POST TIME: 3 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 2 September, 2018 11:48:54 PM
Ball in Islamabad court: Dhaka
“The relationship has come to such a low that every visa applications made in either of the countries is referred to the centre for clearance”

Ball in Islamabad court: Dhaka

The improvement of Bangladesh-Pakistan relationship, which has been stagnant for about a decade, depends on good intention of the new government in Islamabad, led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, according to senior diplomats in Dhaka and Islamabad. Bangladesh always believes in good relations with every country and Pakistan is no exception in this regard, but the relationship will have to be based on mutual understanding and respect, they said.

The Bangladesh government has also felicitated the new Pakistani administration, they added. However, they added that there are some pending issues with Islamabad including recognition of the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers followed by a formal apology for those, compensation, and interference into the internal affairs of Bangladesh.

It will take some time to understand the approach of the new Pakistani government that assumed office merely three weeks ago, they said.

The relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan has never been an easy one since the assumption of power by the Awami League-led government in 2009 and recently this has gotten even worse when there were negative activities and statements on the part of Pakistan with regard to the trial of the war criminals.

During this period, there has been hardly any bilateral visit from either of the countries although there have been visits to attend multilateral events. Besides, there have been meetings between the leaders of the two countries on the sidelines of some multilateral events.

The last foreign office consultation (FOC), a platform to discuss the bilateral aspects between the two countries, was held in Islamabad in 2010. But, the reciprocal FOC was never held in Dhaka after fixation of schedule for quite a few times.

“I have invited my Pakistani counterpart twice for the FOC. But, it did not happen,” Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told The Independent.

Admitting that Dhaka felicitated the new Pakistani government on the day of assumption of power, he said, “We will have to wait a bit to see how the policy of the new government in Islamabad shapes up in regards to Bangladesh.”

“Yes, the felicitation for the new government was conveyed through our mission in Islamabad,” High Commissioner to Pakistan Tarik Ahsan told this correspondent from the Pakistani capital.

“We do hope we will be able to have a working relation with the new government. I think it is too early to say how the relationship will evolve under the new government,” he said.

According to diplomats, the relationship has come to such a low that every visa applications made in either of the countries is referred to the centre for clearance and there are reports of harassment of travellers at the airports of both the countries.

Each country blames the other for the deterioration of the bilateral relationship.

According to some diplomats in Pakistan, Bangladesh does not want to improve the relationship due to ‘pressure from India’. When asked, a senior Bangladeshi diplomat said, “Pressure is not the right word. Bangladesh is a sovereign country with the capability of handling its own foreign policy. Yes, as an arch rival of Pakistan, India will definitely not want a close relationship with Pakistan. But, we don’t do what India wants. China is also India’s rival, but we have strategic partnership with China.”

“We have some pending issues with Pakistan including a formal apology for their role in 1971 and interference into our internal affairs. If they sort those out, I am sure things will move towards at least a working relationship,” he said.

The Pakistani diplomats, however, hinted that they are doubtful if India would allow Bangladesh to have a good relationship with Pakistan even if the issues are addressed.

In response, the Bangladeshi diplomat said, “You cannot come to a conclusion before addressing the pending issues. Can you?”

Meanwhile, the government is yet to approve the appointment of new Pakistani high commissioner in Dhaka, Syeda Saqlain.

“In early march, we’ve submitted the application with the Bangladesh government for the approval. But, six months have passed and it has not been approved,” said a senior diplomat at the Pakistan high commission.

“Every time, we contact to be told that we will be informed when a decision has been made,” he said.