Turkey-Pakistan friendship: From past to present

SYED ALI NAWAZ GILANI
Published 13.02.2020 02:01
Turkey-Pakistan friendship: From past to present

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad today as part of the first head of a state visit by a foreign leader to Pakistan in 2020. The two-day visit will see the president joined by a high profile delegation holding bilateral talks with Pakistan's president and prime minister, Imran Khan. The two countries are likely to sign a number of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) to boost cooperation in various fields, while Erdoğan will also meet leading Pakistani political figures and attend various planned events, including an address of a joint session of the Senate and National Assembly on Friday.

The most important part of this visit will be marked by the announcement of a landmark deal for dual nationality between Turkey and Pakistan. The two countries are considering a plan to make it easier to provide dual nationality for their citizens, in what would be a significant boost in relations. Recently, this idea came to light during a meeting between Pakistan's Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah and Turkish Ambassador to Pakistan İhsan Mustafa Yurdakul – a very active Turkish diplomat who commands immense respect across the country. When the move was proposed by Yurdakul, Shah responded that the draft for the law would fall "under consideration" and that they hoped "to reach a mutual conclusion soon."

It is expected that the matter will be discussed over the course of the visit, along with other matters related to bilateral relations, including military cooperation, the upgrading of law enforcement tools and training for officers. The Pakistani Interior Ministry also welcomed the idea of introducing a motorcycle patrol force in collaboration with the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Police which would be modeled on the Dolphin Force introduced in Lahore. The elite security force was launched in Punjab in 2016 and partly trained by Turkey for the purpose of tackling street crime and ensuring security around the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Under the citizenship initiative, meanwhile, the citizens of Pakistan and Turkey would be able to attain joint citizenship and dual passports from each others' countries, adding significantly to their already strong relations. Earlier this month, Pakistan extended the scheduled date for the delivery of Turkey's T129 attack helicopters, which were delayed due to U.S. sanctions imposed on Turkey. In May last year, Pakistan also added Turkey to its visa-free travel list which aims to promote tourism and business between the two countries.

The preamble leading up to the Turkish president's visit laid out various historical facts about the two countries' relations. Bilateral ties between Turkey and Pakistan have historically been exemplary, and the two brotherly countries have never left each other stranded in times of need. Turkey has always remained a close friend of Pakistan over the years. Pakistan, on the other hand, is going through a difficult phase in its war against militancy and extremism, but as a nation, Pakistan has shown that it has ample capacity to rid itself of such problems. In addition to political and security-related cooperation between the two countries, there is also a need to focus on further strengthening economic and trade cooperation.

Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with Turkey and desires to further strengthen it through people-to-people contact. Turkey has remained a strategic partner of Pakistan, and it is highly likely that this visit will diversify its economic relations in all sectors of the economy. Pakistan acknowledges Turkey's contributions to the war against terrorism.

Sharing mutual benefits

Turkey has continued supporting Pakistan over the years, and the friendship between the two countries is historic. These relations have been traditionally strong, with both nations maintaining extensive cultural, commercial, strategic and military cooperation. Both Turkey and Pakistan are Muslim-majority states and share extensive cultural and geopolitical links.

Turkey established diplomatic relations soon after Pakistan declared independence in 1947, and bilateral relations became very close due to the pair's cultural, religious and geopolitical links. Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, expressed admiration for Turkey's founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and expressed a desire to develop Pakistan on the Turkish model of modernism and secularism. Jinnah is honored as a great leader in Turkey, and a major road of the Turkish capital Ankara, Cinnah Caddesi, is named after him, while roads in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, are named after Atatürk as a gesture of the love and attachment that both nations have for one another.

The sentiments of brotherhood that Pakistanis have for the people of Turkey have their roots in history. This history of Pakistani-Turkish relations is a story of concern and cooperation. They have been friends and supported each other in times of war and peace. The story of their friendship is spread almost over a century. The institution of Khilafat has occupied a very important place in the history of Islamic peoples.

The year 1947 was a crucial period in the history of the modern world. On one hand, the old order started crumbling with the partition of Europe into two separate spheres, while on the other, the Indian subcontinent was divided into the two independent states of Pakistan and India. The most desired dream of the Indian Muslims transformed into a reality when they got their own separate homeland in Pakistan – the "land of the pure" and a custodian of ancient civilization and culture.

Pakistan established diplomatic relations with Turkey after the partition. The Muslims of the subcontinent learned valuable lessons and gained inspiration from their Turkish brethren during their fight for independence. The crucial years of the Khilafat Movement, from 1919 to 1922, played a pivotal role in the Pakistan movement launched by Indian Muslims on a mass scale. They not only stood in support of their Turkish brethren. Malik Firoze Khan Noon, on special instructions of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, visited Turkey in December 1947 and stated that: "Pakistan admires the glorious past of Turkey and its administrative achievements and organizational abilities in the past and present times. Pakistan is now two months old, and in the near future, the two brotherly countries are going to establish close cultural, commercial and political relations. A new happy era will emerge for these two countries."

Quaid Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, considered father of the nation and the first governor-general of Pakistan, at the time of the appointment of H. E. Mr. Yahya Kemal Beyatlı as first Turkish ambassador in Pakistan on March 4, 1948, stated that: "Turkey has drawn our admiration for the valor of Turkish people and the way in which your statesman and the leaders have struggled and fought almost single-handed in the midst of Europe for your freedom and sovereignty which is worth mentioning, 'I really can assure your excellency that the Muslims of Pakistan will entertain sentiments of affection and esteem for your country, and now Turkey and Pakistan both as free, sovereign and independent countries can strengthen their ties more and more for the good of both."

He also hoped that being Muslim countries, people of nations would put their genuine backing and teamwork into establishing closer political and cultural ties and thus contribute their share in the welfare and betterment of the subject of these two brotherly states.

In July 1964, President Ayub Khan visited Turkey. The Pakistani president disclosed later that during his meeting with Turkish leaders, they had expressed grave concern over the Cyprus situation. Therefore, he had promised to convey the Turkish concern to the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in London. In response, the Turkish government expressed its hearty appreciation of the stance of the Pakistani government over the Cyprus issue. Turkish Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel expressed his gratitude for Pakistan's stand over the Cyprus issue in his visit to the country in April 1967.

Western press

Meanwhile, the Western media noted the new "lineup" made up of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan according to the framework of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). As one British newspaper commented: 'It is also significant, in the light of recent anti-western feelings in Turkey over Cyprus, that Turkey should be taking part in talks with Iran and Pakistan, which have in recent years adopted a more flexible policy towards the Soviet Union and China." The three countries Iran, Pakistan and Turkey may be regarded as belonging to a distinct cultural region.

A distinctly non-Arab and rather more Turko-Persian culture dominates the lives of the people across this region. Thus, besides Islam, they have many common bonds. They have been united under the Ottoman Empire and have produced many mutually admired political thinkers, historians, writers and poets. All three states, as members of CENTO shared broadly pro-Western policies. If we analyze their economic needs in the early 1960s, all three were moving toward industrialization and modernization. Their economic needs and goals all stood at a similar level in the beginning of the '60s. However, they then became disenchanted with the West and began looking for new avenues. In Iran, there was an evident trend toward national assertion as the country sought to lessen its embroilment in the Russian-American conflict. Iran, on account of cuts in economic assistance, and Pakistan, on account of a flow of U.S. arms to India after the Sino-India border conflict, sought greater independence.

The idea about the formation of the Regional Cooperation for Development Organization (RCD) between the three Muslim members of CENTO was first discussed in Washington in April 1964. They announced their new partnership without CENTO in a joint statement by the three heads of state issued on July 22, 1964, in Ankara, resolving that appropriate means should be adopted to set up cooperation in all fields in a spirit of "regional cooperation."

As members of the RCD, Pakistan and Turkey made good progress, with various roads explored to enlarge Pakistan-Turkish trade. Turkish traders took a keen interest in importing Pakistani products such as surgical instruments, caustic soda, glycerin, castor oil and stainless steel products. On the other hand, Pakistani importers were keen to buy chemicals and textiles auxiliaries among other goods from Turkey. At the session of the Pakistan-Turkish Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation, which was held in Islamabad in March 1977, the two governments agreed to outline several areas of cooperation, including on food and agriculture. This interest materialized with the launching of joint ventures in the fields of commerce, industry and transportation. Then, as the result of a devastating earthquake that hit the Pakistan-administered region of Kashmir in October 2005, then-Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a relief package from the government of Turkey to their Pakistani brethren in a joint press conference with the then-Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz. The relief package outlined financial assistance worth $100 million and relief goods worth $50 million, including a million blankets, 50,000 tons of flour and 25,000 tons of sugar. Turkey also provided technical help in several other fields.

MoU agenda

Turkey has also played a vital role in the materializing of the Trilateral MoU, which was signed by the governments of Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan to enhance and augment trade and economic cooperation between all three countries. That MoU was signed during the seventh trilateral Summit of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey in Ankara and provided a basis for the establishment of the Trilateral Trade Council, which would further help advance foreign investment, rising and enhancing commercial ties and reconnoitering possibilities for cooperation in the services sectors of all three countries. The MoU would also assist in the exchange of information focusing on their respective legislation on trade and economic activities. This "Trilateral Trade Council" is expected to supply a handy platform to talk about the advancement of regional, bilateral and trilateral cooperation besides joint practices on the issues of commercial and economic relations, trade policy matters and trade facilitation between the three countries.

Turkish security and police experts have helped Pakistan set up more adequate security and surveillance systems across its major cities, overhauling the recruitment and training schemes in all the provinces and imbuing forces with the latest crime-fighting techniques to combat terrorism and civil disturbances. In a new agreement, referred to as the Security Cooperation Protocol, signed between Pakistan and Turkey during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to Ankara, Islamabad sought a fellow Islamic country's help in overhauling the country's policing by improving its recruitment, training, command and control systems and equipment. According to sources, Turkish experts would also support Pakistan in developing a trustworthy CCTV-based security and surveillance system as has worked in Ankara.

As Turkey and Pakistan are founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organization and part of the Developing 8 Countries (D-8) Organization, both nations have worked to negotiate a preferential trading agreement, aiming to considerably increase trade and investments, especially in transport, telecommunications, manufacturing, tourism and other industries. Both governments have sought to increase the volume of bilateral trade to a sizable amount by 2016. Pakistani exports include rice, sesame seeds, leather, textiles, fabrics sports goods and medical equipment.

Turkey's exports to Pakistan include wheat, chickpeas, lentils, diesel, chemicals, transport vehicles, machinery and energy products. Turkish private corporations have also invested significantly in industrial and construction projects developing highways, pipelines and canals. Pakistan and Turkey have maintained long-standing military ties, with Turkey supplying arms and military equipment and training Pakistani officers. In April 1954, Pakistan and Turkey signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Both countries, valued as important states in their regions, joined the U.S.-led CENTO aimed to bolster military and strategic cooperation and counter the spread of communism and Soviet influence in the region.

Turkey has openly supported Pakistan's stance on the Kashmir conflict and maintained political and military support during its conflict with India. Pakistan has reciprocated by expressing support for Turkey's policy in Northern Cyprus. Both nations have sought to expand cooperation to fight terrorism and are also members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Pakistan is the second-largest Muslim country in terms of population after Indonesia, and its status as a declared nuclear power, the only Islamic nation with such a status, plays a part in its international role. Pakistan is also an important member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Pakistan is an active member of the United Nations. Historically, its foreign policy has encompassed difficult relations with India, especially on the core issue of Kashmir, over which it has fought two wars. However, it has had longstanding close relations with its other neighbors; Afghanistan, Iran and China; extensive security and economic interests in the Persian Gulf and wide-ranging bilateral relations with the United States and other Western countries. Once referring to the hardship faced by Pakistan because of the war on terror, Erdoğan said: "You are not alone in your campaign against terrorism and extremism as we too have suffered heavily from terror, given many martyrs. My government and the Turkish people stand by their Pakistani brothers as has always been the case and are ready to help address all needs to the best of their abilities. The people of Pakistan value their dignity and honor. They are resolute and will spare no sacrifice to defeat the designs of the enemies of Pakistan." Erdoğan expressed the hope that Pakistan would overcome its problems through national reconciliation and solidarity.

Turkey has been a part of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group from the very beginning and has always underlined the need for redressing the issues confronting Pakistan because it was the key country for regional and global stability.

Pakistan has always occupied a special place in the hearts and minds of the Turkish leadership, government and people. All eyes are on the forthcoming visit of the Turkish president to Pakistan which is about to kick off today. The two-day visit would be a milestone toward combating terrorism and strengthening bilateral trade and cultural ties between the two countries.

* Media consultant

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