By Aymen Ijaz
The recent two-day official visit of President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Pakistan would open a new chapter of friendship in Pakistan-Turkey relations. Both countries share deep religious, cultural and historical linkages and cordial relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1947. During the meeting at Islamabad, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have issued a joint declaration on the future direction of their bilateral relations and pledged to enhance co-operation in the fields of economy, defense, energy, infrastructure, agriculture and exploration of new avenues and untapped resources etc. The two leaders emphasized on the growing fraternal ties between the people of two countries who have always shared a common vision and mutual understanding for the future. Both the leaders have exchanged views on the broad spectrum of issues related to Pakistan and Turkey relations and also on regional and global issues.
Pakistan and Turkey have focused on expanding their trade co-operation and economic relations as the trade volume between Pakistan and Turkey remained $500 million during 2014-2015. The conclusion of the Comprehensive Bilateral Free Trade Agreement (CBFTA) and decision to complete the negotiations process by the end of 2016 would improve their economic relations in the future. The two countries have expressed firm resolve to cooperate under the framework of Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Co-operation Council (HLSCC), whose forthcoming 5th Session is scheduled to be held in Turkey soon. The working groups under the strategic council are already engaging in trade, banking, communication, culture and energy sectors etc.
During the visit, the two countries stressed upon cultural collaboration through increased people to people contacts by enhancing tourism, educational exchanges, preservation of historical sites and establishment of Turkish and Urdu cultural centers between the two countries. Pakistan and Turkey would develop a long-term and comprehensive defense co-operation framework and would also enhance ties in the Pakistan-Turkey maritime security. There would be frequent consultation on bilateral issues between Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries which would be expanded to Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) level for the commencement of joint efforts in the international fora, particular at UN, to raise voice for Muslims and especially for the people of Kashmir.
Turkey has appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in the Operation Zarb-e-Azb and fight against terrorism. President Erdogan have warned Pakistan about Feto, Fethullah Terror Organization, which can be a security threat to Pakistan, as in July 2016, it attempted a failed coup in Turkey and tried to destabilize the Turkish government. Pakistan and Turkey have called upon international community to combat terrorism and Islamophobia by joint measures at international forums. Pakistan and Turkey have decided to collaborate against threats of ISIS, al-Qaeda and terrorist organizations. The two sides also raised concerns regarding exceptionalism by the nuclear community which is not only violation of the true spirit of non-proliferation objectives but is also detrimental to South Asian strategic stability. Pakistan has appreciated Turkey’s bid for Pakistan’s joining of Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). Turkey has appreciated China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative and Pakistan-China co-operation in this regard. Turkey has also asked Pakistan and India to settle their disputes through peaceful negotiations and work for the resolution of Kashmir issue according to aspirations of Kashmiri people.
In short, this bilateral visit by the Turkish President is a positive step in Pakistan-Turkey relations. As the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of Pak-Turk diplomatic ties and both the countries would celebrate it in befitting manner. Therefore, the leadership of Pakistan and Turkey have shown serious commitment to transform their strategic and economic partnership into realties of 21st century through enhanced co-operation in the fields of energy, economy and defence etc. The two countries are determined to work together for regional connectivity, stability and robust economic cooperation that is essential to cement their bilateral relations and also for the mutual progress of both the countries.
*The writer works as an Assistant Research Officer at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and can be reached at email@example.com