PAKISTAN-Bangladesh relations have been going through a decidedly cool phase, particularly since Sheikh Hasina Wajed began her second term as prime minister in 2009. Perhaps the biggest irritant has been the ‘war crimes’ tribunal set up by the Bangladeshi leader to re-examine the events of 1971. However, the ice appears to have been broken as Prime Minister Imran Khan made his first call to Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday, calling for improved ties between both South Asian states. “Pakistan is committed to deepening fraternal relations with Bangladesh,” Mr Khan told his counterpart, adding that there needed to be regular bilateral and people-to-people exchanges.
Compared to the acrimony of the recent past, the prime minister’s move to improve ties with Dhaka should be lauded. While the events of 1971 continue to cast a shadow over the relationship, there is a need to move forward in a spirit of conciliation and friendship. Despite the tragic events that led to the loss of this country’s eastern wing, both Pakistan and Bangladesh share a common history and many aspects of culture. There is a need to come to terms with the past, and look to a better future for the people of both countries. There are hostile regional elements that will not want to see cordial ties between Islamabad and Dhaka. But vitriol and propaganda perpetrated by those who seek to play the hegemon in South Asia should not be allowed to thwart any attempt at strengthening ties. Efforts to improve relations with neighbouring and regional states requires countries to look to the future and put behind them painful memories. Instead of summoning the demons of the past, let Islamabad and Dhaka work together to bring peace, prosperity and progress to their people and all of South Asia. This can only happen when both sides work on a relationship of trust and respect, and ignore the mischievous efforts of third parties to derail ties. Mr Khan’s olive branch should not be given short shrift.
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2020