Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
WITH Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s current visit to Islamabad(Feb 13-14), a new dawn in the relationship between Ankara and Islamabad sparks while bringing the two Islamic states much closer via gaining more momentum through a recently revitalized defence industry collaboration in which both countries are gravely committed to contributing to regional safety and security. The voyage of the relationship between Pakistan goes through a span of seven decades. By weaving a new web of bilateral engagement in joint research programs in the areas of military training and Pakistan’s acquisition of several defence products from Turkey, both countries have shown keen interest in further bonds that would enable them to contribute to national and regional security.
Turkish President’s reference of history regarding Pakistan-Turkey relationship holds ultimate truth. Though the history of Pakistan-Turkey relations is richly evident of the fact that both the states enjoyed a proverbial record of bilateral relations, under President Tayyip Erdogan the pace of relationship has been tremendously fast multidimensional. And yet under President Erdogan, Pakistan-Turkey relations have witnessed an epochal transformation. The pendulum of Turkish Foreign policy swung towards Iran-Pakistan -Afghanistan forming a geostrategic gamut. Because of Turkey’s strategic location and recent developments in the region, which made progress in the defence sector more vital than ever.
It is a well-known fact that dependency on other countries in the field can also be a major obstacle. With Turkey’s rise in the defence industry, Pakistan has emerged as one of its top partners. “While our bilateral relations are centuries old and spread across a broad spectrum of areas, the defence sector has emerged as one of the most important areas of cooperation and collaboration between the two sides in recent years,” Pakistani Ambassador to Ankara Syrus Sajjad Qazi told Daily Sabah. He added that both countries enjoy a convergence of views on both regional and international issues, especially in their concern for safeguarding and strengthening regional security.
The Pak-Turk Military Consultative Group—being established in 1988— was aimed to strengthen military relations between the two countries. However, as ties improved, the scope of cooperation expanded and took on a new name, the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC). President Erdogan and Prime Minister Imran Khan co-chaired the sixth session of the Pakistan-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. PM Khan said the Council meeting is one of the most important symbols of the friendship between two nations. “We have deliberated our relationship in detail during the Council meeting,” Khan said, adding that the 13 memorandums of understanding (MOU) signed by both parties is an indication of “how important the relations between us are”. The positive reflection of the excellent bilateral relations can also be seen in the international fora. Turkey and Pakistan are supporting each other in all international platforms. Pakistan also adopts a highly supportive approach on international matters, which are of special interest for Turkey. Importantly, the Strategic Council approved a Strategic Economic Framework (SEF) and an accompanying elaborate plan of action to implement the new vision for the ties. The SEF aims at realising the target of enhancing bilateral trade to $5 billion by 2023 from the current $800 million. Turkish President Erdogan, while speaking at a press conference with Prime Minister Imran Khan after the signing ceremony, described the SEF and the 71-point plan of action, as the “roadmap for deepening economic cooperation.
With the improvement of military ties, both states are convinced to enhance their economic partnership in various fields. Therefore, seven joint groups work under the Council to improve ties in trade and investment, energy sector, banking and finance, transport and communication, tourism and culture and education and political coordination. Understandably and proverbially the most important part of this visit is 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. Under the citizenship initiative, meanwhile, the citizens of Pakistan and Turkey would be able to attain joint citizenship and dual passports from each other’s’ 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 two sides are committed to working closely to combat Islamophobia, hate speech, efforts to link terrorism with Islam, and other manifestations of intolerance towards Muslims, including stereotyping of Muslims. Joint initiatives will be taken to counter stereotyping and defamation of Islam and Muslims, including incitement to acts of violence, xenophobia, and related intolerance and discrimination against Islam, its religious symbols, and venerated personalities, by means of print, audio-visual & electronic media, the Internet, as well as entertainment media such as movies, videos and digital games. The two countries note with appreciation the UN Secretary General’s Strategy and Action Plan on Hate Speech and call for convening a special session of the UN General Assembly on measures to combat Islamophobia; The two sides underscored need for resolution of all outstanding disputes between Pakistan and India, including the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir through a sustained dialogue process and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
In this regard, Pakistan expresses its deep appreciation for Turkey’s principled stance on the issue as well as its offer for mediation. Sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan can only be achieved through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Turkey appreciates Pakistan’s support to the Afghan peace process. Foreseeably, both Islamabad and Ankara can play a vital role in strengthening the OIC bonds on the one side while making greater role in enhancing the bilateral strategic, economic cooperation in the field of economic, trade, health, and education. In the current scenario, both Turkey and Pakistan are willing to foster a common stand regarding the issues faced by the Muslim Ummah today.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.
Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi