HIGH Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui in conversation with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.
HIGH Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui in conversation with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Bangladesh are likely to revive their bilateral mechanisms to take their ties forward, a diplomatic source said on Thursday after Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh Imran Ahmed Siddiqui called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed in Dhaka.

It was a rare meeting between Pakistan’s envoy and the Bangladeshi prime minister because of the once frosty ties between the two countries, which have witnessed major improvements this year.

“The two sides agreed to further strengthen the existing fraternal relations between the two countries,” the High Commission said in a statement.

Pakistan and Bangladesh have multiple bilateral mechanisms, but most have been suspended for years. It is being expected that a dialogue between the countries’ foreign secretaries, which has not happened for about 12 years, may resume in the near future.

Pakistan’s envoy meets Bangladeshi premier in Dhaka

The source, who had been briefed about the meeting, said Prime Minister Wajed stressed the need for strengthening bilateral ties. She, moreover, wished the people of Pakistan well and assured the high commissioner of her “full support” in discharge of his official duties.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had in July 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”.

According to the statement, High Commissioner Siddiqui during the meeting conveyed the message of goodwill and friendship from Mr Khan to Ms Wajed, which she reciprocated with her greetings and good wishes for the leadership of Pakistan.

“The High Commissioner informed Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Hasina that the government and the people of Pakistan held the Bangladeshi leadership and people in high esteem and affection. The prime minister expressed good wishes for the people of Pakistan,” it added.

Pakistan has this year consistently pushed for improving ties with Bangladesh. Observers were caught by surprise when Mr Siddiqui in July met Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen despite hostile political rhetoric and unfriendly bureaucracy.

Pak-Bangladesh relationship, it should be recalled, took a nosedive after Ms Wajed started her second tenure as prime minister in 2009 as she resumed the so-called 1971 ‘war crimes’ trial.

Pakistan has always considered the bitter 1971 dismemberment of the country as a closed chapter in view of the tripartite agreement signed in April 1974 for the repatriation of war prisoners.

Ms Wajed’s father and Bangladesh’s founding father Mujibur Rehman had after the accord agreed that in the interest of regional peace, no one would be put on trial for alleged crimes committed during the 1971 war. But Ms Wajed was bent on reviving the ghosts of 1971.

She was further emboldened with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming to power in India and Pak-Bangladesh ties went from one low to another, according to analysts.

The developments in Pak-Bangladesh ties come in the backdrop of Delhi-Dhaka ties turning lukewarm following the enactment of controversial Citizenship Amendment Act last year. Moreover, growing Chinese influence in Dhaka has also brought Pakistan and Bangladesh closer.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2020

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