President Erdogan A visit to remember

Nasim Ahmed

A handout picture taken and released by the Turkish Presidential Press Office, shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) welcoming Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) ahead of their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on January 4, 2019. 

Turkish President Tayyip Ergodan’s two-day visit to Pakistan has left an indelible imprint on relations between the two countries. It has imparted a new dimension to bilateral ties and upgraded them to a new level of trust, cordiality and closeness unmatched in modern political history.

The Turkish President best described the historical bonds between the two countries when addressing the joint session of parliament he said: “Pak-Turkey friendship is not based on any interest but purely love and affection. It is an ever-lasting friendship which is an example for the whole world…no precedent in the world”. He further said: “While in Pakistan, I think as if I am in my home.”

In this context, he specially mentioned the support that the Muslims of the Subcontinent extended to Turkey during the Khilafat Movement. As he put it, the two countries have infallible bonds based on common religion and shared cultural, historical and mystical experiences spanning over centuries.

The Turkish President’s visit carried special significant from the perspective of the regional situation in the backdrop of the Indian action to end the special status of Indian-occupied Kashmir, declaring it part of the Indian union and enacting a complete lockdown in the valley.

He minced no words – just like in the UN General Assembly – while supporting the position taken by Pakistan on the issue and how a solution to it could be found. He also reiterated Turkey’s unequivocal support to Pakistan at the FATF meeting. In his address at the Joint Session of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Erdoğan extended unstinted support for Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir and conveyed a resounding message to the world that Turkey will continue to raise its voice against the Indian occupation and oppression in the valley.

To quote Erdogan, “Our Kashmiris brothers and sisters have suffered from inconveniences for decades and these sufferings have become graver due to unilateral steps taken in recent times. The Kashmir issues can be resolved not through conflict or oppression but on the basis of justice and fairness”. He boldly stated that Kashmir is as important for Turkey as it is important for Pakistan.

The visit was important for further deepening two-way ties in all spheres. While enjoying excellent political relations, Pakistan and Turkey also have strong economic ties. There are 17 Turkish firms at present operating in Pakistan. Turkish investments are mainly focused on energy, finance, infrastructure projects and contracting sectors. Construction is the leading sector for Turkish investors in Pakistan.

The Turkish president’s visit to Pakistan was in connection with the sixth session of the Pakistan-Turkish High Level Strategic Cooperation Council. The Turkish delegation consisted of investors, CEOs of corporate industries, businessmen and ministers, which shows that the Turkish president came fully prepared to further raise the level of economic cooperation between the two countries. During his visit, the two countries signed 13 memoranda of understanding which – ranging from tourism to security – also include cooperation between Pakistan state-owned PTV, Radio Pakistan and Turkey’s state broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television.

As agreed by the two sides, new avenues of cooperation are going to open up in various sectors, from trade to investment, energy to business, and entertainment to the medical field. Significant in this regard is the remarks of President Erdogan that “we want to increase the level of commercial and economic relations to the level of political relations. Turkey and Pakistan, with a total population of over 300 million, have only $800 million in foreign trade, and this is something we can’t accept.” This underlines the Turkish President’s seriousness about increasing trade relations to the maximum level. He also announced that Turkish companies intend to invest up to $200 million in Pakistan.

In his speech, Erdoğan expressed deep appreciation of Pakistan’s sacrifices and endeavors to counter terrorism and conceded that Pakistan has been greatly affected due to the war against terrorism. He stated that “we are fully cognizant of the problems faced by Pakistan and will continue to extend our cooperation to them.”

The ties between the two countries are time-tested and have emerged stronger from the challenges that have confronted them over the years. The two nations have unswervingly stood by each other in times of adversity and crisis and worked closely at various world forums. They have identical views on issues of regional and international concerns, peace and security besides extending unflinching support to each other on issues of core interest to them. Pakistan and Turkey are both affected by terrorism and have been cooperating closely to deal with this common threat.

They are also collaborating closely in the defence field. Pakistan and Turkey have maintained long-standing military ties, with Turkey providing training to Pakistani air force officers in upgrading its F-16 fleet. Turkey is also currently a major arms seller to Pakistan. Turkey previously purchased arms from Pakistan and continues to purchase minor aerial weapons and components from Pakistan. Some time back Turkey signed a deal to purchase 52 Super Mushak trainer turbo-props from Pakistan.

The concept of Muslim unity is dear to the leadership of the two countries. Both are ardent advocates of Muslim causes and unity among the Ummah. At the same time they are at the forefront in the fight against the forces pushing the bugbear of Islamophobia. No less importantly, Turkey, along with China and Malaysia, has resolutely stood by Pakistan and saved it from being included into the FATF blacklist.

The growing political, economic and defence cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey augurs well to bring peace and stability to a region threatened by aggressive posturings by powerful neighbours.

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