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Acknowledge ‘genocide’ for better ties: Bangladesh foreign minister to Pakistan

Amid varying reports related to the telephone conversation between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, Bangladesh’s foreign minister has clearly spelt out where the relations between Islamabad and Dhaka stand.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen

Amid varying reports related to the telephone conversation between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, Bangladesh’s foreign minister has clearly spelt out where the relations between Islamabad and Dhaka stand.

During a TV debate in a Bangladeshi channel News 24 on “Relationship between India and Bangladesh”, when asked about the recent developments with regards to Pakistan, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said Pakistan Prime Minister’s call was a “routine diplomatic norm” and has nothing to do with any other issues.

While Pakistan tried to hype the call by raising the issue of Kashmir in their press statement, the Bangladeshi foreign minister said, “Such issues were unnecessarily hyped.”

He added, “In fact, in the last two years we haven’t had a Pakistani envoy posted here. It was only in January that the new Pakistani High Commissioner presented his credentials. As the foreign minister, I had to meet him as a routine exercise but the meeting could not materialise until July 1 due to the lockdown.”

Elaborating on the need for Pakistan to accept that “genocide” was committed, he said, “I finally met him on July 1, and told the High Commissioner that if Pakistan wanted its ties to be bettered with Bangladesh then they would have to officially acknowledge the genocide committed against our people, which still remains as a matter of deep pain among Bangladeshis. Only then can we move forward. I get very disturbed with the various interpretations that have taken place with regards to Pakistan,”

On the issue of the recent tensions between India and China impacting ties with Bangladesh of both the nations, Abdul Momen asserted that both India and China were its “neighbours” and that both the nations always had a big heart for Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh has no problem with any of its neighbouring counties and believes in maintaining cordial relationships with all in line with the ideology of Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahaman,” he said.

As regards to the strained relationship between India and China in the recent past, foreign minister Momen said that Bangladesh had nothing to do with these developments as “it is not our headache, it is their headache.”

He added that Bangladesh was lucky enough to have two big developing nations as its neighbors, which was party to the developmental work in Bangladesh.

He also mentioned that Bangladesh had been getting support and aid during the pandemic. “Even tomorrow (Monday) India is gifting us 10 Railway Locomotive engines to Bangladesh,” he said.

On the issue of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, Abdul Momen said that Bangladesh gave refuge to those displaced people on its soil on sympathetic grounds. He cited the example of how India had given shelter to crores of Bangladeshis without any passport during their freedom struggle against Pakistan.

“Bangladesh also wanted to maintain a cordial relationship with Myanmar and in this process we have already had three agreements with Myanmar. We asked Myanmar to provide safety and security to its people. However, Myanmar has so far failed to provide a conducive atmosphere for return of the Rohingya,” he said.

He added that Dhaka was also under the impression that some of the displaced Rohingya community members might take refuge in China, as the latter maintains a very sound relationship with Myanmar. But that was not the case. The entire population took refugee in Bangladesh.

Expressing concerns regarding security he said, “If they stay for an extended period of time then there could by pockets of radicalisation, leading to disruption in peace. That would be an unfortunate situation for us, for Myanmar and for the entire region. That is why we want a peaceful solution to the Rohingya problem.”

“We are looking at assistance and help from India and China… India also feels that the Rohingya should soon be sent back to their respective country. India has sought a sustainable solution,” he added.

On bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh, Abdul Momen asserted that the relationship between the two nations was “historical” as like a mother’s relation with her child, the confidence between the two nation was symbolic.

He further added that the relationship and brotherhood which was gifted by Bangabandhu and Indira Gandhi, has now transformed into a “Sonali Adhyay” (Golden Era) under the leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina and PM Narendra Modi, who left no stone unturned to move forward on the path shown by the great leaders.

Highlighting the achievements of the two sides, he explained how the issues pertaining to the land borders, sea borders and some issues relating to borders in the North Eastern part of the two countries were resolved amicably between the two nations.

While the sides are yet to resolve the Teesta waters issue, it is moving in the right direction he hinted.

“Some issues were issues pertaining to river belts especially ‘Teesta Chukti’ was still pending, however, talks between the two countries are moving in positive directions and it will certainly be resolved,” he said.

He, however, explained that issues like killing on borders, which gain maximum coverage in national media, has actually little impact on the larger relations.

“Such minor incidents have no repercussions on the relationship of the two nations, as both the nation works on confidence, principle and values”, he said emphatically.

On trade relations, he expressed confidence. Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has reached the US $9 Billion. Export from Bangladesh has reached a billion-dollar mark although the lockdown in wake of the coronavirus pandemic might have impacted trade he said.

Abdul Momen further added that when the Sheikh Hasina government in 1996 signed the “Ganga Chukti” treaty, the comprehensive bilateral 30-year water-sharing arrangement for the Ganges; the entire world had felt at the time that “deliberations between two countries one Muslim (Bangladesh) and another non-muslim (India) cannot be possible without war. However, both India and Bangladesh (being a Muslim Country) had shown enough maturity to resolve its problems through dialogue.”

He expressed optimism that in the coming days bilateral ties between the two nations would further strengthen.

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