PM Pakistan: Taking Pak-Turk Relations to New Heights

Turkish people to Pakistanis are considered to be brothers united under the same religion and vision. The cultural and historical ties between the Turkish people and the Muslims of the sub-continent date even before the nation-state of Pakistan came into being (back in the 15th century) but the true manifestation of the cordial connection between the two ‘nations’ came forth in the form of an aid campaign that ensued in the Indian sub-continent in the mid-19th century to help out the Ottoman Empire. Where previously Ankara has referred to both the countries as “one nation, two states”, with Imran Khan coming into office he has clearly stated that he wants to further strengthen and deepen the relations. 

Acclaimed nationally and internationally for having a prosperous vision for the country and emerging as a leader, Imran Khan has repeatedly stated that President Erdogan along with the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr.Mahathir Mohammad are his two contemporary political heroes. During his recent visit to Turkey, Imran Khan also mentioned that Turkish people took to the streets to protect Turkish democracy because the government of Erdogan had delivered for over a decade. Moreover, he has repeatedly called out the past governments and stated that previous rulers of Pakistan such as Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari used their personal connections for foreign benefits, including neglecting actual strategic ties between important allies such as Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey and through his actions and words he wants to make amends.

Imran Khan took over the administration of Pakistan with deep internal issues. He needs to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), modernize the country’s infrastructure, tackle the problem of terrorism & corruption and a several decades-long spilling conflict in Afghanistan, a neighborgoing through its own internal crisis. For this purpose, the Pakistani PM has met with officials from China, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Coming to Turkey, during his two day official visit to the country, Imran Khan stated that his government wants to find ways to improve facilities to secure more direct investment from Turkey, especially in construction – a field in which Turkey is a global player.Without any doubt, both republics have various common interests. Now could be the time to bring them together.

Given the shared broader cultural roots and historical affinity, both countries can reap benefits from increased people-to-people contact. Both countries can benefit from each others’ highly potent tourism industries where still a world of potential is waiting to be exploited. The education sectors of Pakistan and Turkey can greatly benefit from each other by student exchange and scholarship programs. Pakistan being an agro-based country can become a viable and affordable agricultural market for Turkey. A lot can be discovered and economic gains can be made out of cultural exploration between both countries which will also aid in further improving bilateral relations and understanding among the people.

During his visit he said that at the moment Pakistan-Turkey ties are too military dominant, although this is a positive sign. Pakistan is one of the largest contributors to the United Nations Peace Keeping Force and Turkey is one of the largest and most significant members of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), both countries can gain from the field experience of each other with improved intelligence sharing, joint military drills and technology sharing. However, during this visit, the relationship took a turn towards economy wherein both the countries signed number of economic deals. On addressing the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) Imran Khan said that “it is time to boost the trade volume between Turkey and Pakistan”. He also mentioned about the $64 billion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project aims to connect northwest China to Pakistan’s southwestern Gwadar port through a network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport cargo, oil, and gas.

The recent visit seemed to be an overall success in building stronger ties between both states with a convergence on several issues. Both countries have always supported each other on multiple international forums and have had each others’ backs on critical matters. The Turkish government showed support for the efforts by Pakistan in Kashmir and favored resolution of the dispute through UN. Furthermore, Prime minister Imran Khan also recognized Turkish support for Pakistan’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) based on non-discriminatory criteria and reaffirmed that Pakistan’s adherence to the NSG guidelines and participation in the NSG would strengthen global non-proliferation objectives. Both the leaders also underlined their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms. The two leaders also called on the international community to support the Palestinian people in realizing their quest for an independent and sovereign state of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

All of this depicts the success of the ideology of the present government in deepening ties with countries regionally and globally among which Turkey tops the list. Both countries are facing serious challenges at home and abroad and it is in their larger interest to further solidify their strong relations and build upon the pre-existing goodwill by building up on the existing complementarities of their bilateral relationship and finding new vistas of cooperation. From having relations before demarcated boundaries, both nations have always shared warm feelings towards one another and seemingly the present government in Pakistan is going to take the relations up a notch by solidifying the diplomatic and economic ties.

The writer Mr. Muhammad Taimur Khan is a freelance journalist. He holds an M. Phil Degree in International Relations from  National Defence University, Islamabad. He wrote many research articles, Policy Briefs, Issue Briefs, Book Reviews and Monographs on topics related to International Relations.