ISLAMABAD: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived here on Wednesday on a two-day visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and promoting trade, investment and defence cooperation.
Mr Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine and a high-level delegation, received a warm welcome on his arrival.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went to the Nur Khan Airbase along with his cabinet members and senior officials to receive him. The presence of first lady Kulsoom Nawaz, prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and his younger brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the airbase gave a personal touch to the reception.
Mr Erdogan’s first visit to Pakistan as president is taking place four months after he survived a botched coup. He responded to the coup by heavy-handed actions against the supporters of coup and has reportedly suspended, dismissed or detained at least 110,000 people, including soldiers, judges and teachers.
The Pakistan government’s move to order expulsion of the Turkish staff of Pak-Turk Schools, which are allegedly run by the US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen’s network, from the country ahead of Mr Erdogan’s trip reminded everyone here about the coup attempt and domestic challenges confronting his government.
Mr Erdogan accuses Mr Gulen of instigating the coup and has called upon Pakistan to take action against the cleric’s network in the country.
Editorial: Post-coup Turkey
In his private messages for Pakistani leadership, Mr Erdogan has thanked them for their support during the coup.
The Turkish leader opened his visit with a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Mamnoon Hussain.
Mr Hussain proposed a long-term defence cooperation agreement. According to a statement from the presidency, Mr Erdogan agreed to the idea.
The two countries are already pursuing a number of defence collaboration projects. Turkey is helping Pakistan with the midlife upgrade of Khalid-Class Submarines and the two sides also collaborated in building a Naval Fleet Tanker. Turkey has expressed interest in purchasing MFI-17 Super Mushshak aircraft from Pakistan.
Besides defence cooperation, the two leaders agreed to closely coordinate on regional matters, including Afghanistan and Kashmir.
President Hussain thanked Mr Erdogan for his government’s support at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Pakistan has applied for the membership of the 48-member organisation. Turkey is supporting the call for criteria-based approach for admitting non-NPT countries instead of exceptionalism.
Mr Erdogan would on Thursday address a joint session of parliament. This would be the third time that Mr Erdogan would be addressing the Pakistani parliament.
He would later travel to Lahore, where PM Sharif is hosting a banquet in his honour at the 16th-century Shahi Qila (Lahore Royal Fort). A meeting of the Pak-Turkey Joint Business Forum would also be held in Lahore.
Pakistan and Turkey are expected to sign a Free Trade Agreement next month. The agreement would cover the service industry and investments in addition to trade.
Besides, Turkey has expressed interest in investment in Pakistan’s renewable energy sector and infrastructure development.
Published in Dawn November 17th, 2016