By: M. Saad ur Rehman
Pakistan and Turkey have been close friends for over half a century. During the cold war both Ankara and Islamabad were instrumental in implementing the containment policy of Allies against Soviet Union. Furthermore, during the Afghan war, the cracks started appearing in both the states’ foreign policy when Ankara supported Northern Alliance and Islamabad supported Taliban. Pakistan – Turkey relations has many areas of convergence such as terrorism, Afghan peace process and economic cooperation. Ankara strongly supports Islamabad`s position on Kashmir and in reaction of atrocities committed by Indian forces in Kashmir the Turkish Ambassador spent one week in Muzaffarabad to show solidarity with the Kashmir cause.
On the other hand Islamabad supports Turkey’s stance on Cyprus – also known as Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) -, Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are many areas in which both countries can cooperate and strengthen their ties. Terrorism is the common threat for both the countries, especially in the recent days as a number of terrorist attacks have taken place in Istanbul. Cooperation between both the nations in this area has also increased over the past few years. Joint military exercises have become a common phenomenon. Turkey also knows that it can gain a lot from Pakistan due to latter’s expertise in counterinsurgency measures as a result of protracted war against terrorism.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also supported Pakistan’s position on Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) membership which proves that Istanbul has a pro-Pakistan policy when it comes to issues of NSG. In the recent years the people to people contact has increased significantly between both the countries. Various cultural exchange programs have provided an opportunity to the people of both the countries to further understand each other’s cultures. Events like “Whirling Dervishes”, signifying the cultural richness of Turkey, are also taking place in Pakistan, which has given a great Sufi touch to the relationship as both the countries share a common heritage when it comes to the world of mysticism and Sufism. Just like Maulana Rumi and Shams of Tabraiz, subcontinent also boasts of famous mystics and dervishes from Sachal Sarmast to Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh.
President Erdogan recently visited Islamabad and made a landmark address to the parliament in which he urged both India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir dispute according to the will of Kashmiri people. The issue of Pak-Turk Schools that the Turkish government alleged were operated by a “terrorist” Fateh Ullah Gullen Organization (FETO) remains a point of divergence among both the countries in recent days. However, Islamabad has taken all measures to manage this delicate situation in an amicable manner. Both the nations are aware that the ties are too strong to be overshadowed by a small issue such as this.
Defence cooperation between both the nations is increasing remarkably, with Pakistan signing a deal with Turkey to import Otakor Cobra Armoured Personnel carrier. Turkey acknowledges Islamabad’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism and has recently asked for Pakistan’s assistance to fight non-state actors in its own homeland. Turkey is also interested in buying Mushshak trainer aircraft, which is the premier trainer jet of Pakistani Air force.
Tourism can also be boosted among both the countries. The beautiful scenic cities of Istanbul and Ankara and the clean coastal lines and waters with ships can all act as role models for Pakistan in urban development and progress. The security situation in Pakistan has also improved considerably and with the on-going work on China Pakistan Economic Corridor it can become a great destination for Turkish investors. Turkish investors have already started investing in many sectors of Pakistan including food, beverages and other industries. New avenues of trade and commerce can be explored if ties continue to bolster.
Both the countries are also members of Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO); where the upcoming ECO summit will take place in Islamabad soon. Turkey and Pakistan are founding members of Regional Cooperation for Development which later became ECO. Where the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has become a victim of Indian hegemonic designs, the ECO can greatly replace SAARC as a great model of regional cooperation and connectivity. Currently ECO has not realized its full potential due to the lack of will from the political leadership, however the upcoming ECO summit can become a great opportunity to solve all the outstanding issues and improve cooperation on all political, cultural and economic levels.
The ties between Turkey and Pakistan can become an envy of many nations if all its potentials are fully materialized. Both the countries need to stand at each other’s side at this time of need when terrorism is threatening the future economic prospects of both the brotherly countries.
By: M. Saad ur Rehman
An engineering graduate from Islamabad with a keen interest in social-political affairs, who wants to see a progressive, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan.