ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s envoy to Bangladesh said on Thursday that Islamabad had lifted all restrictions on visas for Bangladeshi citizens and that his country was now awaiting a similar response from Dhaka.
Following a recent meeting between Pakistani High Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence, Islamabad announced that the two countries wanted to “strengthen” bilateral ties.
And in a statement issued after Thursday’s meeting between Siddiqui and Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, the Pakistan High Commission in Bangladesh said: “Pakistan has already removed all restrictions on Pakistani visas for Bangladeshi citizens. The two sides agreed to intensify bilateral contacts at all levels.”
Speaking to media after the meeting, Siddiqui said Islamabad now awaited a similar response from the Bangladeshi side.
“Bangladesh’s restrictions on Pakistani nationals are still in place, and that is why I informed the state minister that we have already lifted all bars from our side,” he added.
As India’s relations with its neighbors in the south Asian region deteriorate, Pakistan and Bangladesh are making a push to build diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties that could upend decades of historic configurations in the region.
A number of recent diplomatic developments have hinted at a thaw in the long-troubled equation.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan invited his Bangladeshi counterpart to visit Islamabad in a rare call in July that came just weeks after a “quiet” meeting between Pakistan’s high commissioner to Dhaka and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A. K. Abdul Momen.
Relations between the two countries have never recovered from the 1971 war when Bengali nationalists, backed by India, broke away from what was then West Pakistan to form a new country.
Ties reached a new low in 2016 when Bangladesh executed several leaders of its Jamaat-e-Islami party on charges of committing war crimes in 1971. Pakistan called the executions and trials “politically motivated,” arguing that they were related to the pro-Pakistan stance of the convicts during the war.
But now, officials on both sides have agreed the time has come for a reset.
In a separate statement issued by the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry, Alam said: “We look forward to engaging with Pakistan.”
Both sides agreed on the need to hold long-pending foreign office consultations that were last held in 2010, the circular added.
Alam also urged Pakistan to grant access to more Bangladeshi products under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, relax the negative list, and remove trade barriers.
“The current trade balance tilts toward Pakistan,” he said, adding that the Pakistani side emphasized that it would address all nontrade barriers in order to establish “productive commercial relations” with Dhaka.