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History of Bangladesh-Pakistan Bilateral Relations of Fifty Two Years

History of Bangladesh-Pakistan Bilateral Relations of Fifty Two Years

04-03-2024
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Pakistan and Bangladesh are two important countries in South Asia. In 1971, through the bloody liberation war, East Pakistan was separated from Pakistan, and the secular democratic republic of Bangladesh was formed.

As a potential regional power, Bangladesh and Pakistan are founding members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and both countries are members of eight developing countries: the OIC and the Commonwealth of Nations. Both countries have been identified as the next eleven emerging economies. Bangladesh has a High Commission in Islamabad, while Pakistan has a High Commission in Dhaka. As two independent sovereign Muslim states in South Asia, they share a mixed history, tradition, culture, and politics. After many ups and downs based on these things, bilateral relations have entered their 52nd year today.

Freedom from Pakistan’s 24 years of unbearable economic oppression and tyranny through the glorious victory of the Great War of Liberation and then independence, the economic journey of independent Bangladesh began in 1972. Bangladesh has touched a unique milestone of growth and development in the last 52 years. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has fulfilled all the criteria for transitioning from a least-developed country. In 2020, the country had a population of over 168.31 million and a per capita gross national income of $1,940 (2019). Bangladesh has experienced mixed development in terms of both macroeconomic stability and economic growth over the past few decades.

According to the latest published forecasts of the British economic research organisation Centre for Economic and Business Research, Bangladesh is now the 41st largest economy in the world, according to the 2020 index. The growing development of Bangladesh shows that the country is moving towards a large economy step by step. Bangladesh will be the 25th largest economy in the world by 2035. Today, after 52 years, they are lagging Bangladesh in almost all socio-economic indicators. This is the great achievement of freedom. Also, recently, Bangladesh’s incredible economic growth and geopolitics have increased its relevance in international politics.

After the partition of the country, the two countries were united for about 24 years. Pakistan’s bilateral relationship with Bangladesh has seen various phases—sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes bitter separation. In this context, former diplomat Humayun Kabir said, “The diplomatic relations between the two countries are actually like the flow of a river.” Sometimes the tide starts in it; sometimes the tide starts. However, Pakistan has to go a long way to normalise the relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan. Peru has to go through many difficult roads.

It is important to note that the late President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was the main architect of independent Bangladesh, started formal good relations with Pakistan. He was the first in 1974 to open a new horizon of relations by giving a red carpet reception to the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in Dhaka, ignoring the various arrows of criticism and showing his generosity for the welfare of the state. It should be noted that the complication of the relationship between the two countries regarding the role of Pakistan in 1971 exists to date. Although many analysts believe that the matter was settled by Bhutto’s visit to Bangladesh at that time, when the Shimla Agreement was successfully concluded in 1974, Pakistan was forced to express its regret and recognition to Bangladesh. And Bangladesh and India began repatriating Pakistani prisoners of war.

President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman attended the conference held in Pakistan despite the express objection of the Indian government to pave the way for improved relations with the Muslim world through the OIC conference. In continuation of this, in 1980, military equipment was exchanged among themselves for the first time. Pakistan sells F-6 fighter jets and some tanks to Bangladesh. Thus, relations with Pakistan were maintained for many years, albeit on a limited scale.

However, relations between the two countries reached their most fragile state in 2013, when Bangladesh began prosecuting 71 perpetrators of crimes against humanity. The Pakistani government has been accused of interfering in the internal affairs of the country. In particular, the relationship between the two countries has reached a tense situation when questions about the judicial process are raised. One country began expelling and counter-expelling the diplomats of the other country, which continued for many days. The exchange of diplomatic visas between the two countries was informally suspended.

Later, during the golden jubilee celebration of Bangladesh’s independence, in a report for Pakistan’s influential daily Dawn, the president of the country commented that Pakistan is interested in increasing relations with Bangladesh. Arif Alvi. He also called for all kinds of activities for the development of bilateral relations. On the other hand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh said, as always, “If we want to improve relations in the true sense, Pakistan must formally apologise for their events in the 1970s. The families of the victims of the 1971 massacre must be compensated. And the then arrears of Bangladesh shall be returned.

It should be noted that at that time, former Prime Minister Imran Khan took great initiative to change the relationship. On September 17, 2019, when Dhaka did not agree to a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Khan Saheb sat directly on the phone and praised the Hasina government’s governance and comprehensive economic development. It was the first conversation between the prime ministers of the two countries in almost 10 years. At that time, there was talk in diplomatic circles that almost-severed relations with Pakistan had regained momentum. Pakistan’s best friend, China, has played the biggest role in this regard. However, some people think that the West Asian country of Turkey plays a key role in the development of relations between the two countries.

Needless to say, all current national or international political approaches are very advanced and pragmatic for strategic reasons. Traditional ways of thinking, old cultures in decision-making, or conflicts should be unimportant. So I think, in the larger interest and considering the strategic aspects of Bangladesh, bilateral relations should be increased. Therefore, we need to understand the importance of relationships in addition to discussing the development of bilateral relations. The Pakistan-China-Afghanistan-Turkey connection is very important for Bangladesh now. Apart from China, Turkey can be one of the most reliable military partners for Bangladesh. Undeniably, the connection has grown in importance since the Taliban came to power. In the future, Afghanistan will be a huge labour market and investment area for foreigners. On the other hand, Pakistan needs to enter Afghanistan. Not only that, but undoubtedly, the positive relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan will lay a new foundation for liberal and pragmatic politics in the South Asian region.

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author
Athar Noor
The author of this article is a young researcher and political analyst
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