Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Ankara visit proves to be a harbinger of change

Often labeled as brotherly countries bound by strong historical ties, Ankara and Islamabad stand on the same page on many critical domestic and international issues. Pakistan and Turkey enjoy unparalleled historic ties based on a common religious and cultural legacy that dates back centuries. The two countries have excellent political, economic, defense, cultural and people-to-people relations that continue to grow from strength to strength with each passing year.

Turkey and Pakistan have always had strong ties based on their history; Islamabad and Ankara have developed a strong tie over the years, for Pakistan, the country’s defense ties with Turkey gives it major support. Ankara and Islamabad have developed strong ties in recent years, especially in defense and security; defense ties with Turkey are a major source of support for Pakistan. In July last year, Turkey won a multibillion-dollar tender to supply four corvette ships to the Pakistani Navy, a deal dubbed as Turkey’s biggest single military export deal by then-Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli. In May 2017, Turkish and Pakistani defense companies struck another deal for the construction of four Turkish Ada class MILGEM (National Ship) corvettes.

The procurement of ATAK-129 helicopters and defense cooperation will also remain on the agenda. However, both the countries yet need to sign a dual nationality agreement, because at the moment, citizens have to relinquish [their citizenship] for another, which has created a social void, and it’s time that the talent pool of Turkish and Pakistani expatriates share both countries as a home away from home.

Hence Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit proves to be harbinger of change for both countries as Relations between Pakistan and Turkey are based on a very strong history, and it was a good opportunity for Imran Khan to further strengthen economic and defense ties with Ankara. Visit has opened new doors to explore massive potential and opportunities for both sides therefore Turkey and Pakistan can mutually benefit from one another to a greater extent, particularly when it comes to trade, economy, and even commercial relations.

Moreover, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Imran Khan are both known to be rulers of hearts amongst millions of their voters and followers as we as Khan has previously described Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as one of his political heroes. Khan has repeatedly said that President Erdogan along with the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad are his two contemporary political heroes. Imran Khan in his admiration for the Turkish president said that people took to the streets to protect Turkish democracy because the government of Erdogan had delivered for over a decade.

According to Khan, the Turkish army could no longer feature in politics because leaders had a strong connection with the people. Similarly, Turkish president, after a few weeks of Imran taking power and announced that a ‘new era’ had arrived in the two countries ties. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the strongman leader of a proud nation. Khan visited Turkey on the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 3-5 January. He laid a wreath at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of the Turkish Republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as part of an official state visit to Ankara on January 4.

As Khan left, he signed the guest book, writing, ‘it is a matter of great honor for me to be present here to pay homage to one of the greatest statesmen and visionary leaders of the 20th century – Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Leading the Turkish nation at one of the most challenging times, he changed the course of Turkish and indeed the world’s history, becoming an inspiration for all those resisting the tide of colonialism across the world. He was an epitome of courage, strength, resilience, forbearance, and wisdom.

He continued: “Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, described Ataturk as ‘one of the greatest men who has ever lived.’ On behalf of the Government and people of Pakistan, I would like to convey my deepest admiration and respect for Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. His glorious struggle and leadership for the independence and unity of the Turkish nation will forever remain a golden chapter in the annals of history.”

Two strong leaders met to reaffirm the century-old friendship between their brotherly nations in Ankara on January 4 and exchanged views on the entire spectrum of Turkey – Pakistan bilateral “heart-to-heart” relationship as well as on issues of regional and international importance.

The leaders of the two countries re-affirmed that the unparalleled fraternal relations between the peoples and the governments of the two countries date back centuries and are embedded in a common cultural and religious heritage, as well as a shared vision for the future, based on complete mutual understanding and trust.

They noted with great satisfaction that the relationship between the two brotherly countries has over the years transformed into a strong strategic partnership in all areas of mutual interest, that has withstood the tests of time and reiterated their determination to continue extending strong mutual support to one another on all issues of core national interest.

Both the leaders expressed their commitment to further enhance their bilateral relations in every field to the benefit of their peoples and reiterated the importance of the Turkey-Pakistan High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council mechanism that also includes several working groups in further strengthening bilateral relations. They noted with satisfaction their ever-expanding defense and defense industry cooperation and expressed their resolve to further strengthen the existing economic, trade and commercial relations between the two countries.

Both the strong leaders agreed to initiate mechanisms for collaboration in the health and agriculture sectors, decided to further enhance people-to-people contacts through increased exchanges and cooperation in education, culture, tourism and youth fields as well as underlined their abiding commitment to fighting the menace of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Imran and Erodgan reiterated their resolve to fight against the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization, expressed satisfaction at the ongoing cooperation between the two countries at the multilateral forums, including at the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Organization; Developing 8 Countries, as well as other relevant forums and reaffirmed their commitment for achieving and sustaining peace, security and stability in their respective regions as well as internationally.

They underscored the need for resolution of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir through a sustained dialogue process and in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, recognized the Turkish support for Pakistan’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) based on non-discriminatory criteria, and reaffirmed that Pakistan’s adherence to the NSG Guidelines and participation in the NSG would strengthen the global non-proliferation objectives as well as acknowledged that sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan could be achieved through reconciliation of all segments of Afghan society with the support of regional countries and the international community;.

Both the leaders of the Muslim world reiterated their full and resolute support to the efforts for the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue on the basis of the political equality of the two communities on the island, with a view to building peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and emphasized the centrality of the cause of Palestine, rejected any attempt to alter the legal status and historical character of Al Quds; called on the international community to increase their support to the Palestinian people in realizing their quest for the establishment of an independent, sovereign and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of the borders of 1967 with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

They also agreed to increase collaboration to uphold the true values of Islam at the international forums as well as to work closely against any attempts to malign, distort or vilify the historical image of Islam, its revered personalities, and its fundamental beliefs and expressed their strong resolve to further increase the frequency of bilateral contacts at the highest level.

Then they reiterated their determination to continue taking steps in all areas of mutual interest for mutual peace and prosperity, especially by transforming the historic Turkey-Pakistan relationship into an increasingly stronger trade, investment and economic relationship for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries; and agreed to convene the 6th Session of the Turkey-Pakistan High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Pakistan at mutually convenient dates for further discussion on these areas.

The visit was described as very successful and marked the beginning of a new era. It is expected that bilateral relations in trade and defense will develop rapidly. Diplomatic harmony and people-to-people contact will improve exponentially. Both countries enjoy harmony on regional and global issues, especially on Afghanistan, Kashmir and the Middle East.

In fact, emerging geopolitical scenarios and economic crises have brought the two countries even closer to each other. It is expected, that close cooperation between the two nations will be fruitful and ensure peace, stability and development, not only for Pakistan and Turkey but also for the region and the world. Erdogan will visit Pakistan in the very near future. Officials are working on finalizing the dates and other formalities.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Turkey and Islamabad’s decision to hand over schools affiliated with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) prior to his arrival further boosted the already strong relations between the two countries. Turkey’s Maarif Foundation took over the management of FETÖ-linked schools in Pakistan, following a decision by its Supreme Court late December to designate FETÖ as a terrorist organization.

President Erdogan hailed Pakistan’s Supreme Court for recognizing FETÖ as a terrorist organization, during a joint press conference with Khan in Ankara. Turkey will continue to be in solidarity with Pakistan, President Erdogan said. Prime Minister Khan, on the other hand, said that from now on Pakistan and Turkey will be much closer and the country wants to take relations with Turkey to a much higher level.

The high court ordered the transfer of all of FETÖ’s movable and immovable assets, including schools, colleges, education centers and other similar entities, to the Maarif Foundation. After the ruling, Pakistani Interior Ministry declared the Pak-Türk Ça Education Foundation a terrorist organization and banned its activities in the country.

Earlier in September 2018, Turkey assured Pakistan of complete support in its quest for a peaceful solution to the long-standing issue of Jammu and Kashmir. In the group, which has been formed over Kashmir in the UN, we will stand with Pakistan and try to make [its efforts] successful, the visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference he jointly add­ress­ed with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi after a formal round of talks between the two sides in Islamabad. He said it was Turkey’s desire that the Kashmir dispute involving India and Pakistan was resolved in a peaceful manner. Cavusoglu and Qureshi say both countries will collectively confront Islamophobia.

Mr Qureshi welcomed Turkey’s decision to support Pakistan’s bid for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue at the UN. He said, at the United Nations, there will be a separate conference on Kashmir on the sidelines. It happens every year, but it is different this time because a new UN report has come out which sheds light on India-occupied Kashmir. There had certainly been a surge in people’s interest in human rights abuses which were taking place in Kashmir.
The Turkish foreign minister said, in meeting, I discussed a lot of issues with FM Qureshi. The most important aspect of our discussion was on the [High-Level] Strategic [Cooperation] Council, the sixth conference of which, God willing, will take place in Pakistan, and we will do all we can to make it happen. We have strengthened our commercial ties, and [decided to facilitate] our companies that want to work in Pakistan. We have a unique relation, therefore, we should work together to further enhance our relations. The security issue for both the countries is important and so is the economic and military cooperation.
FM Cavusoglu said, there is propaganda against Islam in Europe. We ran a campaign against the Netherlands caricatures, and thank God they shut it down. He said Pakistan and Turkey had suffered the most hardships in the war against terrorism. He said Turkey would never forget Pakistan and its people’s help in the failed 2016 coup attempt. The Gulen movement not only damaged Turkey but it also caused destruction wherever it went,” he said, adding that Pakistan helped Turkey on that front too.

The Turkish foreign minister congratulated FM Qureshi and Prime Minister Imran Khan on forming the new government in Pakistan. The governments and people come and go, but real friendships cannot end Cavusoglu remarked, this friendship should remain forever. Qureshi said, in our meeting today we focused on enhancing our economic relations. [We discussed] ways to facilitate each other. Our relationship has been very strong. There is a mutual interest. We understand each other’s sensitivities. Turkey has played a role in improving regional consensus and stability.

He said they also had a trilateral arrangement, which could be used to further improve regional stability and connectivity. I got the chance today to thank the Turkish FM for supporting Pakistan’s membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group. On the Netherlands caricature issue as well, Turkey supported us.

FM Qureshi said the situation in Afghanistan, Iran and Kashmir were also discussed at the meeting.
Earlier while welcoming Cavusoglu at Foreign Office, FM Qureshi said Pakistan and Turkey were brothers, friends and partners. The inseparable bond of common faith, history and culture had been reinforced by mutual trust and a sense of inter-dependence on critical issues, he said. The strength of Pakistan-Turkey relationship was not relative to time, situations or individual choices, as it was a relationship anchored in affection and solidarity among the people of the two nations.

Both foreign ministers held a one-on-one meeting followed by talks between senior officials from both sides. Mr Qureshi noted that regular exchange of delegations and the presence of a number of institutional frameworks under the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council were indicative of the close bilateral ties maintained at various levels. Pakistan and Turkey supported each other on all issues of core concern to both sides.

While referring to the heart-to-heart and Two Countries-One Nation relationship, Cavusoglu underlined Pakistan would always have a special significance in Turkish foreign policy. He appreciated Pakistan’s successful and strong action to subdue and defeat the menace of extremism and terrorism.

Both sides reiterated that Pakistan and Turkey were important members of the Muslim world. Our people take pride in their faith and are determined to make collective efforts in confronting Islamophobia and other attempts to malign or distort the great message of peace and respect for humanity imbibed in the Holy Quran and repeatedly demonstrated in the life of our Holy Prophet (PBUH), the two leaders said.

The Turkish foreign minister during his fifth visit to Islamabad also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

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