Imran Khan Taking Pakistan-Turkey Relations to the Next Level


Pakistan-Turkey relations are on the revamp after decades of stagnation. Both countries have traditionally enjoyed close and cordial relations. The manifold commonalties between the two countries have been reinforced by the firm resolve of their leadership to further deepen mutual cooperation in all fields. In this context, Imran Khan’s recent visit to Turkey is a step in the right direction which will take Pakistan-Turkey relations to the next level.

Imran Khan has emerged as a leader not only at national but also at international level; this fact is being recognized at different level.  One of the core objectives of his leadership is to take persona politics away from regional and international relations. Indeed in his New Year’s message, he spoke of a crusade against four ills namely: poverty, injustice, corruption and illiteracy. His acts are being listened and watched at international level.

His visit to Turkey was considered very successful. He has repeatedly said that President Erdogan along with the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamadare his two contemporary political heroes. During his recent visit to Turkey, he also mentioned that Turkish people took to the streets to protect Turkish democracy because the government of Erdogan had delivered for over a decade. During his visit he said that at the moment Pakistan-Turkey ties are too military dominant, although this is a positive sign (the record defence deals signed between Islamabad and Ankara). However, during this visit two countries has signed number of economic deals, as future of any country can only sustains on economic not only on defence. While addressing the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) he said that it is time to boost the trade volume between Turkey and Pakistan. He also mentioned about the $64 billion One Belt One Road 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.  Pakistan is the only country in the world that has one of the youngest populations in the world, with fully 120 million Pakistanis under age 35.

While the two countries have enjoyed excellent political relations for several decades now, what is surprising is that these historic ties have not translated into better trade and economic cooperation.

For the past five years, trade between Pakistan and Turkey has hovered around $160 million, which does not commensurate with the potential of this relationship or partnership. Although some Turkish companies in the private sector have invested in Pakistan including Bayinder, Enka and Tekser, for various projects in the country but not many Pakistani companies are actively working in Turkey. There is hope that in keeping with the global trends, economic interaction will assume centre-stage in relations between Pakistan and Turkey.

The transportation facilities between Turkey and Pakistan are inadequate. There is also a need to provide a permanent display centre of Pakistani products in Istanbul and to organize Single Country Exhibition by Pakistan in Istanbul and vice versa. There is enormous scope for enhancing cooperation in economy, trade, tourism and science and technology. The two countries are endowed with enormous natural resources and have pools of scientific and skilled work force. One reason for the low level of mutual trade is the existence of parallel economies in the two countries. Both countries trade in products such as cotton, rice, leather and textiles. That their target markets are the same, however, does not mean they should not look for other levels of cooperation in trade and commerce.

Great opportunities exist for Turkey and Pakistan to make joint efforts to realize the trade and economic potential for mutual benefit in an enlarged Euro-Asia market. Turkey is linked to Europe and Central Asia while Pakistan can serve as a gateway to Central Asia.

With the advantage of their strategic locations, the two countries could take the initiative for the development of a vast market which can even be enlarged to take in North Africa and Southern China. This area could later on be expanded to include the rest of South Asia and the Far East. So, a vast market between Casablanca and Seoul could be established for the benefit of a large number of countries, most of which are at present in a state of under-development because, with the exception of a few, none of them belong to any prosperous economic or trade grouping. It is in the interest of Turkey and Pakistan to come together and try to translate the vision of an enlarged Euro-Asia market into a reality.

Better economic relations are a key to the future of these bilateral relations. Pakistan needs to look deeper into the opportunity of exploring the prospects of Turkey as a gateway to Europe, while Pakistan is an outlet to the Indian Ocean and China and Far East. They can protect each other’s interests specifically in the economic sphere in Europe and Asia.Pakistan can also learn a lot from Turkey in terms of improving its tourism industry. The Pak-Turk relations as well as Pakistan’s relations with the rest of the Muslim world had been taken for granted. Pakistan realizes the need to maintain close ties with Turkey given that both sides have a similarity of vision for the Muslim world, and can also bring the West and the Muslim world together. Bilateral economic relations would also help both countries overcome their economic problems in the future, and use these relations to play a leading role in organizations such as the UN, OIC and ECO.

Keeping in mind the above discussion, it can be inferred that two day visit remained very successful, as Turkish government also emphasized that The Kashmir dispute should be resolved according to the UN resolutions. Prime minister Imran Khan also recognized Turkish support for Pakistan’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group 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. Indeed, this is beginning of new era for both the countries.