KARACHI: A webinar on Pakistan-Turkey relations was organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR) on Tuesday morning.
Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador of Turkey in Pakistan Ihsan Mustafa Yurdakul said what Turkey and Pakistan have is more than a relationship. Whenever he is asked to comment on the bilateral ties between the two countries, he objects to the word bilateral. The thing between the two can’t be called a relationship because by definition a relationship needs two parties with a distance between themselves. “In case of us, it’s not correct because we don’t have that distance to live with each other. It’s better to call the interaction a bond. The bond between Turkey and Pakistan started a long time back and we will pass this legacy to the next generations.”
The diplomat said Turkey’s political relations with Pakistan have always been great. It’s still the same regardless of who is in power in Turkey or Pakistan. The last high-level event was President Erdogan’s visit to Islamabad in February this year just before the “Covid timeout”. Pakistan and Turkey have a good legacy of brotherhood, cooperation and solidarity; [so] it’s good to see that leaders on both sides are very committed and keen to take the relationship further ahead in the years to come.
There are numerous mechanisms to keep these relations alive and kicking. “We have a high-level group chaired by the president and the prime minister. We have numerous working groups encompassing all walks of life. It’s about trade, tourism, the economy, agriculture, defence … you name it.”
‘TV dramas have increased the interaction between people of the two countries’
The ambassador said what is missing is the economic and commercial ties between the two countries. We have a good volume [of trade], but it’s not enough.
“We should be doing more. To that effect both sides are working on having a trade agreement. Before the Covid period the exercise was in full swing but during this period both sides also tried to do their homework. In the days to come we are hopeful we will be gaining some ground.”
He said what’s positive about this economic sphere is that there’s an appetite on the part of Turkish investors who’d like to come and benefit from emerging economic and commercial indicators of Pakistan. Pakistan is a promising market. It has huge resources and capacity to be an important trade partner.
Mr Yurdakul said on the cultural and social side, Turkey proves to be an important destination for Pakistani nationals. “We see the number of Pakistani visitors going to Turkey increasing every passing year. Even in the Covid period we were able to keep the airline connection open, and I’m happy to report that Turkey was one of the top destinations for Pakistani tourists.”
He pointed out that in the sphere of cultural exchanges the effect of TV dramas has increased the interaction between peoples of the two countries. The latest Turkish drama Ertugrul has made a huge impact in Pakistan. The numbers [of viewers] went through the roof. “We were not familiar with such numbers even in Turkey. A spin-off effect of the play is that a number of tourists visiting Turkey saw a spike. We can also see increasing cultural and cinematographic activities of Pakistan in Turkey … joint production etc.”
He said in these challenging times the more we stand together the better for both countries. It’s only wise that we embrace challenges standing side by side, proving to the rest of the world that Turkey and Pakistan are two powers in this region.
After the ambassador’s talk the floor was opened for a question-answer session. Replying to the query about the fact that the UAE has recognised Israel and other countries are likely to follow, he said it is every country’s sovereign right to establish a diplomatic relationship or formal relationship with any other country they choose. But if you remember when this [decision] was made public there was also a huge emphasis on stating that Palestine and its people will also be the beneficiary of this latest recognition of Israel.
“My humble and personal objection comes to that point. You can establish a relationship with any country, [but] if you sugar-coat it with some very unrealistic perceptions or expectation or commitments, I don’t think that’s the best way to go, because as things stand, even on the night of that recognition you will recall there was no certain commitment coming from Israel about the cessation of building new housing in the occupied territories.”
Earlier, senior vice chairman of the KCFR ambassador Mustafa Kamal Kazi welcomed the guest. The event was moderated by Dr Huma Baqai.
Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2020