Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday attended a dual ceremony commissioning a new Turkish naval ship while starting construction of a ship set to be sold to Pakistan’s navy.
Turkey is one of 10 countries worldwide able to build, design, and maintain warships using its own national capabilities, President Erdogan told the ceremony for the TCG Kinaliada, commissioned today for the Turkish navy, and a MILGEM (Turkish national warship programme)-class ship being built for Pakistan.
In his speech, Erdogan said he hopes the Kinaliad, an Ada-class corvette, will benefit the Turkish nation and its sailors and further hopes Pakistan, a friendly sister nation to Turkey, will also benefit from the ship whose construction started today.
In July 2018, Pakistan’s navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class ships from Turkey. MILGEM vessels are 99 metres long, have a displacement capacity of 24,00 tons and have a speed of 29 nautical miles.
MILGEM anti-submarine combat frigates, which can be hidden from the radar, will further enhance the defence capability of the Pakistan Navy.
While two corvettes will be built in Turkey, the next two will be built in Pakistan through technology transfer.
"Our navy, rich with glorious victories, is carrying this legacy into the future by further strengthening it," said Erdogan.
Its top-class "equipment, discipline, qualified personnel and all the accomplishments it undertakes" makes Turkey proud, he said.
Erdogan said recent events globally and especially in the Mediterranean point to the need to strengthen Turkey at sea, as in all other areas.
Greece and Greek Cyprus have recently challenged Turkey’s right to use the energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean, but Turkey has not backed down, and continues to send drill ships to the region with military escorts.
Turkey is resolved to reach heights domestically in all areas including shipbuilding, artillery, missiles, torpedoes, and electronic systems, Erdogan said.
Turkey making more and more defence equipment
Erdogan said the time is also close for Turkey to build its own fighter jets, just as it has built its own manned and unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites.
"We have not forgotten the time when we could not buy ships, planes and tools that we wanted, even when we wanted to pay for them," he said.
Erdogan stressed that the corvettes that have been put into service to date have successfully fulfilled their duties by taking part in numerous national and international exercises.
"We have many more projects to strengthen our navy, and work on the diesel-electric submarine project, which will meet the needs of both our country and friendly states, is ongoing," Erdogan said.
Erdogan stressed that Turkey’s dependence on foreign trade in the defence industry has dropped from 80 per cent to 30pc.
"Today, we have five firms among the world’s top 100 defence companies, and hopefully this number will continue to climb.
"Our goal is to eliminate our dependence on the foreign defence industry completely by 2023," he said. Turkey will celebrate its centennial in 2023.
Pakistan, Turkey cut first metal plate of MILGEM Ada class corvette
Pakistan Navy Commander Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and Erdogan cut the first metal plate of the first of the four MILGEM Ada class corvette during the ceremony.
Erdogan told the audience that Pakistan-Turkey relations had great potential for cooperation in the field of defence production.
Referring to the Jammu and Kashmir issue, Erdogan said the world should know the sufferings of the occupied territory.
He likened the situation of occupied Kashmir to Palestine and added that more than 8 million Kashmiris are braving Indian atrocities in an open-air prison on their territory.
Erdogan declared that he would continue to raise the Kashmir issue and the sufferings of the Kashmiri people.
Admiral Abbasi in his speech, described the project as another proof of Pakistan-Turkey brotherhood. He also briefed the guests on the latest situation in Jammu and Kashmir that is under Indian administration.
Abbasi talked about the toxic Hinduvta ideology in India and its threats to regional and international peace. He emphasised that Indian cruelty has risen to new levels after the Indian government's decisions on August 5, which are against the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international law.
The admiral extended his gratitude to the President Erdogan for raising the Kashmir issue in the United Nations General Assembly and added that the people of Pakistan and the occupied region owed unwavering support to Turkey.
Turning to the ongoing problems in Jammu and Kashmir, Erdogan decried how no other countries besides Turkey and Malaysia have spoken out on the issue.
The India-occupied region has been facing a clampdown since August 5, when the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the constitution, which conferred it a special status.
Hundreds of people, mostly political leaders, have been detained or arrested by authorities since the Indian government made the move.