Pakistan

Imran Khan, Sheikh Hasina call raises eyebrows in New Delhi

In a major diplomatic overture from Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan recently called his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina to discuss a wide range of issues; including Covid-19 and recent floods in Bangladesh.

PM Khan, in his call, expressed condolences on the loss of lives in Bangladesh, prayed for their recovery and “commended measures taken by the leadership of Bangladesh to contain the spread of the virus”. In addition to that, the Pakistani PM also apprised the Bangladeshi premier about “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” for developing countries. Khan also emphasized on the importance of closer ties with “brotherly” nation Bangladesh, highlighting the significance of regular communication and people-to-people contacts.

On the other hand, the bilateral call has raised eyebrows in New Delhi. India feels that with this call, the regional dynamics are shifting, especially because of New Delhi’s current border issues with Nepal and China. India fears that such overtures from Pakistan could also dilute Dhaka’s strong pro-India position. New Delhi also feels that China, a strong partner of Pakistan, might have a played a role in the recent communication between Islamabad and Dhaka.

“Of course India should be worried,” says Subir Bhaumik, a Kolkata-based analyst and editor of the news portal Eastern Link, while talking to India’s NDTV news. “The way the restoration of diplomatic relations has taken place between Bangladesh and Pakistan, the sudden change of mood especially at a time when India is having trouble with China in Ladakh, smacks of some behind-the-scenes diplomatic manoeuvres”, Bhaumik concludes.

It is worth noting that relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh have deteriorated since 2009, with Dhaka aligning with New Delhi on regional issues. However, the recent conversation between both PMs and PM Khan’s invitation to his Bangladeshi counterpart for a visit to Pakistan is a major development in South Asian politics.

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