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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Turkey-Pakistan relations: An evolving friendship

Recent Turkey elections have captured international attention, how this will affect the long-standing relationship with Pakistan?

The recent presidential election in Turkey has attracted global attention, particularly from Turkey’s European neighbours and the Muslim world, including its key ally in South Asia, Pakistan. The friendship between Turkey and Pakistan dates back to their shared history, and it has evolved into a strong bilateral relationship based on political, defence, and cultural cooperation. 

Historical Roots of Friendship

The foundation of Turkey-Pakistan relations can be traced back to the support and solidarity shown by Indian Muslims for the Ottoman Empire during World War I and for the Turkish Republic during the Turkish War of Independence. The subsequent alignment of both countries in the Western camp during the Cold War further solidified their close ties. Notably, their collaboration in regional security alliances, such as the Baghdad Pact and CENTO, showcased their shared interest in combating communism and made them indispensable regional allies.

Read More: Turkey’s historic election runoff: Erdogan vs. Kilicdaroglu

Consistent Cooperation

Even as regional geopolitics shifted with the end of the Cold War, Turkey and Pakistan maintained courteous relations. Notably, during the Afghan war years, both countries continued to cooperate, and their leaderships displayed mutual respect. A joint visit by the Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller to Sarajevo in 1994 further demonstrated their shared foreign policy outlook and personal chemistry.

Erdogan’s Era: Strengthening Ties

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rise to power brought a new era in Turkey-Pakistan relations, as his Muslim world-oriented foreign outlook aligned with shared geopolitical interests. His unwavering support on the Kashmir issue and prompt response to disasters earned him respect in Pakistan.

Erdogan developed close interpersonal relationships with former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Imran Khan. These personal connections further deepened the bilateral cooperation between both countries. Erdogan’s consistent diplomatic, political, and discursive support for Pakistan against India has significantly contributed to the mutual trust and solidarity between the two nations.

Defense Partnership

Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has become a top defence partner for Pakistan, alongside China. Their collaboration has strengthened Pakistan’s defence capabilities, with upgrades to F-16 jets and the provision of advanced Bayraktar Akınci drones. Turkish soft power initiatives through TIKA have also bolstered sectors like health, agriculture, and education in Pakistan.

Looking Ahead

The close relationship between Turkey and Pakistan has become a cornerstone of foreign policy for both nations. The outcome of the presidential elections in Turkey holds significant implications for the relationship between Turkey and Pakistan. The re-election of President Erdogan would likely ensure the continuity and further strengthening of the unique bond shared between the two nations. President Erdogan has been a staunch supporter of Pakistan, consistently voicing his support on key issues such as Kashmir, which has earned him respect and admiration from the Pakistani polity. His strong leadership and personal relationships with Pakistani leaders have played a crucial role in deepening bilateral cooperation in areas such as politics, defence, and culture. If President Erdogan secures victory in the elections, it is expected that the close relationship between Turkey and Pakistan will continue to thrive, with potential for further collaboration and joint initiatives. On the other hand, if there is a change in leadership, the relationship may undergo a recalibration, potentially leading to a reevaluation of priorities and a shift in dynamics. However, given the historical strength of the Turkey-Pakistan bond, any potential changes are likely to be gradual rather than abrupt, and the fundamental friendship between the two nations is expected to endure.

Read More: Everything to know about Turkey’s possible “run-off” vote

Turkey and Pakistan share a longstanding friendship rooted in history, shared interests, and mutual respect. President Erdogan’s leadership has played a crucial role in further strengthening this bond. The bilateral cooperation, spanning politics, defence, and culture, has not only benefited the two nations but also shaped the regional dynamics. As Turkey’s relationship with Pakistan remains of critical importance, the continuation of President Erdogan’s tenure is seen as crucial by Pakistan’s decision-makers and the public alike.