ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has said Pakistan is keen to improve ties with Bangladesh and called for utilising all avenues for improving the bilateral relationship.
Talking to Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh Imran Siddiqui, who had called on him at the Presidency on Tuesday, Dr Alvi said: “Pakistan highly values its ties with Bangladesh and wants to further expand cooperation by using the existing bilateral mechanisms.”
Mr Siddiqui had been called from Dhaka by the government for consultations on Bangladesh’s golden jubilee celebrations. Bangladesh is holding its golden jubilee celebrations from March 17 to 27.
Heads of states and governments from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives have been invited to the celebrations.
President Alvi wished Bangladesh well on its golden jubilee.
Mr Siddiqui briefed the president on various initiatives taken by Pakistan for improving the relationship with Bangladesh after years of frosty ties.
Last year saw a major improvement and Prime Minister Hasina Wajed met Mr Siddiqui. Islamabad, meanwhile, removed all restrictions on Pakistani visas for Bangladeshi citizens.
Pakistan and Bangladesh have multiple bilateral mechanisms, including foreign secretary-level consultations and Joint Economic Commission, but most have been suspended for years. It is being expected that foreign secretaries’ dialogue, which has not taken place for about 12 years, may resume in the near future.
President Alvi called for using all bilateral mechanisms for improving ties.
The president asked High Commissioner Siddiqui to work on improving bilateral ties between the two countries with greater focus.
He underscored the need for enhancing commercial relations, business-to-business cooperation and people-to-people contacts for the mutual benefit of the two countries.
Dr Alvi emphasised the need for enhancing bilateral cultural and political exchanges as well as cooperation in the field of sports.
The Pakistan-Bangladesh relationship took a nosedive after Hasina Wajed resumed the so-called 1971 trial of ‘war crimes’ after starting her second tenure as prime minister in 2009.
Pakistan had always considered the bitter past of the 1971 dismemberment a closed chapter in view of the tripartite agreement signed in April 1974 for 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.
However, Ms Wajed was bent upon reviving the ghosts of 1971. She was further emboldened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s coming into power in India and Pakistan-Bangladesh ties went from one low to another.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2021