Diplomatic Correspondent: The quickly-evolving geopolitical realities in the region are compelling the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh to move beyond their chequered past. Since last year, the two countries have engaged many times. And it is the result of such engagements on the highest level that Pakistan has now gone as far as to remove visa restrictions on the citizens of Bangladesh. This is no small step. Lifting visa constraints must be seen as the dawn of a new era in bilateral ties. Removing barriers on Pakistani visas for Bangladeshi citizens is a practical demonstration that the two sides can overcome the bitterness of the past for a cooperative and prosperous future.
Hopefully, Dhaka will reciprocate the gesture of friendship that Islamabad has shown. The recent contacts between the two states suggest that both want to deepen their friendship. Undoubtedly, the growing tension between New Delhi and Dhaka around the anti-Muslim shift of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India is a major reason why Dhaka is looking beyond India. Similarly, the different approaches the two neighbours adopted while dealing with the Rohingya refugee crisis and the Citizenship Amendment Act that many see as a discriminatory law against Muslims forced Dhaka to welcome Islamabad’s overtures.
The two Muslim nations in the subcontinent need to keep a vigilant eye on the changing dynamics of the region. While Pakistan’s initiative is a first proper step in an attempt to come closer to Bangladesh, both sides can cultivate durable terms by increasing the volume of bilateral trade. Enhanced commercial engagement can become the best ointment to atone for the injuries of the past. However, the two governments must not limit the cooperation in commerce only. Instead, collaboration in every walk of life is necessary if Islamabad and Dhaka desire a long-lasting and durable friendship.