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Pak apology expected on 1971 war

world Updated: Oct 31, 2010 15:25 IST

Bangladesh expects an apology from Pakistan for the atrocities of the 1971 Liberation War as foreign secretaries of the two nations prepare to meet for their annual talks after a gap of three years.

The meeting to be held in Islamabad on Monday will also be the first such meeting since the government of Sheikh Hasina assumed office.

"We expect the consultation to be an ice-melting meeting for the bilateral ties as the foreign secretaries are meeting for the first time since the incumbent government assumed office in January 2009," a foreign ministry official told PTI.

The official, who preferred anonymity, said Dhaka expected a formal Pakistani apology for the atrocities carried out by its troops during the 1971 Liberation War, besides the issues of repatriation of several million Urdu-speaking "stranded Pakistanis" and sharing of assets were expected to dominate the two-day consultation between Mohamed Mijarul Quayes and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.

"Dhaka believes a formal Pakistani apology will be helpful in strengthening the bilateral ties and in carrying out the current trial of the Bengali-speaking perpetrators of 'crimes against humanity' as collaborators of Pakistani troops," he said.

He said since 1971 Bangladesh wanted its share of USD 4 billion worth of pre-independence exchange, bank credit, and movable assets, which were deposited or protected in West Pakistan during the Liberation War.

Bangladesh also wants settlement of USD 200 million, which Pakistan received from the global community as donation for the 1970 cyclone victims of the then East Pakistan.

Under a 1975 agreement, Bangladesh accepted half of Pakistan's pre-1971 external debts, but the asset-sharing issue remained unresolved.

The official said bilateral trade would also largely feature in the talks and Bangladesh was optimistic that Islamabad would offer duty-free access to more of its products the way Bangladeshi jute and tea were treated.

Besides, he said, Bangladesh would ask Pakistan to prune the negative list of goods under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), to establish the Karachi-Chittagong direct sea link and to increase the frequency of flights between the two countries.

Quayes leads an eight-member delegation at the consultation, the first since August 2007 when a military-backed interim administration was in office in Bangladesh while Pervez Musharraf was in power in Islamabad.

The foreign ministry official both countries were now keen to reinvigorate the bilateral ties and want their leaderships to undertake bold steps to take the bilateral relations to a genuinely meaningful level as both nations were "now being run by elected peoples representatives".