Close Relations With Pakistan Are Absolutely Necessary For Bangladesh

Close Relations With Pakistan Are Absolutely Necessary For Bangladesh
Pakistan and Bangladesh are two countries in the South Asian region. Once upon a time, today’s 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 criticised by many as the foundation of a new state. Again, arguments were presented in favour 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 recognised 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 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 29 January 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 20 July 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 reorganise 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 23 July 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, which is eyeing developments with suspicion. The Bangladesh government described the meeting as a “courtesy meeting.” But sources say that there are many more factors behind it. Many 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.

Arguably, the issue was settled during the founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's tenure when Bhutto visited Bangladesh in 1974.

On 29 June 1974, the New York Times published a news article entitled “Bhutto Regrets Crimes of 1971.” Next day i.e. 30 June they published another news titled “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, it was reported: “In a dinner speech tonight Sheikh Mujib said, ‘Let us forget the enmity and bitterness of the past and inaugurate a new chapter of hope and prosperity for our people.’”

But some dissenters say that it is not so – they demand instead that the Pakistan government should issue a formal apology.

I think that in the larger interest of this country and considering the strategic requirements of Bangladesh, those making such demands need to understand the importance of bilateral discussions, as well as relations. Because one has to be careful to see whether the curry is overcooked or undercooked – and all the while, we have to avoid a situation where a scheming third power uses the controversy to strengthen its own position vis-à-vis the two.

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, because it remains 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. In such a situation, Bangladesh could not stay away. If India is not able to understand the issue, simply put, it will be harming its own interests. India is Bangladesh's big neighbour, and relationships will be permanently strained if there is an overbearing attitude. The majority of Bangladeshi people don't want a position of strategic subservience at all.

India will, therefore, have to come out of the Nehru-era theory of elder-brotherly behaviour and swallowing up the smaller neighbours. 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 for its part with Pakistan – if successful, will definitely lay the foundation stone for liberal and pragmatic politics in the South Asian region. The Prime Ministers of both countries can at least be thanked for this. In fact, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh can say that she is taking up the responsibility of carrying forward the relationship that her late father started in 1974.

Is Pakistan's normal or close relationship with Bangladesh absolutely necessary? The question cannot be asked by realists. Because when a person is thirsty, it is not asked whether water is necessary.

To understand the value of the state of Pakistan, it is necessary to understand the importance of that country in South Asian politics and international politics. A 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 in Afghanistan.

Everyone agrees that the Afghanistan of the future will be a huge labour 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 in the equation, bringing much strategic weight and ability to shape the region.

Pakistan is an emerging country in the military industry, exporting heavy weapons, especially warplanes and tanks. All in all, the relationship with Pakistan is now an important objective for Bangladesh.