Pakistan-Turkey: A Case of Special Relations

Multi-dimensional ties between Pakistan and Turkey are essence of brotherhood, which started amongst the Indian Muslims and the Ottoman Empire. It is pertinent to mention that previously even secular Turkey never hindered the progression of friendly connections with Islamic Republic of Pakistan. These relations have had profound cultural and political associations between both countries. The people of Turkey lovingly recall the care they had received from Indian Muslims during the Turkish War of Independence that led to the formation of contemporary Turkey.

Historically there are many features behind companionable connections between the two countries. Both Pakistan and Turkey are further extending their collaboration being members of several regional organizations. Therefore, connections between Pakistan and Turkey should be viewed from a wider historical context. The cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey was originally regarding following the security aid stemmed from their mutual confrontation of the communist bloc in the 1950s. Today both countries are engaged in curbing the menace of terrorism along with boosting trade and economic activities.  The relations between Pakistan and Turkey are composed of multiple facets but the most prominent ones are religion and culture. They both have demonstrated to be significant determinants for enhancing relations between Pakistan and Turkey. When we talk about the diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Turkey, it truly connected back to the Ottoman Empire, even before the advent of Pakistan and Turkey as independent states.

During the Turkish War of Independence when the Muslims of the northwestern British Raj sent monetary assistance to the declining Ottoman Empire which was trailed by the creation of the Turkish Republic. It was the very first diplomatic collaboration between both countries.  Soon after the independence of sub-continent in 1947 Turkey established diplomatic relations with Pakistan. Since then these bilateral relations have been focused on the necessity to augment cultural, religious and economic integration.  The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e- Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in a reply to the speech of the first Turkish Ambassador to Pakistan said, “Turkey has been in our thoughts constantly and has drawn our admiration for the bravery of its people and the way in which Turkish statesman and leaders have struggled and fought almost single handed in the midst of Europe for your freedom and sovereignty which have been happily maintained. I can, therefore, assure Your Excellency that the Muslims of Pakistan entertain sentiments of affection and esteem for your country, and now Turkey and Pakistan both as free, sovereign and independent countries, can strengthen their ties more and more for the good of both” .

Today both countries are enjoying cordial relation whether its business, trade, education, tourism, defense, production, infrastructural developments or the cooperation in cultural ventures. There is marvelous potential in numerous areas of interest and. The formation of joint business council and joint marketing company has additionally comforted the situation for investors and businessmen from the both sides. Turkey’s capital and skilled manpower of Pakistan is indeed an excellent incorporation for joint ventures in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. These are the obvious facts and advancement is underway to meet the decisive goals.  For enhancing trade activities in 2015 Pakistan and Turkey has signed free trade agreement (FTA).

This step was taken, as there was requirement to improve trade volume, which appeared to be inadequate earlier. Recently, Pakistan and Turkey decided to articulate a declaration of an economic framework to upsurge bilateral trade volume to $5 billion from the current volume of $800 million. The two countries have realized their trade volume go up from $600 million to about $800 million over the last five years. Some of the experts are of the opinion that the presence of corresponding economies was one of the reasons for formerly low volume of trade between the two countries but on the other hand, both have mutual target markets. Growing defense ties between the two nations is something worth mentioning. The military-to-military relationship is demonstrated by the armed forces training exchange program, which was inaugurated in 2000. Since the program commenced, around 1,500 Pakistani military officers have been trained in Turkey. Turkey also helps uphold Pakistan’s fleet of F-16 aircraft. Bilateral defense and security collaboration was increased with noteworthy defense deals in 2018, and currently after China, Turkey is Pakistan’s second-biggest arms supplier. In October 2018, the Pakistan Navy commissioned a 17,000-tonne fleet tanker, constructed in partnership with Turkish defense company STM in the southern port city of Karachi. According to Pakistani military sources, It was the biggest warship ever built in the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works.  Turkey is also upgrading three Pakistani submarines.

In July 2018, Turkey won a multibillion-dollar tender to supply four corvettes to the Pakistan Navy. In 2016, Turkey gave 34 T-37 aircraft (with spares) to Pakistan. Many military training and exchange programs are in pipeline. Earlier in January this year, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Turkey held the second round of foreign minister-level trilateral talks in Islamabad.

A joint statement was issued later which mentioned an arrangement on the arguments like Cyprus, Kashmir, and Nagorno-Karabakh.  Turkey’s stance over Kashmir is also something which attaches the both Nations. In recent years, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has loudly supported a negotiated settlement to the Kashmir issue. He also remained vocal on the issue at the U.N. General Assembly, where he called for the urgent resolve of the Kashmir dispute according to the will of the people of Kashmir as well as resolutions passed by UN in this regard.  Erdogan’s support for the people of Kashmir has frustrated New Delhi, which bristles at any external effort to internationalize the Kashmir issue. Erdoğan has won hearts of Pakistanis as well as Kashmiris.

The leadership of both states evidently revealed the inclination to collaborate in all spheres. During Erdoğan’s address to the Joint Session of the National Assembly of Pakistan, he recognized Pakistan’s support being linked with the historical perspectives. Throughout his address, he broadly displayed his support for Pakistan. He revealed in his speech, “I thank God for giving me this opportunity. I am thankful to each of you individually for allowing me to address this joint session of Parliament. I would like to convey the greetings of 83 million brothers and sisters in Turkey”.

The Turkish delegation was consisted of investors, CEOs of corporate industries, businesspersons and ministers, which further paved way for cooperation and investment in many spheres.  During the visit of Turkish President, both countries concluded two memorandums of understandings (MoUs) to upsurge the level of economic engagement and assemble the unexploited potential for cumulative trade and investment. It was decided during a meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Trade and Investment held on the sidelines of the visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The finalized MoUs comprise of Trade Facilitation and Customs Cooperation, and the other to strengthen collaboration in the field of Halal Accreditation. Both countries decided to explore the potentials of enhancing bilateral trade by jointly valuable market admittance and trade facilitation. Both Muslim Nations decided to further revise the current bilateral trade and decided to increase the level of economic engagement. Around 450 productive B2B meetings were held between the visiting Turkish companies and their Pakistani business counterparts. More than 200 prominent businessmen from Pakistani counterpart sectors, leading trade bodies as well as government organizations including PBIT, TDCP, PTDC were present at the event. TUMSAID, DIEK and Pakistan-Turkey Friendship Association represented the Turkish side. Previously in 2004, Pakistan and Turkey tried to enhance the trade ties along with increasing the investment opportunities but remained unsuccessful to accomplish a free trade agreement regardless of several rounds and meetings. In 2019, the trade talks reached to some conclusion.

Turkey has expertise in shipping, export processing zones and road infrastructure network. This can be a supportive in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and other transit routes. Turkey and Pakistan have potential to work together and explore more opportunities with regards to investment in fields like defense industry, food processing and packing, automotive industry and auto parts, household appliances, leather machinery, textiles, construction material and finished products, surgical instruments and sports goods. Turkish law enforcing agencies particularly police authorities have assisted Pakistan to formulate an adequate security and surveillance systems across its major cities. These systems have ability to revamp the recruitment and training schemes and they contain newest crime-fighting techniques to fight out terrorism and crimes.

Security Cooperation Protocol has already been signed between Pakistan and Turkey.  Pakistan and Turkey being the founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organization and the Developing 8 Countries (D-8), have worked together to negotiate a preferential trading agreement. The purpose of this agreement is to upsurge trade and investments.  Tourism industry is one of the prominent sectors mentioned in this agreement. The private sector of Turkey is also investing in Pakistan in several sectors. The long standing relations between Pakistan and Turkey has much more to explore and work in the times to come.


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