Pakistan and Turkey have entered into agreements to increase their bilateral relations in the fields of energy, trade, defense, communication, education and culture in the wake of talks between the two country’s Prime Ministers in Islamabad.
All told, the two Islamic nations signed nine different documents related to enhanced economic and trade cooperation.
Yousuf Raza Gilani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan also vowed to significantly increase the volume of trade between Turkey and Pakistan, which presently stands at about $2 billion. Gilani specifically asked that Turkish companies make investments in Pakistan’s communication and housing sectors by offering huge incentives.
Regarding the contentious issue of the Western nations demanding that Pakistan re-open the NATO supply routes that have been closed since last November after drone strikes killed more than two dozen Pakistani soldiers, Erdogan said that it was an internal matter for Pakistan and that NATO should apologize to Islamabad.
Erdogan also said that Turkey will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan only after all other foreign soldiers had departed the country.
During his visit to Pakistan, Erdogan also met with Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the opposition leader in the National Assembly, who urged the Turkish leader to serve as a mediator between the West and the Islamic world.
It is the right time that you [Erdogan] take a lead and convince the Western world to respect Muslims, their culture and traditions, Nisar told the joint session of parliament.
We are confronting political differences in Pakistan, and we the opposition party are not attending parliament sessions for the last couple of days, but today we are sitting in the House only because of you [Erdogan].
Nisar added: During the last 60 years, every government, including non-democratic, tried its best to enhance friendship with Turkey, which always remained a time-tested friend of Pakistan. However, during your tenure the relationship between Pakistan and Turkey has reached its highest peak. We take pride in your country's success. Pakistan has a lot of friends but positive response always came from Turkey first, whether it is earthquake or flood in Pakistan.”
As Turkey becomes a regional economic powerhouse, it seeks to play a greater role in the affairs of not only the Middle East, but also countries like Pakistan and Somalia, where it has sent money for humanitarian purposes.
After the 2005 earthquake devastated Kashmir and Northern Pakistan, the Turks donated $150 million in relief funds.
Turkey and Pakistan have long enjoyed warm relations, partly owing to similar religious and cultural traditions. Erdogan has even referred to Pakistan as his “second home,” while Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar hailed Turkey’s economic progress as an inspiring example.
Turkey’s relations with Pakistan’s historic enemy are strained, but cordial.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.