Bilateral ties between Pakistan and Bangladesh are gradually moving ahead, reviving hope of a cordial relationship between the two countries. The recent meeting between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid and Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the country, Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, became another crucial turning point in the relationship that had faced a deadlock since the past decade. It was the second official meeting between the two in the span of 11-months. In the meeting, Hasina reiterated her government’s desire for ‘stronger trade ties and economic collaboration with Pakistan’. The BD premier had also recently accepted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s invitation to visit Pakistan, which was sent last July.
As this country prepares for her visit, Islamabad and Dhaka should look forward than dwell in the painful past. After all, the relationship between the two neighbouring countries had come at a standstill following the beginning of Hasina’s second tenure as the premier in 2009 and the resumption of trials of the 1971 ‘war crimes’. Pakistan has long moved forward from the 1971 debacle, following the signing of the tripartite agreement in April 1974 for the repatriation of war prisoners. Since then, it isn’t in Islamabad’s political interest to look back at the chapter of fall of Dhaka. But it is in the interest of the two countries to work towards strengthening their fraternal ties for the betterment of the entire region of South Asia. Especially considering the dent in the relationship between New Delhi and Dhaka that came after India enacted the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act last year. This means that hundreds of Bangladeshis who had moved to that country, following the 1971 war, could be sent back home. This is a potential refugee crisis that Bangladesh isn’t equipped to handle.
In Pakistan, Bangladesh has the opportunity to maintain the economic growth it has witnessed under the reign of PM Hasina. Considering its strengthening ties with China, Dhaka can use the Gwadar port and enter the CPEC project. Moreover, it can also work with Pakistan to revive Saarc – a regional bloc that has been married with political disputes among member countries. In the recent past, we have witnessed the importance of friendly regional relations to strengthen one’s position in the global chessboard. Bangladesh and Pakistan too, along with China, should work towards achieving this, especially at a time when the situation in Afghanistan can be exploited by the West to put pressure on South Asia.