Pakistan and Turkey are Shaping New Era of Cooperation 

Pakistan and Turkey pledged to improve their strategic and economic relations and agreed to take steps to eliminate terrorism. Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the commitments during a one-on-one meeting and talks on issues of mutual interests. Today, Pakistan and Turkey are moving in the right direction of a cordial relationship. Both the countries respect each other because of multiple commonalities and spirit of brotherhood.

However, ideologically, the two countries were poles apart; Pakistan adhered to the Islamic ideology as the centrepiece of its nationhood while Turkey pursued secularism when it became a Republic. Nonetheless these differences of ideology with their corresponding reflection, on their respective external outlook, never hampered the course of friendship.

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Since the last few years the perception and interest of both the countries have converged on a number of important issues. The strategic locations of both the countries are very unique and important. Pakistan is geostrategically located at the crossroads of West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia and right next to China that has emerged as a great economic power in the world and a great power of the region. Similarly, Turkey is located at the crossroads of the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Balkans which preserve abundant amounts of oil and gas resources and fatality of conflicts.

Pakistan and Turkey converged on business, trade, investment, defense production, tourism, education and cultural areas of cooperation. Nonetheless, both the countries could not achieve advantage from the tremendous potential of mutual cooperation in all these areas. Since the global war on terror in 2001, both the countries prioritized the issue of counterterrorism and long term defense cooperation. Pakistan and Turkey were aware about terrorism as a domestic and global phenomenon which was becoming a very severe threat to the world and each country was dealing terrorism in its own way.

Pakistan and Turkey decided to work on intelligence sharing and joint military exercises in the war on terror. Both countries have agreed to cooperate in arms technology and its manufacturing. The Turkish aersospace industry has designed a research and development unit in Pakistan’ National University of Science and technology to focus on security, and drone and radar technology. In 2018, with the collaboration of Turkey, Pakistan is on the track of warship yard construction in Karachi. In the aftermath of 2020, both the countries organized a session of a high level dialogue group in which Turkey sought assistance in developing a nuclear weapon programme.

Turkey seems the natural partner of Pakistan in the areas of economic and defense due to historical bonds and relationship of brotherhood. In short, this solid and deep foundation of relationship between both the countries may fortify and yield impressive benefits for their people as well as be an effective voice for the issues of Muslim World.

The two countries are much worried about the Muslim deterioration and always claimed to fight for the rights of Muslim world and their territorial disputes. For example, Pakistan is one of the only countries in the world that does not recognize Armenia as a sovereign state but it recognizes the Azerbaijani claim over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey has also supported Azerbaijan during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In January 2021, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Turkey arranged a talk and issued a statement for their diplomatic support to Nagorno-Karabakh, North Cyprus and Kashmir. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has also maintained the stance for Turkish-backed Kurds in Syria and in the return Turkey also spoke openly over Kashmir and expressed its ire to India. In 2020, the leadership of both the countries declared Kashmir as a burning issue of the world. For a long time, the Palestine issue has been discussed routinely in the UN and in other international forums without any favourable statement or political settlement. Nowadays both the countries are openly voicing for the Palestinian people in the UN General Assembly and other international forums.

Turkish diplomatic and defence cooperation have improved Pakistan’s security status in the region but it could not resolve the economic dilemma that has been exacerbated by te covid-19 pandemic. In January 2021, both the countries gave an outline of trade and investment of $1 billion by Turkish companies in Pakistan.

Then in February 2021, President Erdogan visited Pakistan and the leadership of both sides signed a Strategic Economic Framework agreement that may cover a broad spectrum of cooperation in defense, trade and investment, science and technology, education, health, tourism, and culture. Pakistani and Turkish Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is still in the process. Pakistan, Iran and Turkey have agreed to resume cargo train service to facilitate the goods transportation between neighbours.

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They have also signed a citizenship agreement to facilitate businessmen and tourists of both sides; in addition Pakistan has launched an E-visa system to facilitate the people. Today, Pakistan and Turkey are taking measures to establish a balanced and prioritized equation of bilateral cooperation. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has made a statement that Pak-Turkish bilateral trade of $800 million is not sufficient and both the countries should be brought up to their true potential. Pakistan should include Turkish companies in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) especially in energy sector and transportation infrastructure. Meanwhile both sides are willing to forge new connections between people, apart from student exchange programmes, and conferences focused on private and public partnership and workshops to encourage startups.

Naya Pakistan policy of the previous government was focusing on economic security as the covid-19 pandemic has shaken the economic structure of Pakistan. Despite this desolating circumstance, many multinational companies are still doing business in Pakistan and are earning reasonable profits due to the friendly investment environment. Such a situation is also very favourable for Turkish businessmen and enterprises.

The Pakistani and Turk leaderships signed six bilateral memorandum of understanding on public debt management, Collaboration between credit guarantee institutions for the financing of SME, housing, public-private partnership models, especially knowledge exchange in transportation and health, economic and social policy planning, and technical cooperation in road engineering.

Turkey seems the natural partner of Pakistan in the areas of economic and defense due to historical bonds and relationship of brotherhood. In short, this solid and deep foundation of relationship between both the countries may fortify and yield impressive benefits for their people as well as be an effective voice for the issues of Muslim World.

Dr Muhammad Akram Zaheer
Dr Muhammad Akram Zaheer
The writer has a PhD in Political Science and can be reached at [email protected]

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