Pakistan and Bangladesh have recently made a significant progress towards reinvigoration of heir bilateral relations in order to take their ties forward which have been at a standstill for more than a decade. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh has met with that Bangladeshi premier, Sheik Hasina, with the two sides promising to improve their relations, as indicated by the statements issued. This furthers the notion of defrosting of a generally chilly relationship between the two countries.
“The two sides agreed to further strengthen the existing fraternal relations between the two countries”, a statement issued by Pakistan High commission following the meeting proclaimed. Bangladesh’s state-run news agency stated, “The PM (Sheikh Hasina) also said she believes in regional cooperation referring to the Bangladesh foreign policy ‘friendship to all, malice to none’,”
Prime Minister Hasina focused on the need for reinforcing the ties between the two countries. She, besides, wished the officials of Pakistan well and guaranteed the high commission of her “full assistance” in fulfilment of his official duties.
The gathering saw the two states consenting to a rapprochement, for which instruments exist. It was not officially concurred, but there is a possibility of a gathering of the two countries’ foreign secretaries. Such a gathering has not occurred for a very long time. That gathering has not been on the agenda owing to strong Indian influence over Bangladesh during prime minister Hasina’s current stretch in office, which started in 2008. Nonetheless, there appears to have been an acknowledgment in Bangladesh of the Indian deception, after India disappointed its own Muslim citizens in the North-Eastern states, through the National Register of Citizens (NRC), taking steps to toss them into Bangladesh and asserting that they were East Pakistanis whose ancestors had fled the 1971 War. India’s new Citizenship Act (CAA) refuses to provide citizenship to such Muslim citizens though it does spare the Hindu citizens of the legal assault.
The Pakistani High Commissioner informed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that the government and the people of Pakistan held the Bangladeshi administration and people in high regard and fondness. The PM communicated great wishes for the people of Pakistan according to the statement issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In response to the developments, Islamabad based analyst and expert on diplomacy Zahid Hussain said, “I would not say there has been significant change in the relationship, but certainly some ice has been broken.”
Pakistan has this year put up significant efforts for improving ties with Bangladesh. Pakistani High Commissioner Mr Siddiqui in July had met Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen. Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor of International Relations at Dhaka University said that on the financial front, there was space to boost trade ties between the two nations. “The two countries have a bilateral trade of some $500m. I believe there is scope to increase that trade”, Mr. Ahmed commented.
India and Bangladesh are Falling Apart
India and Bangladesh have shared a strong relationship as India had helped Bangladesh militarily in the 1971 war by intervening in what was then known as East Pakistan, which brought about a solid connection among Dhaka and New Delhi.
However, ties between the two neighbors have allegedly been passing through an awful phase because of regular killings of Bangladeshi nationals by Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) and redirection of upstream waters. An insult to injury was added by the Modi governmment as it passed its controversial and dubious piece of legislation in the form of Citizenship Amendment Act, which awards citizenship to “persecuted minorities” from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Indian media is viewing features with concern Bangladesh’s developing relations with India’s rival China. “Despite India’s concerns, Bangladesh has given the contract of building an airport terminal in Sylhet district to a Chinese company”, Indian Newspaper the Hindu reported citing Bangladeshi paper Bhorer Kagoj. The Hindu announced refering to a Bangladeshi paper that in spite of continuous endeavors, Indian High Commisioner to Bangladesh, Riva Ganguly Das had declined to meet Prime Minister Hasina. There was no official articulation on the report from one or the other side, however.
Bangladesh is partnering with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor, which was officially embraced during the meeting in Kunming held in December 2013. The corridor covers 1.65 million square kilometers, and incorporates around 440 million people. It associates China’s Yunnan region, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Kolkata in India through street, rail, water, and air linkages.
During the visit of the Chinese president to Bangladesh in October 2016, an agreement was reached with respect to execution of different government to government (G2G) and business to business (B2B) ventures. Altogether, China guaranteed about $40 billion ivestment in Bangladesh. A measure of $24.45bn was in reciprocal help for infrastructural ventures and $13.6bn in joint ventures. Also, $20bn loan in loan arrangements was agreed.
In Fiscal year 2019, Bangladesh saw a record high net Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow of $3.2 billion between the period of July-March. This flood in FDI was generally determined by the Chinese ventures. During the period of January-March in 2019, Chinese FDI inflow added up to $396.99 million, which was 38.34% of net FDI inflow into Bangladesh during that period. In April 2018, Alipay, a giant Chinese online business and tech firm Alibaba Group, purchased 20% stakes in bKash, Bangladesh’s biggest mobile financial service.
Opportunity for Pakistan
Pakistan must understand that it needs to proceed cautiously, yet it must form an attachment with Bangladesh, in light of the fact that after the period of 50 years, Bangladeshis are awakening to the acknowledgment of Hindutva that had prompted the formation of Pakistan in 1947, of which Bangladesh was a part and parcel. It must not forget that Bangladesh has shown great tendency of its incline towards China, which is Pakistan’s strategic partner while on the cotnrary India is inclining against China by buying strategic partnership of USA. Pakistan should be prepared to utilize Chinese good offices in its bid to execute rapprochement with Bangladesh which is the need of the moment.