AMID domestic political crisis and country’s smearing image internationally, Turkey’s vote to support Pakistan against the US move to put Pakistan on grey-list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) saved Pakistan from diplomatic isolation. The FATF grey-list includes countries which have failed to stem terrorist financing. Though, since 2015, Pakistan has banned almost 8,000 people and 58 outfits and put them on the fourth schedule, which shows Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism and money laundering. The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) was also amended through a presidential order for taking action against the three organizations that had been declared proscribed by the United Nation Security Council (UNSC).
The Turkish government always commends Pakistan’s success against terrorism. In 2015, it announced $20 million aid for the internally displaced persons owing to the Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Turkey has also been praising Pakistan Army for its successful fight against terrorism and contributions towards regional peace and stability. In January 2018, similarly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called President Mamnoon Hussain and expressed solidarity with Pakistan in the wake of allegations levelled by US President Donald Trump. He also assured his Pakistani counterpart of full support and cooperation.
Though Pakistan and Turkey are not geographically neighbours, the affinity between them is unique. Naturally both countries feel so close to each other and the relationship between them is regarded as heart-to-heart. Both countries were partners in the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and along with Iran, founded Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) which later was reincarnated as Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Pakistan and Turkey are also part of the Developing 8 Countries (D-8) organization. Pakistan supports Turkey on Cyprus issue and Turkey supports Pakistan’s position over Kashmir. Turkey has also been taking keen interest in promoting peace in South Asia by bringing Pakistan and Afghanistan closer with a view to resolving the Afghan conundrum and building mutual trust between them. It initiated Trilateral Summit mechanism in 2007, and so far several Summit meetings have been held to enhance cooperation for regional security, stability and development.
Owing to its strategic location, Pakistan is also gateway to the Central Asian Turkic Republics. Turkey welcomes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and appreciates cooperation between Pakistan and China in that regard. In 2015, during the G-20 Summit, it signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Aligning the Silk Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Middle Corridor Initiative with China. It wishes to revive the ancient Silk Road with the help of Pakistan and China and believes that two project together will promote regional development, welfare, cultural exchange and people-to-people contacts. A strong cooperation between these countries can bring successful results in aligning the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with the Middle Corridor project.
All this goes to show that both countries value the future even more than the past. However, Pakistan needs to get more out of this relationship. Despite the constructive engagement at political and diplomatic level, the trade volume between two countries is far below the potential. The said volume between two countries is $497 million only, which is very low. Pakistan’s exports to Turkey are constantly decreasing since 2011. As far as imports from Turkey to Pakistan is concerned, these have been ranging between $160 million to $260 million from the year 2011 to 2016. Though both countries have negotiated a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), it is still not signed. Had an FTA was signed between both states, it would have been maximized economic potential in both country’s best interests.
Pakistan also recorded a trade deficit of Rs. 401391 million in January of 2018. Balance of Trade in Pakistan have averaged Rs. -34418.28 million from 1957 until 2018, reaching an all time high of Rs. 6457 million in June 2003 and a record low of Rs. -401391 million in January. In this situation, prolonged discussions on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Turkey have hit an impasse as well. Pakistan is unfortunately not an export-led economy and this is one of chief reasons for failure in finalizing FTA agreement. Pakistan’s exports are decreasing strongly since 2014 and that is where Pakistan needs friends like Turkey to support its economy. In an era of economic engagements, Pakistan’s goal of foreign policy should be to augment economic power. Changing global trends in regional trade and the growth of Asian economies force Pakistan to readjust the focus of its foreign relations especially with an ally like Turkey. The importance of historical relationship between Turkey and Pakistan must take precedent over and above any trade dispute. Turkey has always been a fair partner and Pakistan must continue to work with Turkey to resolve the matter to mutual satisfaction.
—The writer is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.