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If Pakistan wants to be Bangladesh's friend

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The Ronin

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On the eve of Bangladesh's 50th anniversary of independence, the issue of Bangladesh-Pakistan relations has arisen again. Both countries have undergone expansive changes in the meantime, but relations haven't moved forward. The major reason for this is the various unresolved issues carefully tucked away behind the scenes. There is also the constraint of nationalistic emotions. The question is whether the political leadership of the two countries can overcome all this and take the new generation along a new path. How can that come about!

Renewal of relations for the days ahead

In 1970, the population of the two wings of Pakistan together was around 130 million (13 crore). Now this stands at 380 million to 390 million (38 to 39 crore), and 88 per cent of the present population did not see 1971. In Pakistan, 89 per cent of the citizens are below the age of 50. In Bangladesh, 86 per cent are in this age group. In both countries, the number of persons who have witnessed '1971' first hand, is dwindling. But nationalism is a fiery emotion that remains alive among the youth. All the unresolved issues need to be sorted out at first in order to normalise relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In the past, when various ways to build ties were sought, the unpleasant issues were simply were brushed under the rug. That model didn't work. A fresh friendship can only be built by addressing the baggage of the past with a give-and-take mindset to reach a consensus on these issues. That will be a matter of relief to the new generation of both countries. Both sides need to draw close for the sake of this youth.

There is no way that 1971 can be forgotten and no need for it to be forgotten. But it is possible to move ahead at the same time. That is essential. That is the call of the day.

Market value of Bangladesh-Pakistan relations

Bangladesh and Pakistan together make up 5 per cent of the world population. The market value of these two populaces is naturally huge. Yet trade between these two countries of 390 million people is only USD 6 million to 7 million. That is hardly a drop in the two countries' exports. In 2019-20, products worth only USD 50 million went from Bangladesh to Pakistan. There is tremendous scope to increase this. The industrial sectors of both countries have expanded exponentially over the past 50 years. The industrialists of the past had a good understanding of the people and the market. The industrialists of the next generation are failing to put that experience to use due to the lack of political measures.

India and China have been on war footing for the past year. And yet amid all this, they have trade between them amounting to around USD 109 billion. Perhaps the example of Pakistan and India is even more relevant. These two countries exchange bullets every single week. They have had three large scale wars between them. Yet the buying and selling of goods continues. Even in the 2019-20 fiscal, goods worth USD 300 million went from India to Pakistan. It was four times more in the previous year and in the future it may increase again. If, despite the fragile political relations between Pakistan and India, business can continues, Bangladesh can do the same with both these countries. It is necessary to do so. It is essential for Bangladesh to build up a market in South Asia in order to shield itself from Europe and America's political dictates.

In 2019, Pakistan kept Bangladeshis on its priority list for visas. Both countries can simplify these things to give export trade added impetus. This will be a boost to Bangladesh's jute, tea and tobacco market and also increase Pakistan's exports of cotton, sugar and other products. But Pakistan's support is required in order to ensure that the trade balance, now leaning towards once side, leans a bit more towards Bangladesh.

After a long interval, Pakistan has sent a high commissioner to Bangladesh, displaying a desire to develop diplomatic ties. They need to come forward further. Many Pakistani policymakers want Bangladesh to make things easier by forgetting 1971 and moving head. But that is not easy for Bangladesh, it is not even possible. It would be more practical to immediately address and resolve the problems created by the 1971 chapter. Those cannot be evaded.

How bold can Imran Khan be?

Since independence, Bangladesh had pursued a foreign policy of friendship towards all. In the global arena, even amid the tensions between the US and China, and in the Muslim world, the cold war between Riyadh and Tehran, Bangladesh continues to maintain fairly balanced relations with all. This has been no easy feat. The creation of SAARC in South Asia was also from proposal of Bangladesh. Pakistan can be drawn into these instances of Dhaka's good sense. Through Pakistan, Bangladesh can spread its reach into the expansive world of Central Asia.

Our main export destinations at present are Europe and North America. This can be expanded on a long term basis to Asia's Eurasian Economic Union. There are more countries outside of this region. Even 50 years since independence, Bangladesh still relies on Russia when it comes to Central Asia. Business opportunities await Bangladesh in the other countries of this region. The Muslim majority population in these countries can be an added advantage for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's ties with Uzbekistan go way back and there is scope to increase diplomatic interaction with the other countries in that region. Good relations with Pakistan will make access to Central Asia easy for Bangladesh. In exchange, Pakistan will gain further foothold in Bangladesh's market.

All this can be done if Pakistan, from its top level, expresses regret for the events of 1971 and seeks apology. The Justice Hamoodur Rahman commission report proves that many members of that country's military were responsible for the oppression, repression and excesses on the civilians of Bangladesh. Many such soldiers are no longer living. Even if the government wants, perhaps they will not be able to put them on trial. But in light of the Hamoodur Rahman commission report, Pakistan's politicians can formally seek apology from Bangladesh. This can melt the ice between the two countries to a great extent.

During his Bangladesh visit in 2002, President Pervez Musharraf did express his regret in this regard. In 1998 Nawaz Sharif referred to the events of 1971 as 'political injustice.' These certainly are due acknowledgements of Bangladesh's pained feelings. But such general expressions of regret will not heal the wounds of 1971. This is not enough. That is why, for obvious reasons, relations did not gain ground. It will be better not to take up the same path in future. The people of Bangladesh expect a bold decision in no uncertain terms from the present leadership of Bangladesh. Pakistan must definitely take the political liability of the army's role in 1971, which clearly will be through an apology, not just an expression of regret. It is not just for those who have lost their loved ones. These two words have a huge difference in significance and impact in diplomacy too. This culture of apologising will give strength to political power and human rights as opposed to militarization throughout Asia.

The progress made in this regard over the past five decades has been, around 50 civil society bodies of Pakistan have sought apology for the events of 1971, making this easier for the politicians. Imran Khan has already been diplomatically lauded for his many unconventional steps. He must break the conventions of his predecessors on the question of Bangladesh. If Pakistan wants to take relations between the two countries forward, it must accept liability for the crimes committed by its armed forces in 1971 and proceed ahead. Then it will be easier for Bangladesh's leadership to take the relations ahead too. The issues than can be raised include taking back the stranded Pakistanis and the sharing of assets and liabilities of 1971. But these are not as sensitive issues to be resolved as is the complicated issue of seeking apology.

Japan's relations with China and Korea are an example before Bangladesh of how to take relations ahead from past brutalities of war. Germany and Israel are another example. The Queen of England apologised for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. All these are nothing but expressions of the sincere desire to take relations forward in light of new realities. In this manner, on the eve of 50 years since 1971, Bangladesh and Pakistan can open new doors for their future generations. Will 2021 be such a year?

Altaf Parvez is a researcher of South Asian history. This column appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

 

Bilal9

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I hope this thread won't get over-run by the usual shrill cacophony of the trolls.

It is time, 50 years later, to own up to any misdeeds (on either side).

We have a Liberation War Museum with curated exhibits on 1971. Maybe Pakistanis can visit their to get some understanding of the events.


Likewise, Bangladeshis should listen to Pakistani accounts of the war.

But it is indeed high time we owned up and settled up on both sides.

The usual cries of "Gaddari !" and "Butchery !" are pointless. Time to move forward for the sake of both our peoples.
 

Bilal9

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Bangladeshis have already made their camp with India. There is really nothing further to discuss.
Your govt. is not saying the same thing.

The actions on Pakistani side don't say the same thing either.

Pakistan's envoy meets Bangladesh's foreign minister in Dhaka to discuss matters of mutual interest




Pakistan's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Imran Ahmed Siddiqui (L) and Bangladesh's Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam (R). Photo: MOFA

  • Pakistan's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Imran Ahmed Siddiqui had a meeting with Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam
  • The two leaders discussed matters of mutual interests
  • The two countries agreed to work further for the promotion of bilateral relations




DHAKA: Pakistan's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Imran Ahmed Siddiqui called on the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Shahriar Alam on Thursday, an official statement issued in this regard said.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed issues of mutual interest between Pakistan and Bangladesh and agreed to work further for the promotion of bilateral relations.

Pakistan's High Commissioner handed over a signed copy of the Tripartite Agreement of 1974 to minister Shahriar Alam in which all the outstanding issues between the two countries were addressed.

Envoy Imran Ahmed Siddiqui said that the agreement should "serve as a foundation for further strengthening of the existing fraternal relations between the two states," the statement read.

Read more: Breaking with the past: Pakistan, Bangladesh look to rebuild ties

The High Commissioner further underlined that in order to establish productive commercial relations, there was a need to address all non-trade barriers, adding that efforts need to be employed to facilitate frequent interaction between the business sectors of the two countries.

In this connection, the High Commissioner further informed the minister that Pakistan had already removed all restrictions on Pakistani visa for Bangladeshi citizens.

The two sides agreed to intensify bilateral contacts at all levels.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pakistan removes all visa restrictions for Bangladeshis
High commissioner hopes Dhaka will reciprocate friendly gesture


Anadolu AgencyJanuary 09, 2021

photo file

PHOTO: FILE
DHAKA:
Pakistan’s High Commission in Bangladesh has said that Islamabad had lifted all restrictions on visas for Bangladeshi citizens as both countries have agreed to intensify bilateral contacts at all levels.

Pakistan has already removed all restrictions on Pakistani visas for Bangladeshi citizens,” said the statement after a meeting between Siddiqui and Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam. “The two sides agreed to intensify bilateral contacts at all levels,” it added.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, High Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui said that they are waiting for the same response from the Bangladeshi side. “Bangladesh’s restrictions on Pakistani nationals are still in place, and that is why I informed the state minister that we have already lifted all bars from our side,” he said.

The move is being seen as an ice breaker in the frosty relations between the two South Asian countries. Bilateral relations between the two countries turned sour after Bangladesh government formed a controversial tribunal for the “trial of crimes” during the 1971 war.

Bangladesh seemed interested in establishing closer relations with China and Pakistan due to India’s years-long partial attitude, including monopoly control over common rivers, killings of unarmed Bangladeshi civilians on borders and enactment of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

Ties between Bangladesh and Pakistan began to turn positive, however, following a rare phone call last July by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. Siddiqui had also called on Premier Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in Dhaka and reportedly discussed various bilateral issues in a cordial environment.

A separate statement issued by the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry, said that both sides agreed on the need to hold long-pending foreign office consultations, which were last held in 2010. “We look forward to engaging with Pakistan,” the statement quoted Alam as saying.

Alam also urged Pakistan to grant access to more Bangladeshi products by utilising the existing South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) provisions, relaxing the negative list and removing trade barriers. “The current trade balance tilts towards Pakistan,” he said.
 
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Falcon26

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I hope this thread won't get over-run by the usual shrill cacophony of the trolls.

It is time, 50 years later, to own up to any misdeeds (on either side).

We have a Liberation War Museum with curated exhibits on 1971. Maybe Pakistanis can visit their to get some understanding of the events.


Likewise, Bangladeshis should listen to Pakistani accounts of the war.

But it is indeed high time we owned up and settled up on both sides.

The usual cries of "Gaddari !" and "Butchery !" are pointless. Time to move forward for the sake of both our peoples.
Well said. Pakistan needs to show wisdom. A relationship with Bangladesh benefits Pakistan in more ways than not. In couple years, Bangladesh will have a bigger economy and clout than Pakistan. Better to cultivate allies rather than become hostages to history.

But Pakistan’s foreign policy is a total mess. To understand my point, just see this tweet.

 

Jobless Jack

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Pak and BD are natural allies against a common regional aggressor who is acting like a mad dog.

Its only a matter of time before this alliance shows itself on world stage.
 
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Cliftonite

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Bangladeshis have already made their camp with India. There is really nothing further to discuss.
Pakistan really has to stop seeing everything from the lens of India. Our 20 year long strategy in Afghanistan was drafted through the lens of India. There's no saying if China and India make nice in the future too.

The welfare of Pakistani people and being among the top 10-15 economies should be our goal
 

Bilal9

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Well said. Pakistan needs to show wisdom. A relationship with Bangladesh benefits Pakistan in more ways than not. In couple years, Bangladesh will have a bigger economy and clout than Pakistan. Better to cultivate allies rather than become hostages to history.

But Pakistan’s foreign policy is a total mess. To understand my point, just see this tweet.

Agreed 100%. Indians have been hogging bilateral trade with Bangladesh and to our detriment.

We definitely need Pakistan in the picture, in addition to China.
Pakistan really has to stop seeing everything from the lens of India. Our 20 year long strategy in Afghanistan was drafted through the lens of India. There's no saying if China and India make nice in the future too.

The welfare of Pakistani people and being among the top 10-15 economies should be our goal
Agreed brother. :cheers:
 

Cliftonite

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Pakistan and Bangladesh have more Muslims than the entire Middle East. We would have been a power to reckon if we hadn't broken up. 3rd largest country in the world and the defacto leader of the Muslim world. Easily among the top 15 economies of the world.

But who can reckon with the small restricted vision of the Pakistani leaders?
 

PAKISTANFOREVER

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Well said. Pakistan needs to show wisdom. A relationship with Bangladesh benefits Pakistan in more ways than not. In couple years, Bangladesh will have a bigger economy and clout than Pakistan. Better to cultivate allies rather than become hostages to history.

But Pakistan’s foreign policy is a total mess. To understand my point, just see this tweet.





There are over 120 countries that have a better economy than both Pakistan and bangladesh. Which means that there are over 120 choices for Pakistan excluding bangladesh, to help improve our economy. Also, China is a major ally of Pakistan and is set to become the world's first ever global hyper-power. So there is no benefit for Pakistan having a relationship with a country that us more than 2700 kms away from us.
Pakistan and Bangladesh have more Muslims than the entire Middle East. We would have been a power to reckon if we hadn't broken up. 3rd largest country in the world and the defacto leader of the Muslim world. Easily among the top 15 economies of the world.

But who can reckon with the small restricted vision of the Pakistani leaders?




Why worry about Islam and Muslims when you yourself collude and assist anti-Pakistani/anti-Muslim extremist indian sanghis......... :azn: :

1611320749705.png
 

PAKISTANFOREVER

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I hope this thread won't get over-run by the usual shrill cacophony of the trolls.

It is time, 50 years later, to own up to any misdeeds (on either side).

We have a Liberation War Museum with curated exhibits on 1971. Maybe Pakistanis can visit their to get some understanding of the events.


Likewise, Bangladeshis should listen to Pakistani accounts of the war.

But it is indeed high time we owned up and settled up on both sides.

The usual cries of "Gaddari !" and "Butchery !" are pointless. Time to move forward for the sake of both our peoples.





As per indian/bangladeshi claims, can the above Museum please explain how 40,000 lightly armed PA soldiers could kill 3 million bangladeshis in 5 weeks and rape millions of bangladeshi women at the same? 27 years prior to 1971, it took the Nazi superpower 1.5 million soldiers plus millions of collaborators all across Europe to kill 2 million Jews in over 3 years.
 
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