DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has turned down an invitation to a summit in Islamabad next week, officials said on Tuesday, despite a recent olive branch from the Pakistan government.
“The prime minister is not going to attend the summit,” Syed Masud Khundoker, a director-general in Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, told AFP.
An official in Hasina’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the prime minister would not be joining the eight-nation summit on November 22, and said Foreign Minister Dipu Moni would instead represent Bangladesh.
Neither official explained Hasina’s decision not to attend.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani had issued the invitation to Hasina in person last Friday on a rare visit to Bangladesh by a senior Pakistani to what was East Pakistan before it won a war for independence in December 1971.
Relations between the two sides remain extremely delicate with Moni asking Rabbani last week for Pakistan to apologize for war crimes committed by the army. Hasina’s government says up to three million people were killed in the conflict.
The Daily Star, a Dhaka-based newspaper, said that policy advisers had told Hasina that it would be unwise to visit Pakistan unless Islamabad offered a formal apology to Dhaka for what it regards as a “genocide.”
Ties have been particularly strained since Hasina’s Awami League party came to power in 2009 as it had led the freedom struggle against Pakistan.
However Hasina did visit Pakistan in 1999 in her first stint in office, in a bid to ease escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.
The summit of the D-8 group of developing nations in Islamabad is due to include representatives from six other nations, including Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Turkey.
The meeting begins on November 19 with leaders due to attend its finale on November 22.