Turkey – Pakistan Relations
Pakistan and Turkey are neighboring nations, with only Iran separating the two states. These two countries share a long history, steaming from Pakistan’s very establishment, when Indian Muslims were spiritually and morally supported by the Ottoman Empire’s caliph. Guided by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the establishment of Turkey, Indian Muslims and Turkish relations continued to prosper. Given that relations between these two states flourished even prior to Pakistan’s establishment, the cooperation and interstate understanding that existed during the Cold War period expanded following the Post-Cold War era. Moreover, the post-9/11 cooperation between the two countries become more clearly visible with more world summits, military cooperation projects, and the equally advantageous economic growth which flourished under the leadership of conservative Turkish Prime Minister and equally conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ever since he gained power, Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics in the region and had a major influence in Pakistan. Pakistan has started tilting away from its traditional Gulf base towards its Anatolian ally who is returning to the international centre stage, guided by unofficial Neo-Ottoman policies, introducing a dilemma for the two regarding India and Kashmir, while also creating room for stagnant economic cooperation.
Independence and Cold War Era of Pakistan - Turkey Relations
Following Pakistan’s independence, Turkey became one of the very first countries to recognise the new state as a sovereign independent country, with both sharing cordial relations with one another. For example, Turkey supported Pakistan during its bid to join United Nations. Newly established Pakistan was under the leadership of Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while the position of Prime Minister was handed to his close ally and friend, Liaquat Ali Khan. When Pakistan gained independence in 1947, the world had already transitioned from a multipolar to bipolar world, where two superpowers dominated the global theatre, each vying for power with the other. Jinnah initially aimed to navigate a moderate, comprehensive, and balanced foreign policy by having positive relations with both the U.S. and Soviet Union. Turkey, on the other hand, aligned itself with America, especially following the Truman Doctrine provisions of 1947, and when Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1952. By then, Pakistan had signed the Treaty of Eternal Friendship in 1951, increasing cooperation between Pakistan, NATO, and America. Thus, both countries started to pursue a Washington-leaning political agenda. Inspired by Turkey, Jinnah was a secular leader alongside many Pakistan founding fathers, thus the country enjoyed a liberal culture and broad-minded approach to its politics. After years of ailing health, Jinnah passed away in September 1948, resulting in the entire nation, and Turkey, grieving the loss of a beloved leader. As Pakistani leadership transitioned to Liaquat Ali Khan, there was also a change in leadership type: in 1950, Liaquat Ali Khan had accepted an invitation to visit the Soviet Union, which inevitably was postponed given his prior commitments to visit the U.S. in May of 1950. His visit to America solidified Pakistan’s reliance on the U.S. foreign policy-wise in the Cold War era.
With Turkey being part of the American Bloc, this visit indirectly placed Pakistan and Turkey in the same pro-U.S. team, especially with the flow of American economic and military aid being sent to Pakistan, that improved Pakistan’s military capabilities and those of India. Regionally, Pakistan grew closer to its American allies, especially Turkey. But unlike Turkey, Pakistan did not directly involve itself in U.S.- related conflicts. For example, in 1950, while Turkish troops were physically sent to aid the U.S. in the Korean War, Pakistan only supported its bloc by being present in United Nations and voting in favour of authorizing the operation. Pakistan side-lined itself during the Korean War since it was a newly stablished state with problems of its own, thus it wanted to focus on improving and boosting its own economy, while other nations such as Turkey participated in the war vigorously.
During the Cold War, relations between Pakistan and Turkey blossomed beyond expectations, as both were on the side of the American Bloc, in addition to them sharing historical relations, a common faith, and following political secularism. Although there was a power struggle within Pakistan after the assassination of Governor General Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, the close relations between the two countries did not change. Pakistan and Turkey solidified such relations in February 1954, with the Turco-Pakistan communique, where both agreed to share methods to maintain close relations in political, economic and cultural spheres. In 1953, the two states also signed an “Agreement for Cultural Cooperation” where they introduced cultural exchange programmes.A year later, Pakistan started receiving military aid from the U.S. and Pakistan and Turkey further strengthened their security and military ties in 1955 with the Baghdad Pact. The Pact was also signed by Iran, Britain, and Iraq, which hoped to circumvent America and counter the influence of the Soviet Union Communist Bloc which was expanding southwards in the Caspian and Black Sea. Security concerns catalysed the expansion of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Turkey. However, by 1959, Iraq relinquished itself from Baghdad Pact due to its 1958 military coup, changing the name of the pact to the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO), and its headquarters moved from Baghdad to Ankara. CENTO served as a platform to boost mutual understanding and friendship between Pakistan, Turkey and Iran, which shared positive relations given their common religion, culture and geographical proximity.
Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes further emphasised and offered to play a mediating role between Pakistan and Afghanistan following Afghanistan’s dispute regarding the Durand Line, which pides Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan and Turkey both experienced military coups with the Pakistani military coup under Ayub Khan taking place in October, 1958, while a Turkish military coup took place in May two years later. Though these violated U.S. democratic principles, both military governments received backing from Washington and the relationship between Turkey and Pakistan did not change. Instead Pakistan President Ayub Khan sent Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to Turkey to stop the death sentence of Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes. Pakistan and Turkey followed security policies developed by the Western Bloc. These two countries also developed further relations when Iran, Pakistan and Turkey established Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) which sought to seek and promote socio-economic relations to enlarged Pakistan-Turkish trade. Additionally, the RCD was the by-product of growing disenchantment against the U.S., particularly with Iran.
By the 1960s, Pakistan and Turkey’s relations the U.S. became increasingly strained, due to the mishandling of the Cyprus emergency and a controversial letter U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson had sent to Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inonu. Less than a year later, the Pakistan-India war broke out in 1965, where Pakistan and India fought in Western Pakistan. Though Pakistan had its share decisive victories, it felt abandoned by the U.S. and CENTO, but Turkey and Iran aided Pakistan militarily, diplomatically and however else possible.
In July 1964, President Ayub Khan visited Turkey where he expressed his concerns over the developments in Cyprus, conveying these sentiments to a Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in London. Due to strained U.S. relations and Turkey’s relations with the Warsaw Pact, Pakistan pivoted closer to China. Although the UK and U.S. bogged up relations with the Indo-Pakistan War, CENTO mechanisms were not dismantled because Turkey maintained close ties with Pakistan. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistan and Turkey both had a similar secular society that supported broadly pro-Western policies, supported by the 1965 Trade Agreement. Pakistan and Turkey also took a more open approach to the Soviet Union especially after the Soviet Union was the sponsor of the Tashkent Declaration. In April 1967, Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel paid a visit to Pakistan where he expressed his appreciation for Pakistan’s stance over the Cyprus issue. In September 1969, Pakistan and Turkey met at a summit (the future Organisation of Islamic Countries) in Rabat, with other Islamic nations following an arson attack on August 21, 1969, in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. Occupied Palestine condemned the deplorable attack. In 1969, President Ayub Khan, handed power over to another military leader, Yahya Khan. By 1971, Pakistan plunged into a political crisis when East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) demanded to become an independent state because of linguistic, political, economic, security, financial, and cultural issues. The grievances of East Pakistan came to a boiling point when West Pakistan refused to legitimise the elections of East Pakistan and nationalist Mujib-ur-Rehman as the leader. In 1971, Pakistan and India entered another war following India’s interference in East Pakistan, and Turkey maintained its political and military support towards the Pakistani government in Islamabad.
At the same time, Turkey faced an economic recession with increasing demonstrations and inflation reaching up to 80 percent. By 1971, the military intervened, where after an agreed memorandum, Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel resigned and Nihat Erim took power, backed by the military. America tried to support Pakistan by sending resources through Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey but the dynamics in the region had changed given the USSR’s support of India. With foreign interference and growing pressure, Pakistan lost its Eastern wing on December 16, 1971, much to the shock of America, Pakistan, Turkey, and the international community. Many countries started to formally recognise Bangladesh’s independence, but Turkey only did so after Pakistan recognised Bangladesh in February 1974.
The solidarity between Pakistan and Turkey has been deeply rooted in the principal that both countries support one another’s policies and decisions. In 1974, when the fragile situation in Cyprus worsened, Turkey sent its forces into the conflict zone to establish peace and security. Regardless of Western condemnation, Pakistan stood firmly behind Turkey, supporting it militarily and logistically. This support continued throughout the 1970s on all national security concerns. As members of RCD, Turkey and Pakistan achieved economic progress by enlarging their trade in various sectors. Turkey benefited by increased imports of surgical instruments, stainless steel, caustic soda, and castor oil with others. Meanwhile, Pakistani traders imported textile auxiliaries and chemicals from Turkish markets. Turkey and Pakistan enhanced their relations by establishing the Economical and Technical Cooperation Agreement in 1976. In 1977, a Pakistan-Turkish Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation was established to cooperate extensively on food and agriculture, with joint ventures in industry, commerce and transportation. During this time, Pakistan started to detach itself from state secularism, as political Islam started to become more visible under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Turkey, however, maintained state secularism.
In 1977, Pakistan faced another military coup, where Chief of Army Staff, Zia-ul-Haq overthrew the government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on the pretext of holding free and fair elections. The end of the 1970’s was eventful; following the 1977 Pakistan military coup, there was signing of the 1978 Camp David Accords, where Egypt and Israel normalised relations, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which removed the pro-Western monarch Shah of Iran and ally of Pakistan and Turkey. Soviet Forces entered Afghanistan on December 24, 1979, upon the request of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. In 1980, a Turkish military coup occurred on the pretext of ending social conflicts and parliamentary instability, resulting in Ahmet Kenan Evran taking power. The overthrow of the Iranian Shah transformed regional dynamics, resulting in the disintegration of CENTO in 1979.
Cold War tensions peaked in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan. The Afghan insurgence against the state resulted in one-third of the Afghan refugee population fleeing to Pakistan. U.S. interests were jeopardised in Iran after it had lost a major key ally in the Middle East, which held rising strategic importance to both Turkey and Pakistan in containing the Soviet Union and restraining new Islamist Iranian ambitions. The relations between Zia-ul-Haq and Kenan Evran where in the spotlight in terms of global security, with both militaries offering their support to America. Pakistan and Turkey, guided by the U.S., opposed Soviet involvement in Afghanistan; both states cooperated in various defence sectors in providing extensive military aid to Afghan Mujahideen in Pakistan. Pakistan and Turkey kept this assistance throughout the entire conflict, all of which was supported by the U.S. General Zia-ul-Haq attempted to resuscitate the Regional Cooperation of Development (RCD) in the 1980s, resulting in the establishment of Economic Cooperation Organisation in 1985. Another, the Prevention of Double Taxation Agreement, was signed in 1985 and implementation in 1988.
By 1988, Turkey and Pakistan’s aid in training and supplying Afghan Mujahideen started to see the fruit of its success when the Soviet Union withdrew from the conflict in 1988, following eight years of combat. The Communist-backed government of Najibullah took power. The departure of Soviet forces from Afghanistan left a huge power vacuum in Afghanistan and the weakened Najibullah government was unable to sustain Mujahideen factions. Pakistan was left all alone to deal with the coming chaos. Turkey, carefully observing the escalating events, mutually worked with Pakistan wherever possible.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989, as well as policies of “glasnost” and “perestroika” in the Soviet Union forever changed Soviet politics and economy. These policies backfired, resulting in nationalism sweeping through Soviet republics, economic stagnation, internal conflicts, and increasing disorder. With this chain of events, the future world order was put under question. The dissolution of the Soviet Union drastically changed the world order and reshaped the policies of each state, including relations between Pakistan and Turkey.
Throughout the Cold War, Turkey and Pakistan cooperated on various issues, always extensively supporting one another, with Pakistan even recognising the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. That is not to say that these countries had no share of differences; one major front is Pakistan's extensive military, diplomatic, and political support for Palestine. Pakistani troops were involved in two major wars with Israel and it never officially recognized the state, while Turkey recognised Israel in 1949, and only at times denounced Israel during the wars. Under General Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan drifted heavily towards political Islam meanwhile Turkey hanged on to its secular values, regardless of the military coups. Yet this difference towards Israel did not hinder cooperation between the two in any way.
Fall of the Soviet Union and its Aftermath
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, the world experienced a seismic change in global politics, transitioning from bipolarity to unipolarity. This impacted the foreign policy of every state, including Turkey and Pakistan. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, new Central Asian republics were created, in addition to the Eastern European and the Caucasian republics. The Central Asian, Balkan, and Caucasian Republics became a new focal point for Turkish interests, and Pakistan’s stabilising political situation in Afghanistan. Numerous Central Asian republics looked towards Turkey for guidance because of their cultural connections, resulting in the 1992 expansion of Economic Cooperation Organisation. Seven members of the post-Soviet republics were added with the aim to establish a single market for goods and services, modelling the European Union. Pakistan and Turkey staunchly supported Azerbaijan during its first Nagorno-Karabakh War with Armenia. The War was a point where Turkey and Pakistan mutually and staunchly supported Azerbaijan diplomatically, militarily, economically, and politically. Even though Azerbaijan lost many conflicts, Pakistan never recognised the Armenian state, and Turkey only recognised it in 2009 following a period of strained relations. Both Turkey and Pakistan partook in First Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a domino effect ensued in Yugoslavia. It was one of the six republics, as well was is a non-aligned country with a hybrid market-based socialist structure given its tangled relations with both the West and Soviet Union. Yugoslavia went to war in March 1991, and the six republics started their fight for independence, despite pleas for a ceasefire by the international community. For Pakistan and Turkey, the most dramatic turning point was the Bosnian War, where the Republic of Srpska and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina fought following a political upheaval. A referendum initiated by Bosnian Serbs were ignored in light of the chaotic disintegration of Yugoslavia. Bosnian Muslims were fighting Serbs, who were supplied by Russians. Bosnian Muslims were supported by newly-formed Croatia. The armed conflict of the Bosnian War was horrifyingly violent, and to support the Bosnian Muslims, Pakistan and Turkey jointly supported the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller visiting besieged Sarajevo in 1994 to demonstrate Muslim solidarity. Pakistan provided the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces during the Yugoslav Wars. Under the notion of Muslim solidarity, the states defied a weapon ban that provided military aid like ammunition, anti-tank missiles, and technical support to Bosnia. Additionally, Turkey assisted Bosnia by sending Iranian weapons to Bosnia. Turkish inpiduals joined as volunteers to aid Bosnian Muslims. Turkey was the first NATO member that called for military intervention and do so via aerial strikes.
But state cooperation does not always mean completely agreeing or understanding the other state. Following the USSR’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country was embroiled in conflict, more so than before the civil war. Pakistan was one of the main states aiming to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan since 1989. With Pakistan’s support of the Taliban, the organization took over Kabul in 1996 and established Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, but opposing dissident factions merged together to form the Northern Alliance. Pakistan faced issues when Turkey supported the opposing factions in Afghanistan, resulting in the two being at odds with one another. Pakistan actively supported the Taliban during the Afghan civil war while Turkey supported factions of the Northern Alliance and Abdul Rashid Dostum. This soured relations between Turkey and Pakistan. When Pakistan recognised Taliban legitimacy in Afghanistan, relations between Pakistan and Turkey further deteriorated and bilateral ties weakened severely. The 1990s hit a low point in Turkey - Pakistan economic relations, with the two signing only one agreement, the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments, in 1997.
There was a dialogue breakthrough when the Developing Eight (D-8) was formed and officially established in 1997, aiming to encourage cooperation in enhancing the global economy, trade and business relations, while improving the standard of living among the member countries. In 1999, an intergovernmental diplomatic forum known as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures (CICA) was established, a brainchild of Kazakhstan, which intended to enhance peace, stability and security in Asia, of which both Turkey and Pakistan were a part of. The first summit was held in 2002. The political ice only finally melted when General Pervez Musharraf assumed power in November 1999. He was a profound admirer of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, lived part of his life in Turkey and was educated in Turkey. President Musharraf hailed Turkey’s secular values and followed Turkey as a role model state. Musharraf even visited Turkey in October 1999. However, then-Turkish Premier Bulent Ecevit was not interested in developing relations with “the dictator”, skipping Pakistan in his visit to India in April 2000, where he praised the Indian democracy, endorsed Indian position on the “cross-border terrorism” and supported the UN convention on international terrorism drafted by India. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit statements were not welcomed by Pakistan.
In the post-Cold War era, Pakistan and Turkey were constantly at odds with one another, often disagreeing over their respective foreign policy ambitions. This was clearly observed in the Turkish and Pakistani Prime Minister’s visit to Sarajevo. Despite the Turkish Prime Minister skipping Pakistan in his 2000 visit to India, General Pervez Musharraf’s “Enlightened Moderation” reforms were inspired by Ataturk. These reforms aimed to liberalise the state; from paving roads, promoting media freedom, encouraging female participation in society, religious liberty, to introducing new laws, and clamping down on “honour killings”. The post-Cold War era brought these two nations to navigate different foreign policies on political matters, while entering a new world and a new era.
9/11 and the Rise of Erdogan
Within a unipolar world structure, the United States dominated the world, with growing enemies emerging in the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan, a country massively ignored by the U.S. since Soviet withdrawal. In the 1990s, Islamist extremism was on the rise in the Middle East with various terrorist attacks hitting U.S. facilities, led mainly by Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, who opposed U.S. interference in the Muslim world. To demonstrate such opposition, Al Qaeda carried out a series of suicide attacks on the U.S., including the infamous September 11 attacks. Nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, from which two crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, one crashing into the Pentagon, and a fourth that was supposed to crash into a federal capital building in Washington but fell flat to do a passenger revolt. Following the attacks, the U.S. declared a War on Terror, and initiated it by invading Afghanistan, backed by NATO and Pakistan.
With Pakistan backing America following the terrorist attacks, it joined the U.S., and its ties with the Taliban were henceforth cut, resulting in better relations with Turkey. Throughout the War on Terror, Pakistan and Turkey cooperated in military drills, provided NATO supplies, housed troops, and expanded their bilateral relations. Significant visits took place between leaders, including Turkish President Necdat Sezer visiting in October, 2001 where he supported Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, calling for a solution based on international law.
A significant breakthrough, however came with the 2002 Turkish elections. Following these elections, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, rose to power promoting a different approach to his foreign policies than his predecessors. This was exemplified during a Pakistan visit in June 2003. In his visit, Prime Minister Erdogan applauded President Pervez Musharraf for his attempts to modernise Pakistan, as well as root out Taliban supporters, patrons, and sympathisers in the country. President Erdogan and Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali agreed to support each other on issues concerning Cyprus and Kashmir. With President Erdogan’s economic support at home, he also came up with boosting economic ties between Pakistan and Turkey. Trade hovered at around 170 million dollars in June 2003, and there was an entourage of 110 businessmen which ascertained Turkey’s desire to expand economic relations, with July 2003 signing of Economic Cooperation Organisation Trade Agreement (ECOTA) between Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian states. There were also three Memorandums of Understanding passed on drug trafficking, road transport, and the environment. NATO incursion that had jolted Pakistan’s fragile ethnic and religious fabric created many security issues with radical Islamist groups, especially the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). To counter it, Ankara and Islamabad agreed to cooperate in the security sphere. In June 2003, both states established a High-Level Military Dialogue (HLMD), which aimed to support mutual cooperation in both military and defence industries.
Relations further deepened under President Pervez Musharraf, whose visit to Turkey from January 19 to January 21, 2004, was widely welcomed with President Musharraf, who was the first Pakistani leader to address the Turkish Parliament. Different memorandums on cooperation in combating international terrorism were signed, where expertise and intelligence sharing was agreed upon, in addition to issues pertaining to organised crime and cooperation over the banking and health sectors. Under President Pervez Musharraf, relations that had once been soured with the previous administration due to its alignment with the Taliban were revived. In October 2005, Pakistan-administered Kashmir got struck by a deadly earthquake mainly hurting the province of Kashmir, with a death toll of 87,350 inpiduals, 3.5 million people were left homeless. Turkey was quick to respond, sending rescue teams alongside 90 health care personnel from the Turkish Red Crescent, in addition to food supplies, relief packages of 150 million dollars, and financial assistance of 100 million dollars and 50 million-dollars-worth of goods for relief. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was the first foreign leader to visit Pakistan’s disaster-stricken regions. Turkey also earned its title as mediator between Pakistan and the newly-established government of Afghanistan because those two states were fuelled by mistrust, incredulity and disagreements over the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. In 2007, while arranging the First Trilateral Summit in Ankara between Pakistan, Turkey, and Afghanistan, the Ankara Declaration was introduced where the three countries agreed to improve cooperation via trilateral summits. In December 2008, there was a Second Trilateral Summit between the Presidents of Afghanistan, Turkey, and Pakistan. In 2007, power transitioned from President Abdullah Gul to Ahmet Necdat Sezer and to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistan was going through a turbulent power transition from a military to civilian government, where in December 2007, popular election contender and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in his electoral crusade and President Pervez Musharraf was compelled to hold elections and leave power. In 2008, Pakistan was regularly stricken by fatal attacks by Islamists over Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror and many foreign leaders feared to come to Pakistan. In 2009, Prime Minister Erdogan was honoured with Nishan-e-Pakistan for his leadership, sincerity, and his endeavours to bolster Pakistani-Turkish relations. By October of that same year, Pakistan and Turkey reached an agreement where Turkey sought to modernise Pakistani fighter aircraft F-16s using Turkish Aerospace Industries. Similarly, in “the Friends of Pakistan” Tokyo Donors Conference, then-Turkish State Minister, Mehmet Aydin came forward with a pledge to gather 100 million dollars for infrastructure, health and education in Pakistan. On April 1, 2009, a Third Trilateral Summit was held in Ankara, which was committed to enhancing the security cooperation among the states. The Fourth Trilateral Summit was in less than year on January 25, 2010, in Istanbul where Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu emphasised Ankara’s stance on ending Taliban violence and the Afghan elections.
On December 24, 2010, there was a major breakthrough in the Fifth Trilateral Summit when Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to the construction of a rail road system from Turkey to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan, in addition to boosting aviation, commerce and energy. The Sixth and Seventh Trilateral Summits on October 31, 2010, and December 12, 2011, introduced several initiatives to bring the three countries closer culturally, politically, and economically, alongside establishing a system of communication in times of crisis. Although Turkey facilitated many of the summits between Pakistan and Afghanistan by playing a key role, alongside improving its relations with Pakistan, Afghanistan continuously faced hostilities with the government in Islamabad hampering cooperation. Thus, Turkey paved its own path for Pakistan, welcoming it as a brotherly country as Prime Minister Erdogan transitioned from Prime Minister to President on August 28, 2014. Meanwhile in 2011, when Arab Spring sprung up in the Middle East, Turkey, backed its proxies like Syria, supported Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Since then, Pakistan has not intervened in any of the Middle Eastern conflicts, except for Yemen. During the Yemen Conflict, Pakistan was pressured to take action by Saudi Arabia and allegations that its Shia volunteers were working for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the rebels.
In 2009, to consolidate bilateral ties and harmonize policies at the regional and international level, the High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) was established to improve economic relations alongside security and political issues. There have been various summits with this Council, such as meetings in 2010 and 2013 in Ankara, and 2013 and 2015 meetings in Islamabad. These summits focused on increasing mutual investment. As a result, trade relations improved by 599 million dollars in 2015 and notions of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) became more openly discussed.
Turkey came forward when Pakistan was hit by deadly floods in late July 2010, following the heavy torrential monsoon rains that submerged approximately one-fifth of Pakistan’s land. There were 1,985 deaths and an over 43-billion-dollar loss. Turkey launched the biggest relief campaign for Pakistan by sending 5 million euros in aid, in additional to humanitarian supplies such as blankets, food supplies, rations and an additional 13 million euros donation to help Pakistan. Turkish organisations and the business community also aided Pakistan and raised funds worth millions of euros, in addition to humanitarian aid. Erdogan also visited Pakistan which was the first foreign visit to flood-stricken Pakistan. Turkey also undertook the responsibility of building 2,000 houses village near Multan, which was opened by First Lady Emine Erdogan, who donated her jewellery for flood relief and was later awarded with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz by then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani for her endeavours.
The Current State of Affairs
The relations between Pakistan and Turkey had been cordial, especially since the inauguration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who reiterated the foreign policy of Turkey orienting towards the Muslim world and playing a greater role as an Asian country. Erdogan has been in power since 2002 and has since been on 11 official visits to Pakistan (seven trips as Prime Minister and four trips as President). Since coming to power, President Erdogan has reinvigorated the Western-aligned foreign policy of Turkey towards Pakistan. Trade relations between the two states have also expanded significantly. Currently, relations between Pakistan and Turkey are very warm, close, and Turkey supports Pakistan on most of its positions, as Pakistan supports Turkey on matters like the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In the last few decades, Pakistan’s bilateral trade with Turkey has been on the rise. President Erdogan has developed personal relationships with former Premier Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and now Shahbaz Sharif, benefitting Pakistan politically. Both states have been outspoken against Israel, its apartheid-like policies, bombings, discriminatory policies and bigotry against Palestinians, as well as Indians over their policies against Kashmiris.
In July 2016, there was an attempted coup led by a faction of the Turkish military against Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in Turkey. The coup was strongly resisted by the people of Turkey who came to the streets against the plotters, resulting in 251 civilian deaths and more than 2,200 people injured. Pakistan condemned the coup attempt against the military faction, applauded the people’s resistance, and garnered diplomatic support behind Erdogan and his democratic supporters. As the coup failed, Turkey pointed the allegations, accusations and links towards the U.S.-based imam Fethullah Gülen's Movement or FETO. Domestically, Turkey took a hard stance against the plotters and alleged infiltrators of the Gülen by blocking military interference in Turkish politics. President Erdogan visited Pakistan on November 16, 2017, where he expressed his appreciation for Pakistan’s support during those difficult times and praised Pakistan, alongside Abdur Rehman Peshawari, during his speech in Pakistan's parliament. Turkey also called to end every kind of support for the Gülen movement by closing Gülen-sponsored schools, including those in Pakistan. Pakistan handed over 28 Pak-Turk schools over to proper authorities, including Turkey’s state-run Maarif Foundation in 2018, as Ankara alleged Pak-Turk International Cag Education Foundation (PTICEF) was set up, managed and run by FETO. Pakistan gradually handed over all such alleged Gülen-movement linked schools to the Maarif Foundation and Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared the FETO organisation as a terrorist organisation in late 2018. This forced all Turkish teachers under the previous administration to leave Pakistan over the allegations of their associations with FETO, with President Erdogan expressing gratitude to former Premier Imran Khan during his visit in January 2019. In late 2017, President Erdogan also visited Islamabad during the 13th Economic Cooperation Organization Summit, where contemporary and emerging international and regional circumstances were discussed in the context of building regional economic partnerships among member states.
Pakistan has consistently supported Turkey in its operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK, and its offshoots in Iraq and Syria, particularly known as YPG or People’s Protection Units. This organization poses a major security threat in Turkey. The PKK has conducted various terror attacks in Turkey, operating from south-eastern Turkey since the late 1980s, killing more than 40,000 Turkish citizens since 1984. With Syrian Civil War, there were many parties exploiting the scene against President Bashar al-Assad and his forces. There was a spur of new non-state actors such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). To combat the Islamic state, America backed, assisted and trained Syrian Democratic Forces (rebrand name of YPG) to fight against the Islamic state operating in Syria, much to the dismay of Turkey. An earlier operation in 2016-2017, Euphrates Shield, was limited to its border with Syria, the main targets being the Islamic State and SDF. Turkey’s operations increased diplomatic heat with the U.S. and its Western allies. Turkey protested arming the Syrian Democratic Forces or YPG, which still happened despite the PKK being listed as a terrorist organisation. With increasing security concerns, the Turkish Armed Forces and Syrian National Army commenced Operation Olive Branch in March 2018, going against U.S. warnings. The aerial strikes and artillery warfare ended with the Syrian National Army taking over Arfin. With Operation Olive Branch, the SDF was pushed back, but it continued its insurgency in Northern Aleppo. To completely push back the organization, Turkey conducted a second operation, Operation Peace Spring, in October 2019, increasing tensions with America, Canada, and its other Western Allies. Throughout the whole conflict, Pakistan supported the Turkish offensive as SDF forces neared the Turkish border. Even though in June 2022, Turkey signalled another major military operation, it limited itself to aerial strikes and shelling because of opposition and resistance from its strategic allies Russia, Iran and the U.S. who hold significant influence in Syria.
In March 2019, Pakistan became irritated when the Indian foreign minister was invited to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), against its wishes. India cultivated close relations by engaging with Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain, thus weakening the traditional support Pakistan had over the Kashmir issue. Thus, an unofficial non-Arab alliance formed, where Pakistan, joined by Malaysia, Turkey, and Iran positioned themselves against the so-called “Quartet” of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, countering influence in the OIC. Additionally, the unofficial alliance started to gain support from Russia and China. As Russian and Chinese interests in the Middle East grew significantly, they started to align themselves closer to Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, with China highlighting the importance of these countries in its Central Corridor ambitions.
An important moment in terms of growing alliances was in December 2019, when Kuala Lumpur’s summit was arranged, and should have been attended by Malaysia, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. However, Pakistan opted out last minute due to diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia. Erdogan understood that this was due to economic threats from Saudi Prime Minister Imran Khan towards Pakistan, as Saudi Arabia was seen as a new driving force in the Middle East. As a result, Erdogan’s suspicions towards Saudi Arabia increased. On August 5, 2019, India abrogated Kashmir Article 370, scrapping this special provision of Kashmir. Turkey was one of very few countries to actively denounce India’s actions and discussed this with Prime Minister Imran Khan. President Erdogan did not openly condemn India in UNGA, in September 2019. Instead, remarks were expressed over not giving enough attention to the Kashmir issue, which has been unresolved since 1948, despite United Nations resolutions. Unfortunately, such a position did not go well in New Delhi and Prime Minister Narendra decided to cancel his visit to Ankara in October 2019.
On February 13, 2020, there was a highly anticipated official visit by Erdogan to Pakistan alongside his wife and a huge entourage. Erdogan reiterated a pledge of support to Pakistan regarding Kashmir. Turkey and Pakistan wrote 13 memorandums of understanding for various sectors. On February 14, there was also meeting of High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) where there was an agreed declaration on political cooperation, combating Islamophobia, tackling regional and international issues, cooperation on security and defence, energy, trade and investment, banking and finance, transport and communication, culture and tourism, education, etc. Despite India’s relations being strained with Turkey, many Indian Muslims have developed a special liking towards President Erdogan and welcomed the challenge his brings to Saudi Arabia’s role as leader of the Muslim world. Moreover, Pakistan has also been a cordial ally of Turkey, in addition to Azerbaijan, who it also invited to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan is the only state that has yet to recognise Armenia following the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In August 2020, another key event took place: Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, criticised Saudi Arabia over its lack of leadership on the Kashmir issue. Turkey had become more vocal and active in raising the Kashmir issue on diplomatic forums such as the United Nations General Assembly, hoping to resolve it multilaterally despite India considering a bilateral issue. Furthermore, following the conclusion of the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan was left triumphant, and Pakistan and Turkey mutually supported their ally. This is why in January 2021, the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Pakistan, arranged a meeting where these three states declared their moral and diplomatic support to Kashmir, Cyprus, and the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
On July 27, 2021, there was a trilateral meeting in Baku between the Chairman of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan, Sahiba Gafarova, Chairman of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Asad Qaisar, and Chairman of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mustafa Şentop. Here was discussed the approval and signing of the Baku Declaration. In the Baku Declaration, cultural interconnection was key, including recognizing historical ties, strengthening dialogue, and cooperation in parliament. The Declaration prioritizes establishing peace, equanimity and regional growth. Turkey further applauded and backed Pakistan’s role in the Afghan-Taliban settlement via diplomacy and dialogue and called on Kabul and Islamabad to resolve their differences peacefully. When America was about to withdraw from Afghanistan, Turkey was at a state where negotiations were conducted, alongside Qatar. However, all was in vain due to various disagreements and Afghan’s weak governmental position. After America withdrew from Afghanistan, there was an Eighth Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Conference in Islamabad over the Afghan Taliban takeover and looming humanitarian crises.
Turkish soft power was further enhanced especially when Prime Minister Imran Khan promoted Islamic TV show Ertugrul in Pakistan, which opened the gates for Turkish soft power in Pakistan, while reinforcing Turkish culture. As the show also promoted Ottoman traditions and traditional Islamic values, Turkophones increased in Pakistan as well as its soft power, More Turkish TV shows were shown on Pakistani screens, boosting interaction between the Pakistani and Turkish people. As proof, the cast of Ertugrul even visited Pakistan. Turkish media moral grew, and more Turkish shows started airing in Pakistan, reviving interest in Ottoman history while increasing Pakistan’s social interaction with Turkey.
During the mid-2022 Pakistani flash floods, half of the country receded into water, bringing the country to its knees. Turkey immediately tried to help by supplying tents, food supplies, hygiene products, kitchen crockery, mosquito nets and baby nutrition to flood victims. The Turkish Red Crescent, Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and other NGOs were sent to support the victims on the ground. Ankara sent 15 planes and 13 trains to Pakistan to assist in flood relief. With one of the reasons for the flood being climate change, Turkey has vocally supported Pakistan regarding the importance of the climate change agenda, as is expressed in the November 2022 COP27 summit, supporting Pakistan’s stance on the Loss and Damage Fund for the less-resourcing states or Global South states.
On February 6, 2023, South-Eastern Turkey was stroked by a series of devastating earthquakes, killing over 50,000 Turkish and Syrian citizens. Pakistan quickly came to assist Turkey and Syria by initially dispatching 50 emergency personnel and sending 100 tonnes of relief goods, containing medicine and food, and establishing an air bridge for additional resources. Two Pakistan army units were even sent to Turkey to assist them with the devastating earthquakes. Many Pakistani philanthropists, religious scholars inpidually came forward to assist Turkey, in addition to the business community of Pakistan. There was even a unanimous Pakistani-American businessman who donated 30 million dollars to the Turkish embassy in Washington to Turkish-Syrian earthquake victims. With Turkey still recovering from the earthquakes, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the federal government cabinet donated their monthly salary to the relief fund. Additionally, National Disaster Management Authority and Urban Search and Rescue Teams were mobilised, using Egyptian equipment. Periodically, Pakistan would keep sending Turkey aid, such as in February 2023, when the PNS Nasr carried 1,000 tonnes of relief goods for Turkish and Syrians and in March 2023, when the PNS Moawin brought a huge consignment of tents, blankets, basic essentials for Turks and Syrians. In additional to the strong solidarity viewed with the Turks, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stopped in Turkey on February 16, 2023, and vowed maximum support for the quake-affected people of Turkey.
Pakistan and Turkey had steady military relations since Pakistan's independence in 1947, including throughout Cold War, and especially during the War on Terror. In the last decade, 1,500 Pakistani troops received training in Turkey and many Turkish troops have received training in Pakistan. Both countries have bolstered their military relations by conducting joint military drills more frequently. From collaborating with Uzbekistan on counterterrorism strategies, to conducting Turco-Pakistan navy drills in the Mediterranean and Arabia Sea, new means to cooperate militarily have been actively pursued. Some recent military drills have taken place in February 2023 in Tarbela, Northern Pakistan, where Turkish Special Forces and Pakistan’s Special Service Group (SSG), known as ATATURK-XII 2023, shared their experiences in counterterrorism, sharing and adopting the best practices between the two armies. To improve military cooperation, Turkey military attachés have been posted in Pakistan’s embassy in Ankara. Additionally, in July 2018, Pakistan and Turkey signed a navy MILGEM project with Turkey to manufacture Ada-class corvettes for the Pakistani navy, which will have reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare, surveillance, early warning, amphibious operations, surface-to-air and surface-to-surface capabilities. The first deliveries should be arriving sometime mid-2023.
The rise of Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002 brought significant benefits for Pakistan, as highly western-oriented Turkey reorganised itself to modernize. It now pays more attention to Pakistan in its foreign policy goals, as well as Turkey’s rising role in Asia. With growing challenges between Turkey and its Western allies, from the Syrian civil war to the 2016 attempted Turkish coup, Turkey turned to Pakistan for its understanding and support, as Pakistan was also tilting away from Saudi Arabia and towards Turkey. In May 2019, Pakistan added Turkey to its visa-free list, aiming to promote tourism and business between the two states. Many Turkish companies have invested in Pakistan like Enka, Hayat Kimya, Zorlu Energy, Bayinder and Tekser. Also, there are hundreds of medium and large-scale companies working in tourism, education and health care. The structure of the Pakistani banking system aligns with the Turkish banking system, increasing the interconnectivity between the two states. The mutual respect both countries have for one another increased significantly and Pakistan found Turkey to be its most vocal supporter on the Kashmir issue, FATF, Islamophobia and other important topics. Turkey found Pakistan to be its supporter for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). In 2020 Pakistan and Turkey announced that both country passport holders can acquire joint citizenship. Under President Erdogan, foreign relations deepened substantially with his open support for Muslim-related issues, including that of Palestine and Kashmir.
Washington and the European Union have grown distant to the two counties due to ideological and political differences, and a lack of coordination with Turkey and Pakistan on migrant issues. Under President Erdogan, Turkey has been navigating its own path with Pakistan, partially due to this alienation from America and the European Union. Instead, the countries started to align themselves towards Russia, aiming to boost cooperation, understanding, support, and dialogue. Under former Premier Imran Khan, there was a shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy, resonating a non-alignment approach, which may have had some commonalities with Turkey. Pakistan advantageously buys Russian oil at discounted prices, along with Turkey, who has long been a buyer. Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran have agreed to resume cargo train shipments, benefiting the three nations in commerce and trade. The Imran Khan government followed a policy of “Naya Pakistan”, leading to greater economic security, thus more foreign investment from multinational companies, including Turkey.
Developing strategic and military ties will increase influence in Asia, providing it with a far more ambitious foreign policy. There have been various defence deals between the two states in 2018, such as Turkey supplying four corvettes to Pakistan’s navy. Additionally, a 17,000-tonne fleet tanker has been constructed in Karachi alongside Turkish defence company STM. In 2018, Pakistan agreed to buy 30 T129 Tactical Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopters (ATAK) from Turkey and Turkey agreed purchasing MFI-17 Super Mushshak trainer aircraft from Pakistan. Pakistan and Turkey are taking advantage of their deepening relations and military cooperation by persifying its military supplies with non-U.S. options.
Economic cooperation between the two covers sectors such as trade, oil and gas, food processing, dairy products, infrastructure, and communication. The “Free Trade Agreement” solidified economic development for the last decade, and is continuously being developed on an official level. Pakistan and Turkey are both members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation, Developing Eight, and a potential new Quad alliance, made up by Turkey, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan. The Economic Cooperation Organisation financed freight trains from Islamabad to Tehran and Istanbul (ITI), aiding in better Pakistan – Turkey relations. Under CPEC, 58 billion dollars have been designated for the construction of a Kashgar - Islamabad - Gwadar railway line, that should be completed by 2030. This railroad can become a significant breakthrough in boosting Pakistan’s strategic importance and economic ties with China and Turkey. Pakistan and Turkey signed the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) on August 12, 2022, which includes a balance of payment peculiarities, comprehensive provisions on bilateral protection, and dispute settlements. The PTA contributed concessions to Pakistan on 261 tariff lines, which include major commodities of Pakistan’s export interest in Turkey from agriculture to industry. 
Turkey and Pakistan are both strategically located in the region thus often face complex security scenarios. Both had been victims of Cold War, post-Cold War, post-9/11, and contemporary security and geopolitical dynamics. Even though both states have cordial, warm, trusting relations, there was a time where both states had only shared a rhetoric of being brotherly nations, rather than actually act as such. The first and foremost difficult relationship these countries face covers commercial, economic, and trade relations. Despite trade growth, trade flows are below one billion dollars. There may be several reasons for such low trade volumes. First, Turkey has levied safeguard duties on Pakistani textile material since 2011, which had led to a decline in Pakistani exports. Second, Pakistani exports have been more impacted by the imposition of additional duties on rugs and carpets. In GSP Plus Status, Turkey has refused to extend and list Pakistan into its GSP+ Status. Although officially Turkey does not agree with India’s policies, the two countries surprisingly share a 5-billion-dollar trade volume because of India’s democratic institutions and better economic policies, while Pakistan constantly faces economic, political, and currency crises. All may change in Pakistan’s favour, but in order to change it, Turkey must convert its brotherly rhetoric into action, as the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is still stuck in the “under-negotiation” status.
There is also less people-to-people contact between Turkey and Pakistan, despite the two states sharing warm interstate relations. Much of Turkey’s youth considers Pakistan an Arab country or simply lacks knowledge regarding Pakistan given their reliance on biased and negative-leaning Western sources. Thus, many Pakistani’s are stereotyped in Turkey. There is also a cultural issue in that Pakistan is deeply conservative, while Turkey is more liberal with mixed conservative elements. Many Pakistanis experience a cultural shock when they hear about the private lives of cast members of Islamic TV shows and non-Islamic shows. Academically speaking, there is a lack of expertise on Pakistan-Turkey relations, contributing to a lack of understanding over authentic historical and current relations between the two states. Moreover, there are no cultural centres or language teaching centres between the two states, contributing to linguistic problems between the people of both states. Ideologically Turkey embraced liberalism and secularism under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, with its successive government following his footsteps. Pakistan, on the other hand, had been far more reluctant since President Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamist policies, backed by Saudi Arabia, catalysed events by using Islam in its politics, while President Pervez Musharraf’s liberal approach was met with resistance by the Islamists. Pakistan and Turkey, may embrace each other diplomatically and politically but culturally, ideologically and socially both are different states with different ideologies. Likewise, Pakistan and Turkey cooperation varies by Turkish leadership; President Erdogan values Turkey’s relationship with Pakistan, thus a change in Turkish leadership can hurt Pak-Turk relations.
The two states also have difficulties in maintaining business relations. In 2022, two Turkish Waste Management Companies Al-Bayrak and Ozpak filed a case against Lahore Waste Management Company, at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The case was over the Lahore waste management company storming offices and seizing the equipment and belongings of the respective Turkish companies back in December 20, 2020. The case, that included a 230-million dollars claim against the damages, is now awaiting trial at the international court, as the respondents of the case were the President of Pakistan, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of Law and Defence, Ambassador of Turkey to Pakistan, and others. Although the case did not gain media attention, the business relations of two states have been severely damaged. Moreover, Pakistan finalised its helicopters deal with Turkey but due to U.S. sanctions on Turkey following its decision to buy Russian-made S-400 missile system, the Pakistan deal is hanging.
Although Turkey officially supports Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, their approaches to solving the problem differ. Pakistan supports Palestine since 1948, while Turkey recognised Israel in 1949, contradictory to Pakistan. Turkey and Israel’s relations have remained rather distant, but during President Erdogan’s time in power they have since deteriorated. Though this did not damage Pakistan-Turkey relations, it weakened Turkey’s stance on Palestine and Israel. For Pakistan, Israel-India relations and their strategic partnership has been far more concerning given Israel’s growing military sales to India, contributing to power imbalances in South Asia.
Prospects for Relationship Development
Pakistan and Turkey have maintained strong, cordial relations with extensive military cooperation throughout the War on Terror. However, the two states had underinvested in trade, with Pakistan's exports to Turkey at only 148 million dollars and Turkish exports to Pakistan at only 89.8 million dollars in 1995, despite the two countries having written many agreements. Over the last 26 years, the two countries have boosted their bilateral trade, mainly with Pakistan’s exports to Turkey, which account for 325 million dollars, while exports to Pakistan are at around 822 million dollars. However, these figures are immensely underestimated with Pakistan's exports to Turkey being far less. This could be strengthened by signing more bilateral agreements between states and removing trade barriers, and finally adopting older agreements such as Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Turkey can assist Pakistan in establishing agro-based industries such as milk processing, as Pakistan is the fourth largest milk producer, while Turkey can assist Pakistan in establishing modernised industries in Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a 62-billion-dollar project, which was initiated in April 2015, as part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, may further connect the three continents and 60-included countries. Pakistan has often invited Turkey to the grand CPEC project to enhance investment, cooperation, and economic growth. Pakistan would then include Turkish companies in the CPEC energy and transportation infrastructure projects. Pakistan and Turkey can further practice joint military ventures where they can assemble and create military armaments, while exchanging information. Both states would have Open Access to both state’s ports including Mersin, Gwadar and Karachi. This would benefit trade with Asian South-eastern nations for Turkey, remove trade barriers, and provide additional privileges in the huge Chinese market. If they both come to a memorandum of understanding or a bona fide, the two may trade from Central Asia to Europe and to northern Africa and south-eastern Asian states. Although there are Turkish companies in Pakistan, there is serious lack of Pakistani companies operating in Turkey. Thus, the Turkish government should incentivise Pakistani businesses to invest in Turkey.
With Turkey experimenting and expanding its defence industry, Pakistan has been a new supplier of Turkish military weaponry. Although there have some defence agreements made between Pakistan and Turkey, Turkish products are proving to be game changers particularly in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Pakistan can come up with new defence arrangements with Turkey, lessening its dependency on expensive American military equipment by augmenting bilateral Turk-Pakistani military cooperation. Acquisitions of Turkish drones and joint projects on naval frigates can improve the security apparatus of Pakistan, and Turkey may open up a new market for itself. When the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, it left the country unattended, resulting in Pakistan playing a major role in stabilising its relations with the new leadership. However, Pakistan cannot go about stabilizing the nation on its own; Turkey as a NATO member, can play a crucial role in stabilising Afghanistan alongside Pakistan, as currently Afghanistan is cut off from the rest of the world, facing life-threatening problems such as hunger, inequality and economic and political isolation. Pakistan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a Eurasian political, international security, economic, and defence organisation with China and Russia being central key members. Turkey, under President Erdogan, has obtained a dialogue partner status and entered the SCO energy club in 2017. If Turkey also joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, deep security ties can be established to combat extremism and the potentialities of Turkey joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, its full accession into SCO is still debatable and inconclusive following President Erdogan’s third term 2023 presidential win. With President Erdogan in power, there are prospects of Turkey leading the Muslim world as many countries in the region have failed to preserve peace and stability following the the Iraq crisis, the Syrian crisis, the Qatar blockade, Egyptian crisis, Libyan war, and the Yemen conflict. Pakistan cannot fully be part of the new axis of Turkey, Malaysia and Iran because of its economic dependency on Saudi Arabia and the gulf nations, but it can be somewhat tilted towards Turkey or its bloc if Turkey were to support investment in Pakistan.
Many Pakistanis search for a better life and more job opportunities in Europe through illegal migration, passing mainly through Turkey. This results in Turkey facing a constant influx of illegal migrants from Pakistan. Pakistan and Turkey can work together to create a joint strategy to eliminate human trafficking groups, some of which are based in Turkish cities. Turkey and Pakistan have experienced horrific earthquakes in the past, most notably being the recent 2023 earthquake, Turkey bared the brunt of the damages, given its location on the fault line. With time, Turkey has adopted various mechanisms to cope with earthquakes, such as building a resilient emergency system, and adopting laws such as Quake-Proof Structure Law. Northern Pakistan, on the other hand, is still marred by traditional methods. With having more advanced means to protect from natural disasters, Turkey can provide Pakistan with specialized knowledge as Northern Pakistan is particularly prone to quakes. Another front where Turkey can act as role model for Pakistan is in law enforcement agencies in province of Punjab. The Lahore Dolphin Force, which is modelled from the Istanbul Police Dolphin Force, has already expanded to five other cities in Punjab, alongside Lahore, including Bahawalpur, Multan, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi. Turkey and Pakistan can collaborate in security and law enforcement expertise, and launch the Dolphin Force in other cities, improving law implementation in multifarious Pakistani cities. Turkey can further aid in the combat against Islamophobia as both nation’s leaders have regarded Islamophobia as a major issue throughout their tenure. Islamophobia poses a major problem currently in the world, where victims face xenophobic, discriminatory behaviour, hatred, violence and prejudiced attacks and attitudes against Muslims based on their beliefs and culture. This is a particular problem in America, the EU, and other Western countries because of serious underreporting, as well as Western states’ lack of laws to take action against it. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Erdogan have cooperated to raise awareness on Islamophobia, with UN posthumously designating March 15 as International Combat Islamophobia Day. However, there is still plenty of work that must be done and both states should continue to jointly work together to combat Islamophobia.
Another major opportunity where the two nations can build relations is in tourism. Pakistan’s tourism industry is still recuperating from the jihadist attacks. Both states can work concurrently in tourism by fostering special tourist programs to boost bilateral tourism. Pakistan can take technical advice from Turkey because Turkey is one of the major hubs of tourism in Middle East and Asia. Both countries can work together to form a strategy and implement it jointly in the tourism sector, which would inadvertently help the economic sector. Additionally, Turks and Pakistanis usually receive news about each other via third sources or media such as TRT World, but both countries can come up with a joint venture of new media outlets, airing better news coverage with more authentic, checked. and people-to-people communication on what is actually taking place in the country. Not only over that, but also states sharing TV shows and movies can further boost relations between the people of both countries. Although both state media industries have agreed to develop Islamic TV shows together, such as on Abdur Rehman Peshawari, more joint projects can be agreed upon and pursed.
Additionally, Turkey's higher education is gaining global recognition with some of the most distinguished universities present such as Koc, Ozyegin and Sabanc University. Perhaps these universities can consider opening some campuses in Pakistan, as Pakistan still languishes in higher education. Pakistan can support Turkey vice versa by building Pakistan Universities, and opening their campuses such as Karachi, IBA, and Quaid-e-Azam University in Turkey by providing and offering programmes in English. As Turkish culture, media and language have swept through Pakistan's population in the last decade, many have become enthusiastic about learning the Turkish language, however there lack professional language centres in Pakistan. Thus, Turkey should sponsor language-learning programmes in Pakistan, just like China has sponsored language-learning programmes and facilities in many parts of Pakistan. Turkey is a favourite study destination for Pakistani students, with many obtaining scholarships to travel and study in the country. Here too, there is room to capitalize on educational and professional training opportunities. Pakistan should also offer scholarships to Turkish students who want to do research in Pakistan by providing incentives and extended help to access different historical archives. New academic exchange programs would help both states strengthen their cultural ties, while boosting research and education both states.
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 PM felicitates Muslim world as March 15 declared Islamophobia day // Express Tribune. 15.03.2022. URL: https://tribune.com.pk/story/2348100/pm-felicitates-muslim-world-as-march-15-declared-islamophobia-d...