President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Islamabad at a time when the region faces the challenge of peace and stability amidst India’s abrogation of Article 370 and 35 (A) of its Constitution shows Turkey’s interest towards regional peace. President Erdogan’s address to our Parliament and support to the people of India-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir signifies the importance of a peaceful solution to the ongoing unrest in the disputed territory. It is also a message to the regional quarters that the unjust practices and coercive means employed by India to suppress the right of self-determination is not an answer to a conflict. In the words of President Erdogan, “Our Kashmiri brothers and sisters have suffered for decades and the transgressions have become graver.” He has also called for a just solution to the longstanding Kashmir issue through peace and dialogue.
President Erdogan’s visit to Pakistan is likely to pave the way towards a cooperative relationship. He and Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the Sixth Session of Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Cooperation Council and signed 13 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs). Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in security and promote people-to-people interaction through tourism and media cooperation. At present, the strength of Turks living in Pakistan is around 200 and of Pakistanis living in Turkey is 2,000. These numbers are not very encouraging, but the agreements signed during the visit and the eagerness to cooperate at the regional front is likely to enhance the political interaction and improve people-to-people contact. Both Pakistan and Turkey are members of D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, along with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Nigeria and Iran. Pakistan is in dire need of foreign direct investment, and Turkey would like to expand its markets to other countries. Thus, the growing economic interests of both countries can translate into a strategic partnership. The bilateral trade of $900 million, after the signing of a free trade agreement, is expected to increase to $10 billion by 2022. The enhanced economic cooperation will also diversify Turkish investments in Pakistan, and other than the energy and infrastructure sectors, new areas of cooperation will be explored. It will open avenues for entrepreneur exchange between the two countries with the present strength of Turkish companies in Pakistan being 17 and of Pakistani companies in Turkey being 233.
Pakistan and Turkey have struggled towards empowerment, and have defeated the odds in one way or the other. Both countries, through collaborative arrangements, can deter the extremist tendencies and work towards balanced approaches. Pakistan’s fight against the militant threat has dismantled extremist tendencies both at the internal and regional fronts. The adversarial designs to isolate Pakistan still exist. Despite these challenges, Pakistan stands tall. The country has geared up its geostrategic position to become economically strong. The support to Pakistan’s stance on regional issues as apparent by the visit of the Turkish President also reflects that Pakistan’s image as a strong Muslim country is gaining recognition. In fact, it is the outcome of the sacrifices and steadfastness against disgruntled elements. Let the regional quarters know that Pakistan supports the efforts towards peace, and the ongoing atrocities in IOK pose a threat to humanity. Pakistan and Turkey, through collaborative efforts, can promote the idea of peace, defeat the burgeoning extremist forces and negate the negativity linked with Muslim countries. In particular, the cooperation among Muslim countries is supposed to foster learning and progress economically for the betterment of humanity and peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2020.