This Indian newspaper says that Pakistan is taking advantage of India's distractedness and trying to strengthen ties with Bangladesh.

However, this doesn't make much sense after reading the following article:

After reading the aforementioned article, I have a feeling that Pakistan is showing neediness to re-establish bilateral ties with Bangladesh. The eagerness seems to be unilateral. The Bangladeshi government is demanding an unconditional apology for the atrocities in 1971 and resolving outstanding issues like the re-patriation of stranded Pakistanis, etc.

If Pakistan's aim is to increase trade, then taking back those so called stranded Pakistanis and apologizing will not be a cost-effective quid pro quo.

Therefore, Pakistan's initiative makes no sense to me.

So, my question is, Why is Pakistan eager to strengthen bilateral ties with Bangladesh?

  • 2
    "If Pakistan's aim is to increase trade, then taking back those so called stranded Pakistanis and apologizing will not be a cost-effective quid pro quo." It isn't at all obvious why you reach this conclusion. Trade relations could last for decades and could lead to other benefits of a lasting alliance. The trade off would be a one time hit which is hard to quantify.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 3, 2021 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


At risk of stating the obvious, nations typically do not make diplomatic overtures to nations with which they have good relations. And diplomatic thaws typically do not begin when both nations coincidentally call each other up at the same time. Someone has to make the first overture, and Pakistan decided it would be them.

Let's take it for granted there is a very low chance Bangladesh is receptive. Why would Pakistan think it's a good idea? Well, the overture is fairly low-risk and high reward. If Bangladesh gives them the cold shoulder, all Pakistan's really lost is whatever time they sunk into the endeavor. If the thaw succeeds, it'd be a major milestone in their ongoing cold war with India. So why not shoot your shot when India is highly distracted and unlikely to devote its attention to stopping you?

An important thing to keep in mind here is that Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan also supports Pakistan apologizing for the 1971 atrocities. Granted, he made that argument as a private citizen. But that suggests that he may actually be receptive to at least one the demands you consider a nonstarter, and his current overture is more about seeing what concessions he can get in return.

And in general, it's important to keep in mind that many of supposed non-negotiables in international diplomacy are, in fact, negotiable opening positions. There are too many examples of this to list, but one recent one would be the U.S.'s insistence that restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba was contingent on political change in Cuba. (Spoilers: there was no political change, diplomatic relations still happened).

Lastly, consider that there's often a bit of a gap with how countries publicly relate to each other in line with their citizens' expectations, and how they actually do so behind the scenes. Consider for example all the Arab nations who are theoretically deeply opposed to the very existence of Israel, but are effectively allies and close partners with them in the conflict with Iran.


After the Bangladeshi War of Independence in 1971, Pakistan only recognised Bangladesh three years later after coming under pressure from other muslim countries. Relations then thawed with the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visting Bangladesh and paying homage to the war memorial in Savar Upazila and the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, widhsrawing bans on a number of pro-Pakistani organisations.

Relations improved even further under Prime Minister Ziaur Rahman of Pakistan and Prime Minister Mohammed Ershad of Bangladesh when Pakistan became more distant from it's allies, China and Russia and symbolised by a gift of several squadrons of F-6 fighters to the Bangladeshi air-force in the late 80s. Since then five Pakistani heads of state have visited Bangladesh. In particular, Zia al-Haq stating, "your heroes are our heroes", after visting the National War Memorial.

Bilateral relations go back some time, with both Pakistan & Bangladesh being founding members of SAARC founded in Dhaka in 1985. Many other bilateral agreements on trade and culture have been signed since.

It was probably the establishment of the War Tribunal on the 1971 genocide in 2013 that led to ties cooling when Abdul Molla was executed for his part in the war, with the lower house of Pakistan govenment issuing a condemnation calling the execution, "politically motivated." Bangladesh asked them to remove their senior diplomat, Farina Arshad on spying charges in 2015. Pakistan retaliated the following year by asking Bangladesh to remove their senior diplomat, Moushumi Rahman gor "anti-state activities".

However, since Imran Khan became prime minister in 2018, relationships have considerably improved with Pakistan recently revoking all visa requirements on Bangladeshi citizens visiting Pakistan. This follows a personal call by him in July 2020 to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after Bangladesh announced a foreign policy of "friendship to all, malice to none."

Why is Pakistan eager to strengthen bilateral trade ties with Bangladesh?

They were already improving ties, when these were chilled by the establishment of the War Tribunal in Bangladesh. With the election of Imran Khan as Prime-Minister of Pakistan three years ago and with Sheikh Hasina signalling a policy of friendship, relationships have resumed on an upward trajectory.

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