Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday invited Turkiye to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to bring about regional prosperity, alleviate poverty and empower people through better education and health facilities.
The prime minister, addressing a joint press stakeout along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Pakistan had been “experiencing and enjoying” the benefits of CPEC.
“I would suggest that let this be a cooperation between China, Pakistan and Turkiye. This would be a wonderful joint cooperation … This is how we can meet the challenges of today,” the prime minister remarked.
He said that he would be “happy” to discuss the matter with the Chinese leadership if Turkiye moved ahead with the idea of joining CPEC.
Lauding President Erdogan’s warm hospitality, the prime minister started his remarks by conveying condolences over the loss of life in a recent terror incident in Istanbul and prayed for peace of the departed souls.
He said having sacrificed thousands of lives to terrorism, Pakistan could understand the feeling of the Turkish people and called for joint efforts to wipe out terrorism in all forms and manifestations, not only from Pakistan and Turkiye but the whole world.
Referring to the launching ceremony of the third of the four Milgem Corvette Ships for the Pakistan Navy, the prime minister said the project was the manifestation of “sincerity, purpose and commitment” to enhance mutual cooperation.
The prime minister said at a time when tensions were escalating in the world and the international prices of commodities were skyrocketing and going beyond the reach of developing countries, it was important to take defence cooperation to a higher level for the two countries.
He said Pakistan and Turkiye’s defence cooperation should now meet new challenges and have a much “bigger scale” in terms of skills, expertise and cooperation.
PM Shehbaz said in their meeting the two leaders underscored the effective implementation of the trade and goods agreement the two countries had signed in August this year.
He said the trade volume of $1 billion between Pakistan and Turkiye did not reflect the brotherly relations and called for all-out efforts to achieve the target of $5bn dollar trade.
In his remarks, President Erdogan said that both countries were hopeful of further increasing their relations in trade, defence and other sectors.
He said 2022 marked the celebration of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Expressing grief over the deaths and destruction caused by floods, the Turkish president said, “Our solidarity has been shown to each other during challenging times … Pakistan’s joy is our joy and their grief is our grief.”
Invitation to invest in renewable energy
Earlier, PM Shehbaz invited Turkiye to join hands in investing in renewable energy production and reducing dependence on traditional energy sources.
The prime minister was speaking at an inauguration ceremony for the third of four Milgem Corvette ships for the Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul Shipyard during a two-day official visit to Turkey at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Bemoaning Pakistan’s import bill due to petroleum products, PM Shehbaz said Pakistan wanted to shift to renewable sources of energy — solar, hydel and wind — and Turkish investors had great potential for financing these fields.
“I want to propose … that let’s join hands together and get rid of high-carbon emissions, cut our import bills and let’s really promote investment in these fields.”
PM Shehbaz said solar, hydel and wind energy would make “great sense” for promoting investments between the two countries.
“I think it’s high time we transform our relations into something because the world is envious of our relation and our brotherhood but they also say that while ‘these two countries are great and their hearts beat together’ … but they also say that our trade and investment relations are not commensurate with our historical relations and brotherhood.”
The prime minister said the two countries under Erdogan’s leadership had a “great chance” to move forward in this field.
Regarding the ship’s launch, PM Shehbaz said Turkey and Pakistan were “deeply engaged” in promoting their defence capabilities for peace to ward off aggression. He said the ship’s launch was for defence purposes instead of any aggression.
The prime minister called on Turkey to further collaborate on their defence production capacities to ensure that peace was restored in the world, adding that the globe was facing “great tensions”.
Shehbaz said the Russia-Ukraine conflict had created multifarious problems for global societies and appreciated Erdogan’s efforts for peace and brokering the wheat shipment deal.
He also appreciated Turkey’s aid and help to Pakistan after the recent catastrophic floods in the country.
Earlier, PM Shehbaz was received by the Istanbul deputy governor and other senior officials of the Turkish government upon arriving at Istanbul airport.
In a tweet shortly after the premier landed, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Shehbaz was “determined to tap the enormous potential” between the two countries.
She said that PM Shehbaz had worked tirelessly for “extensive interaction with Turkish authorities and potential investors to develop a comprehensive roadmap for bilateral engagement”.
According to a Foreign Office (FO) statement, the premier would “jointly inaugurate the third of the four Milgem Corvette ships for the Pakistan Navy, PNS Khaibar, at the Istanbul Shipyard”.
Prior to his departure, the premier said in a tweet that the inauguration of the third Milgem Corvette ship represented the deepening defence cooperation between the Turkiye and Pakistan.
“High-level exchanges are a defining feature of our partnership,” he stated. “Our bilateral ties have entered a new era of strategic partnership under the leadership of President Erdogan.”
The PM went on to say that the two countries were on a course to “unpack the full untapped potential of relationship”, adding that high-level exchanges were a “defining feature” of the partnership between the two countries.
The FO said during the two-day visit, PM Shehbaz will also “interact with leaders of the Turkish business community” and also meet the President of the ECO Trade and Development Bank during his stay in the country’s urban centre, Istanbul.
Afterwards, Shehbaz and Erdogan will hold wide-ranging discussions on “bilateral relations, the regional situation and other issues of common interest”, the FO said.
The FO added that the two countries “enjoy fraternal ties deeply embedded in commonalities of faith, culture, and history and underpinned by exceptional cordiality and mutual trust”.
The Milgem project
The Milgem project — based on a joint collaboration between Turkiye and Pakistan — was signed with ASFAT inc, a Turkish state-owned Defence contractor firm in 2018, according to which the Pakistan navy would acquire four Milgem-class ships from Turkey.
Milgem vessels are 99 metres long, have a displacement capacity of 2,400 tons and have a speed of 29 nautical miles. These anti-submarine combat frigates, which can be hidden from the radar, would further enhance the defence capability of the Pakistan Navy.
According to the FO, the launching ceremony for the first Corvette for the Pakistan Navy, PNS Babur, was performed in Istanbul in August 2021 while the groundbreaking for the second ship, PNS Badr, was held in Karachi in May 2022.
“The project represents a significant milestone in the Pakistan-Turkiye strategic partnership that continues to progress on an upward trajectory,” it said.