Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

Islamabad, Aug 5 : Bangladesh seems to be sliding sides through soft diplomacy, signalLing towards possibilities of cooperation with Pakistan as two sides work towards melting the ice of critical, tense and strained relations.

The recent telephonic contact between Pakistani and Bangladeshi premiers is showing clear signs of Dhaka's shift towards Islamabad, a step that since the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, has seen critical courses, ups and downs, and disagreements over several issues.

The two Muslim states of South Asia have had strained relations, since the conviction of several Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, who were sentenced to death through a local tribunal, called the International Crimes Tribunal.

The Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, belonging to the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) were executed on charges of committing atrocities during the 1971 War of Independence.

However, Dhaka's "friendship to all and malice to none" constitutional diplomacy has paved the way towards the improvement of relations with Islamabad while visible changes are witnessed in recent weeks as diplomatic communication between the two countries has increased.

"For the greater interest of our country, we will keep relations with all and our constitutional foreign is friendship to all and malice to none," said Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen.

Both sides have been reaching out to each other in the recent weeks as Momen and Pakistan High Commissioner in Dhaka Imran Ahmed Siddiqui met earlier this month, which was followed by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan reaching out to Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina through a telephone call.

Observers believe that many advisors of Bangladeshi Prime Minister are sympathetic towards Pakistan.

While the growing coziness between Pakistan and Bangladesh is exceptional in every way; Dhaka administration still expects Islamabad to apologise for what it calls, crime, and genocide committed in 1971 in Bangladesh, if Islamabad intends to start a meaningful and normalised relation.

"Pakistan has a keen desire to see bilateral relations and people's relations with Bangladesh improve and strengthen," said Aisha Farooqui, spokesperson for Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We have a very strong historical connection and we want to have cooperative relations between us," she added.

Farooqui went on to say that both Pakistan and Bangladesh are founding members of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and can play an important role to strengthen SAARC processes for regional cooperation.

"As founding members of SAARC and for the mutual objective of forwarding movement towards economic prosperity and fulfillment of development goals of the people of South Asia, we believe both Pakistan and Bangladesh can play an important role to strengthen SAARC processes for regional cooperation," she said.

Analysts say that Pakistan premier's move to make a phone call to Bangladeshi counterpart is encouraging; the developments that will come following the initiative needs to be seen with cautious optimism.

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