. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “Pakistan is committed to deepening brotherly relations with Bangladesh on the basis of mutual trust, mutual respect and sovereign equality.” The statement from Prime Minister Khan’s office said this. Then Prime Minister Imran Khan invited Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit Pakistan.
Another important point here is the role of Pakistan in 1971. The issue has been a bone of contention in the relations between the two countries till date. The issue was settled during the founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s tenure when Bhutto visited Bangladesh in 1974.
On June 29, 1974, the New York Times, published in the United States, published a news article entitled Bhutto Regrets ÔCrimes’ of 1971. Next day i.e. 30 June they published another news called Bhutto Apologizes. It is said there: Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan last week asked forgiveness from the Bengali people for atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army during the struggle for independence. (Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto apologized to the Bengali people for the atrocities committed by the Pakistani army during the freedom struggle last week.) Later on the news was written: In a dinner speech tonight Sheikh Mujib said, ÔLet us forget the enmity and bitterness of the past and inaugurate a new chapter of hope and prosperity for our people.
(In a dinner address tonight, Sheikh Mujib said, ‘Let us forget the enmity and bitterness of the past and usher in a new chapter of hope and prosperity for our people.’) Some dissenters say, not so, that the Pakistan government should issue a formal apology. I think, in the larger interest and considering the strategic aspects of Bangladesh, it needs to understand the importance of bilateral discussions as well as relations. Because one has to be careful, the curry is overcooked or under-cooked – in the shadow of that controversy, the scheming third power cannot absorb everything.
It must be remembered that the current political outlook, whether national or international, is far more advanced and pragmatic for strategic reasons. The culture of holding back is dead these days. Those who are more adept and tactful on the question of national interest and are able to move swiftly on the diplomatic path – they are the ones who are able to open the door to new possibilities. It can be said here that Pakistan’s diplomacy is more advanced than India’s. Where India fails to breach the fence of its backwardness; Unable to surmount complex bureaucratic hurdles, Pakistan succeeds in pushing through the hurdles. So today Pakistan is eager to break the inertia and build relations with Bangladesh; Bangladesh could not stay away there. If India is not able to understand the issue, simply put, it will not be able to survive on the field of Bangladesh near Pakistan. India is Bangladesh’s big neighbor; Relationships with them will be permanently strained – Bangladeshi majority people don’t want that at all. They have to come out of the Nehru theory of elder brotherly behavior and swallowing the smaller neighbors. Only then will India be able to survive in the modern diplomatic competition. Undoubtedly, the chapter that Pakistan is about to embark on in its efforts to build relations with Bangladesh and Bangladesh with Pakistan, if successful, will definitely lay the foundation stone for a liberal and pragmatic politics in the South Asian region. The Prime Ministers of both countries can at least be thanked for this. At least the Prime Minister of Bangladesh can say that she is carrying the responsibility of carrying forward the relationship that his late father started in 1974.
Is Pakistan’s normal or close relationship with Bangladesh is absolutely necessary? The question cannot be asked by realists. Because when a person is thirsty, the question is whether water is absolutely necessary. To understand the value of the state of Pakistan, it is necessary to understand the importance of Pakistan in South Asian politics and international politics. Pakistan-China-Afghanistan-Turkey connection is very important for Bangladesh now. Needless to say, the connection has grown in importance since the Taliban came to power. Pakistan needs to enter Afghanistan. Everyone agrees that the Afghanistan of the future will be a huge labor market and investment area for foreigners. Bangladesh will pay a heavy price if it fails to seize the opportunity here early. Then there are China and Turkey. China is there, Turkey can be its other important military and development partner or partner. After all, Pakistan is an emerging country in the military industry; Exporting heavy weapons especially – modern warplanes and tanks. All in all, the relationship with Pakistan is now an important plus point for Bangladesh.
Mohammad Masud Rana, researcher and writer.