In today’s modern world, bilateral visits and interactions always contribute to cementing of relations between two countries. At present, Pakistan is passing through turbulent times amidst its sagging economy as well as fast-emerging regional and global developments. In this critical time, we have only a few countries that are standing firmly with us with Turkey being prominent among them. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent official visit to Turkey comes as the latest example of that reality as the two sides had ‘heart-to-heart’ talks on a range of issues of mutual, regional and international importance. Despite being somewhat belated Imran Khan’s Ankara visit was commendable as the leaders of the two countries reaffirmed a strong friendship between their brotherly nations. They once again expressed their resolve to continue extending strong mutual support to each other on all issues of core national interest.
n the invitation of President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid an official visit to Republic of Turkey on 3-4 January 2019. PM Khan was accompanied by a high-level delegation on the occasion. President Erdoğan and PM Khan held a tête-à-tête meeting that was followed by delegation level talks.
While talking on the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan said it was high time both Pakistan and Turkey took their bilateral trade to a high level, citing Pakistan’s ideal geo-strategic location and its huge potential for investment in infrastructure and tourism. The premier said that Pakistan wanted to strengthen its bond with Turkey, not just in trade ties but also in “foreign relations, in our various attitudes to terrorism”.
Pakistan and Turkey have enjoyed a unique relationship which dates back to the times of the great leaders Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The relationship between the two brotherly nations has always excelled in the domains of economic, cultural and historical ties. It is evident that the recent visit of the Pakistani premier will enhance these relations further in due course.
While talking at the dinner co-organized by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) and Pakistan’s Embassy in Ankara, PM Khan said that it was time to boost the trade volume between Turkey and Pakistan. “I have brought my team with me because now is the time to enhance the trade volume between Pakistan and Turkey,” he said. Pointing that bilateral trade volume currently falls short for a number of reasons, including the distance between the countries, PM Khan hoped that the issue would be solved in the coming years, because “a huge development is taking place in Pakistan, namely the Chinese Belt and Road (One Belt, One Road) initiative.”
Noting Pakistan’s huge potential in many areas, he added the country boasts “huge mineral reserves” such as natural gas, copper and cobalt but that these areas have been neglected.
Over the last 20 years, trade in other areas has increased gradually and with the announcement of increased reciprocal business activity, the countries will reap the rewards of their hard work and struggle.
President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Khan agreed to develop a joint economic strategic framework, which would identify potential areas of economic and trade interests of the two countries, and identify obstacles in the way of enhanced trade and investment, and remove them.
Both sides noted with satisfaction their ever-expanding defence and defence industry cooperation. In fact, improved trade relations between Turkey and Pakistan in recent years have gained new momentum with agreements inked in this sector. With the sale of ATAK helicopters and MİLGEM corvettes to be concluded during the next couple of years, billions of dollars will be added to export figures.
According to Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) data, Turkey’s exports to Pakistan have considerably risen over the past decade, to $352 million in 2017 from $155 million in 2008.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s imports from Pakistan declined to $323 million from $586 million in the same period, a 45 percent fall. Pakistan’s exports to Turkey peaked at $873 million in 2011, while a downward trend prevailed over the following years.
Turkey’s exports to Pakistan amounted to $415 million in the first 11 months last year, marking the highest export figure to this country over the past decade. Also, imports from Pakistan stood at $305 million.
Turkey supported Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir and said that the issue must be resolved according to the UN resolutions. The Joint Statement, which was issued after meeting between the two countries’ leaders, read:
“[The two sides] underscored the need for resolution of Kashmir dispute through a sustained dialogue process and in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
Afghanistan Peace Summit
The two leaders agreed that sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan could be achieved through reconciliation of all segments of Afghan society with support of the regional countries and the international community.
Prime Minister Khan said that the international community should help with the peace process in Afghanistan. “The people of Afghanistan have been suffering for over three decades. Pakistan is already helping dialogue between Taliban and Americans. I look forward to the summit meeting in Istanbul, where we hope that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey will be able to help in this peace process,” Khan said.
In a joint statement released after the conference, Turkey and Pakistan acknowledged that sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan could be achieved through reconciliation of all segments of the Afghan society with the support of regional countries and international community.
President Erdoğan announced that Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan will hold a trilateral summit in Istanbul as soon as Turkish local elections are concluded in March.
Situation of the Muslim World
President Erdoğan has stated numerous times that anti-Muslim sentiments are abnormally harmful for the Muslim world. Speaking at an inauguration of a mosque in Cologne, Germany, he said, “Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism are maladies that threaten not only our today but also our future. We should join forces against these trends, which corrode social peace and undermine the culture of coexistence.”
Taking these facts into consideration, it can be comprehended that Pakistan too can be a vital player in eliminating these problems. The country recently took a strong stand against a blasphemous cartoon which was due to be published in the Netherlands, whose publishing was later withdrawn, thanks to the immense pressure put by the Pakistani government. Turkey has also supported such stances no matter where they arise.
The most important need of the Muslim world today is to end these menaces against Muslims, whether they are in Europe, Myanmar or Kashmir. No doubt, bilateral relations are very important but reinforced steps need to be taken to portray the correct image of Muslims around the world.
It is evident from recent reports that Islamophobia and xenophobia have been on the rise and governments in charge are not taking enough measures to end these problems. With the unique relationship defining Turkey and Pakistan, both countries can take a stronger stand to give the oppressed a better chance at what they deserve best.
If the Muslim world unites to confront major powers who show relatively no interest in the plight of millions across the globe, the world would become a better place to live for the children of Yemen, the innocent in Syria and the suppressed in occupied Palestine.
President Erdoğan should be commended for raising his voice on the reforms within the Security Council with his famous phrase, “The world is bigger than five.” However, the real question that needs to be posed now is, “How long will the Muslim world bow down to the demands of those in charge of making decisions?” Pakistan supports Turkey’s calls for a reformation within the United Nations but collaboration on a much larger scale to address this issue is required.
The visit was described as very successful and marked the beginning of a new era. It is expected that bilateral relations in trade and defence will develop rapidly. Diplomatic harmony and people-to-people contacts 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 will ensure “peace, stability and development,” not only for Pakistan and Turkey but also for the region and the world.