A New Era In Pakistan-Turkey Relationship

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On November 17, 2016, there was pin drop silence in Pakistan’s Parliament as the country’s most respectable guest rose to deliver a historic address to the parliament. He was none other than Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Honorable National Assembly Speaker, Honorable Chairman of the Senate, esteemed Members of the National Assembly and Senate, dear brothers and sisters, I would like to extend to you my most heartfelt greetings, affection, fondness and respect on behalf of myself, my delegation, my country and my people. I brought wholehearted salaam to you from Turkey,” his voice echoed in the parliament. It was the third time that Mr Erdogan had done so, a record for any foreign dignitary.

Hundreds of thousands across Pakistan were glued to television sets at home, offices and restaurants to listen to their special guest.

Led by Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, the most popular prime minister in the history of Pakistan, government had pulled out all the stops for the two-day visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Pakistan.

With an increasingly aggressive geopolitical environment in the South Asia region, Pakistan needs to sustain and deepen its ties with nations with whom it has traditionally enjoyed stable alliances. And Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif played his cards wisely to inculcate into Erdogan’s mind that Pakistan, a country of 200 million people, was eager to take the Pakistan-Turkey friendship to new horizons. Erdogan’s two-day visit to Pakistan laid the foundation for transforming the friendship into a strategic relationship.

Three months later, when Sharif landed at Esenboga International Airport, he was warmly welcomed by Turkish authorities. It was the beginning of a new era in Pakistan-Turkey relationship. His three-day visit to Ankara played an important role in boosting Pakistan-Turkey bilateral relations. It is important to note that Sharif visited the Turkish Parliament “to reaffirm Pakistan’s unequivocal support and solidarity” with the government and people of Turkey against the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Widely known as having strong nerves, Sharif’s government was toppled in October 1999 due to a military coup. He had to spend years in exile until the people of Pakistan voted his for party to secure majority in the 2013 general elections, which resulted in Sharif becoming Pakistan’s third time Prime Minister. Both Sharif and Erdogan have at least one thing in common–both have had serious problems with the military.

During his visit to Turkey, Prime Minister of Pakistan won the hearts of the government and people of Turkey by affirming his determination to combat the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) network in Pakistan, stressing that Turkey’s enemies are also Pakistan’s enemies.

Pakistan and Turkey reaffirmed the strategic dimension of bilateral relations as Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Binali Yildrim co-chaired the 5th Session of the Pakistan-Turkey Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) in Ankara last week.

Established in 2009, the Pakistan-Turkey High Level Cooperation Council (HLSCC) serves as a framework for consultations at the highest political level between the two sides and consists of six Joint Working Groups (JWGs) in the areas of energy; trade; banking & finance; education; communications & railways; and culture and tourism. So far 60 Agreements/MoUs have been signed under the HLSCC framework in various areas.

Analysts in Pakistan believe that the warm relationship between the two brother Islamic countries of Pakistan and Turkey not only have touched new heights but also paved a way to form a powerful block comprised of China, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey.

There are signs that the making of some kind of a bloc, or superpower rectangle is likely in near future. In the past, Erdogan had expressed interest in joining forces with China and Russia in the SCO. However, what is preventing him from formally requesting to join the bloc is that it would disrupt Ankara’s long-standing EU membership bid.

As Russia and Turkey take time to  improve ties, China and Pakistan are enjoying very close and prosperous ties with Ankara. China has already brought two cold-war era foes (Pakistan and Russia) together. Well-informed sources say that China is also bringing Turkey and Russia closer.

Analysts believe if the four nations decide to formally show the world their intentions to stand by each other forming the Pakistan-China-Russia-Turkey rectangle – it would be a diplomatic, military and economic game-changer for the whole world.


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