DHAKA: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday (July 22). They exchanged greetings and discussed the flood and Covid-19 situations in both countries, according to statements released from prime minister’s office.
However, according to international media reports, Imran Khan also spoke about strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as boosting regional cooperation through SAARC. Besides, he stated Pakistan's stance on issues with India and hoped for a peaceful resolution.
Imran Khan’s phone call drew attention of the international media. It was a hot topic of discussion in the diplomatic community as well. Since tensions between India and China are currently running high, phone call from China-backed Pakistan’s prime minister bears significance.
If Bangladesh responds positively to Pakistan’s call, it will clear its stance on India-China clash. Bangladesh’s next move will also impact the political landscape of the South Asian region.
Political analysts believe improvement of bilateral relations between the two countries won’t be easy given their past history. Ruling party leaders and policymakers said Pakistan have to solve the unresolved and bitter issues first before hoping to get any progressive response from Bangladesh.
When asked about Imran Khan’s phone call, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told Banglanews: “He called to talk about the Covid-19 and flood situations. It was nothing but a simple courtesy call. It’s good if they (Pakistan) can improve relations with us.”
“However, Pakistan has not yet apologized for the genocide it committed during 1971 Liberation War. We want to maintain friendship with everyone but how is that possible if they couldn’t make an apology,” Momen said.
The minister said Pakistan's gruesome killing of some 30 lakh Bangladeshis and rape of hundreds of thousands of women during the Liberation War in 1971 have not forgotten yet.
Earlier on July 1, Pakistan's newly-appointed High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Imran Ahmad Siddiqui, met Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in Dhaka. The details of the discussion were not disclosed, but on both occasions, the Pakistan side appeared to be eager to improve relations with Bangladesh. So questions are up in the air on how Bangladesh will react?
Several Indian media outlets have looked at the meeting between Momen and Imran Siddiqui with suspicion because of its timing. The meeting took place when India-China relations are at their worst after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash between Indian and Chinese forces at Galwan Valley in mid-June.
When asked about this, the foreign minister said the media can say whatever they want but the question is whether they were factual or not.
Despite having some existing trade with Pakistan, Bangladesh was annoyed when Pakistan parliament adopted resolutions against the war crimes trial of Bangladesh, which hanged some major criminals who committed crimes against humanity in 1971. Besides, there are allegations against Pakistan for being involved in activities designed to influence Bangladesh’s internal politics and to instigate unrest.
Awami League Presidium Member and former minister Matia Chowdhury said: “We did not call them, they called us. We received the call due to good diplomatic practice. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talked to Imran Khan with common courtesy and diplomatic etiquette. We do not want to deteriorate our relation with anyone.”
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said: “Bangladesh and Pakistan both are SAARC nations. Two prime ministers can talk about any issues regarding South Asia.”
“However, there are still some unresolved issues between us. If they want to strengthen relations, then they have to resolve those first. Bangladesh gained independence through bloody war, not through table discussion,” he added.
BDST: 1330 HRS, JULY 26, 2020