by Nadeem Qadir;
Local and international analysts firmly believe that a rapprochement between Bangladesh and Pakistan is a far cry as long as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is at the helm, but ties might be expanded that benefits Dhaka while India should do its part to make the bonding stronger.
The 1971 genocide carried out by the Pakistani Army during the Bangladesh war has not been forgotten by most in this South Asian country, while at the same time India’s assistance during that time is always acknowledged by the prime minister and members of her ruling Awami League. The Pakistanis also raped more than 250,000 women,
Despite Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen brushing aside media reports about a low in Dhaka-New Delhi ties as a creation of the media and baseless, local and international publications, including the DW radio and the Arab News, continued to comment on the issue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former Bangladeshi diplomat M. Kamaluddin sharing his thoughts on the matter, however disagreed with the current foreign affairs boss in Segunbagicha, saying his first posting as a diplomat was in New Delhi and he has been a keen follower of Bangladesh-India relations.
Based on that, he told newsnextbd.com that the current talk might be the “neo-normal in the region’s geopolitics. To me, it appears that an invisible fine crack has appeared in ties between the two neighbours, and unless taken care of urgently a disaster can happen considering China push in South Asia,”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s telephone call to Sheikh Hasina a few days ago was step on the right direction, analysts said noting that it was a long conversation.
A statement in New Delhi said the call was to convey Eid greetings to Sheikh Hasina and the “two leaders shared their assessments of the damage caused by Cyclone Amphan in both (the) countries. The leaders also discussed the COVID pandemic situation and the ongoing collaboration between the two countries in this regard. Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed India’s support to Bangladesh in addressing these challenges.”
Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shaymol Dutta said Chinese ambassador in Dhaka has been very active, while the Indian mission lay low.
“Modi must try to understand Sheikh Hasina’s emotional relationship with the Congress leadership like Sonia Gandhi and he must himself and his Home Minister Amit Shah must not use abusive language against Bangladeshis,” he pointed out to newsnextbd.com
“Pakistan is trying to reach out to Bangladesh and not the other way around,” Siegfried O. Wolf, an analyst at the Brussels-based think tank South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF), told DW.
“The latest call between the two prime ministers should not be interpreted as drifting apart of New Delhi and Dhaka, but rather as part of Bangladesh’s government to balance its relations between India and China.”
Wolf added that any substantial rapprochement between Islamabad and Dhaka depends on Pakistan’s willingness to acknowledge the “genocide” it conducted in former East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh, during the 1971 war of independence.
India’s influential Telegraph newspaper published a piece titled “Delhi Distracted, Pakistan at Play” on July 12. It said that the meeting comes at a time when India is fire-fighting on multiple fronts with China, and smaller neighbours like Nepal and Sri Lanka. Over the past few months, Delhi has been watching Dhaka and Beijing warm up to each other, the article said.
“And now, Pakistan is trying to be diplomatically more active in Bangladesh… Things seem to be changing very fast,” it added signalling India’s worry about China-Pakistan nexus over Bangladesh.
A number of informed sources have said a “vested quarter” is trying to convince Sheikh Hasina that India has not delivered many of its promises and thus she should look into the indirect olive branch being offered by Islamabad, with the latest telephone call by Prime Minister Imran Khan over floods and coronavirus.
M. Shahiuzzaman, international affairs expert, added that PM Hasina can certainly act freely with or without any Chinese middleman role in dealing with Pakistan. Our national interest comes before all other considerations.”
Asked about the demand that Pakistan acknowledges the 1971 genocide and formally apologise, he told newsnexbd.com that “Preconditions are weapons used to neutralise higher compelling realities. An apology can never make sense when it is being asked for as an imposition or timed to serve Indian destructive designs. Apology must be spontaneous, meaningful and sincere, timed to create a warmth of cordiality. Only our enemies demand it as an ultimatum, which is defeatist, conspiratorial …..”
“A genuine IR scholar must realise that Pakistan is a highly fragmented entity where the military establishment dominates. No political government can risk survival by disregarding the military’s role in politics. So there are obvious limits in Pakistan’s timing to deal on this extremely sensitive issue,” he added.
“During the meeting, I told the Pakistani envoy that you have not yet formally apologised for the genocide in 1971,” the foreign minister told the Daily Star newspaper after his meeting with Islamabad’s new mission chief in Dhaka, Imran Ahmed Siddiqui. Momen said the diplomat “did not reply, but said he would relay this to his government.”
Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University;s International Relations faculty also told the newspaper that without an apology and committing it will not interfere in the trial of 1971 war criminals, “the relationship with Pakistan cannot go forward.. He said there is no hurry for Bangladesh to improve relations with Pakistan
Shahnoor Wahid, consulting editor of the Bangladesh Post, echoed Imtiaz Ahmed and said “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cannot consider Pakistan as a friend unless the latter sends unconditional official apology for the genocide committed on the unarmed Bengalis in 1971 and unless Pakistan pays Bangladesh the share of wealth accrued till 26 March 1971.”
“It would be best to treat China as a development partner. Regional and border issues can be settled bilaterally sitting across the table to avoid tension,” he added.