Ties with Bangladesh

Time to dump the baggage

Pakistan in the past has not enjoyed good bilateral relations with Bangladesh owing to a history marked by war that both countries share. In 2013, during the PML(N)’s rule, the conviction and execution of imprisoned political and religious leader Abdul Quader Molla of Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh under the 1971 war crimes trials sparked a war of words between the two countries. In 2016, Senior Bangladeshi diplomat Moushumi Rahman, who was posted at the Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad, left the country after being declared persona non grata by the Pakistani government. It was only when the PTI government came to power in 2018 that efforts were made to mend diplomatic ties, which so far has been an effective and worthwhile effort. Bangladesh is after all an economic power player in the region and one of the faster growing economies in the world that has propelled its economy to new heights, with a GDP per capita that is now close that to India and far exceeds that of Pakistan, and for the past decade has been growing at an average of 6 percent annually. This meteoric rise is largely attributable to its textile industry and with a turnover close to $38.7 billion it is the second largest garment exporter in the world. It therefore makes perfect sense for Pakistan to position itself as a key ally to enjoy the trading opportunities that Bangladesh has to offer, and the recent meeting between Pakistan’s high commissioner to the country and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the second such meeting in 11 months no less, where the latter stressed building stronger trade ties and increased economic collaboration, is a step in the right direction. These meetings carry a lot of significance as it builds up to a planned visit by PM Hasina to Pakistan that will likely be reciprocated by her Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan, at a later stage.

Better relations are also important in the geo-political context as well. The RSS-fueled hatred and violence being inflicted by the Modi government against Muslims in India has influenced violence in Bangladesh with Hindu temples being attacked there, adding to the damage done to relations between the two countries that began with the abrogating of India’s Article 370 and its passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Pakistan’s stance on the matter naturally brings it closer to Bangladesh, further solidifying ties.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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