As Bangladesh turns 50 next year it is now important to ask the difficult question: Would Bangladesh have been better off if it had remained as East Pakistan?

I believe both Bangladesh and Pakistan should have remained as one country, primarily because they are Muslim nations and together they would have been a stronger force against the South Asian economic powerhouse which is modern day India and Asia’s other superpower, China.

India helped the nationalist Bengali fighters in 1971 not out of sympathy and support for the freedom fighters but out of self interest. It suited India to separate the two Muslim majority nations and create animosity between them. Thus applying the concept of divide and conquer.

Although the people of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and Pakistanis are different culturally, they actually follow the same branch of Islam. They are Sunni, Hanafi and mainly follow Chishti Sufism. They also eat similar food, Pakistanis eat chapattis and curries and the Bangladeshi staple food is rice and curry. The two wings were separated by more than 1000 miles of Indian territory.

The tragic events of the Civil war in 1971 are still imprinted in the collective memories of Bangladeshis.

Atrocities were carried out by the Pakistanis with mass rape being a tactic they used. Figures are disputed and suggest that there were an estimated 300,000 to 3,000,000 casualties. It is estimated that about 300,000 Bengali women were raped; again, the figures are not agreed upon.

Torture and widespread killing was another tactic used by the Pakistanis in what is now known as Bangladesh.

Amongst the older generation of Bangladeshis there is still a lot of hate and animosity towards Pakistanis because of the brutal tactics employed by them during what Bangladeshis see as their war of Independence.

I have met many elderly Bangladeshis who clearly remember the abuses carried out by the Pakistani army which was mainly comprised of Punjabis. The Pakistanis viewed themselves as a ‘martial race’ and assumed they would be able to defeat the Bengalis easily. They were wrong.

The political party Jamaat Islami supported Pakistan and did not want to separate from them. During the war they were involved in guiding the Pakistani army and were involved in many atrocities. The events that occurred during the conflict are historically accepted to have been genocide against the Bengalis.

The nine-month long conflict came to an end with the formation of the independent country of Bangladesh with the involvement of India in the civil war. Pakistan’s defeat at the hands of the Indians and the Bengali independence fighters resulted in the capture of more than 90,000 soldiers, the largest military surrender after World War Two.

The Pakistanis feel betrayed by the Bengalis due to the civil war in which they were humiliated militarily.

If Bangladesh was still part of Pakistan then its GDP, defence budget, population and size of its military would have been larger. The number of madrassas and mosques would have also been higher. So Bangladeshis would have ultimately reaped the benefits.

Unfortunately, Bangladesh is dependent on its powerful neighbour India, economically and politically. Something that would not have been the case if it had remained with Pakistan. Bangladesh is completely surrounded by the non-Muslim countries of India and Myanmar.

Although Pakistani atrocities during the war are unacceptable and unforgiveable, the truth is that Bangladesh would have been better off if it had remained a part of Pakistan and would not have been under the hegemony of India.

I reiterate, Bangladesh would have been militarily, politically and economically better off as a partner in the Pakistani state. For many Bangladeshis this will be a bitter pill to swallow but it is the truth as I see it.