To say that Pakistan and Turkey have cordial relations, would be an understatement. The affinity amongst the people of the two countries, nurtured by decades old cultural, religious and geo-political links is an almost unparalleled phenomenon in the history of bilateral relations between states.

There could not be a better exposition of the nature of relations between the two countries than the statements made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the visiting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu while speaking on relations between the two countries. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the Pakistan-Turkey High Level Cooperation Council remarked that the two countries were indispensable partners working assiduously to promote peace and prosperity for their people and the region. The Turkish Prime Minister said that the relations between the two countries were exemplary and there were no two countries who felt they had a common destiny like Pakistan and Turkey. In his meeting with the COAS, the Turkish Prime Minister emphatically declared that Pakistan’s security was Turkish security and Pakistan’s flag was the Turkish flag and that Turkey would always stand by Pakistan. The foregoing words uttered by the two leaders say it all. What they said was beyond the realm of usual diplomatic niceties.

The two countries were unanimous on the need to make UNSC more representative, democratic, transparent, effective and accountable; the need to fight collectively against terrorism and countering the burgeoning Islam phobia in the West. They also agreed to enhance bilateral trade to US $3 billion within the next two years besides signing 11 agreements and MOUs for cooperation in various fields. The visit of the Turkish Prime Minister coming at a time when the region is undergoing radical transformation in its geo-political environment and Pakistan is in the midst of a decisive campaign to eliminate the scourge of terrorism, and is of great significance both from the perspective of bilateral relations between the two countries and with regards to forging a collective strategy to address security threats to the region and firming up responses to changed strategic realities.

Turkey is an important country of the region and a worthy military and economic power. It has been taking keen interest in promoting peace in our region and bringing Pakistan and Afghanistan closer with a view to resolve the Afghan conundrum and building mutual trust between them. It launched a trilateral summit process between Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan in February 2007 to pursue this objective and it was as a result of continued Turkish endeavours that some visible progress was made at the eighth trilateral Summit in Ankara in 2014. The three countries agreed to enhance cooperation for regional security, stability and development. Pakistan and Afghanistan broadly agreed to the proposition of managing the border between them to check the activities of terrorists.

In the backdrop of the ambience of mutual mistrust that had marred relations between the two countries, this marked a new beginning towards amity between them and a big boost to the chances of promoting peace in the region. Before that Karzai had been accusing Pakistan of supporting and abetting attacks within Afghanistan and Pakistan also persistently complained of Afghan support for terrorist activities within Pakistani territory. Another very significant outcome of the parleys was the commitment made by Karzai during a press conference addressed by the three leaders that Afghanistan would oust TTP leaders and their associates from Afghanistan. The recent cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan in fighting terrorism is surely a continuation of the same understanding and persistent efforts of the Pakistan government to take the process to its logical end. Turkey, like Pakistan, enjoys the trust of the Afghan people and its government and in collaboration with Pakistan can play a pivotal role in promoting intra-Afghan dialogue for reconciliation amongst different factions, especially the Taliban to restore peace in Afghanistan which would also go a long way in eliminating terrorism from the region.

Perhaps it would be pertinent to throw some light on the history of relations between the two countries. The people of Pakistan and Turkey have strong love and respect for each other that dates back to the developments in the early twentieth century. Both countries established diplomatic relations with each other soon after Pakistan became independent. Pakistan and Turkey were partners in the CENTO and also along with Iran, founded a regional entity called RCD which later was re-incarnated as ECO. Both are members of the Developing 8 Countries (D-8) and have been working together to negotiate preferential trading agreements. Turkey and Pakistan have strong military relations and the former had been providing training to Pakistan Air Force officers in upgrading the F-16 fleet. Military ties date back to 1954 when both countries joined CENTO. Turkey has been a strong supporter of the Kashmir cause and has also been maintaining political and military support to Pakistan during its wars with India. Pakistan has also vehemently expressed support for Turkey’s policy on Northern Cyprus. Both countries are members of the OIC and aspirants for membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and have strong chances of being admitted to it in the near future. Turkey has also extended generous help during the 2005 earthquake and the subsequent floods in Pakistan.

The strong and cooperative relations between Pakistan and Turkey are also very important with regards to fostering cooperative relations among Muslim countries as well as addressing issues of concern to Muslim nations at the global level such as blasphemy and growing xenophobia against Muslim communities. In the backdrop of terrorism when there is a growing agreement for promoting interfaith harmony at the global level, the two countries can perhaps take a lead in initiating a move at the UN to have a resolution passed binding all nations to ensure respect for other religions and have the blasphemy issue included in the UN charter. This is currently the biggest irritant in relations between Muslim countries and the West and the UN whose basic purpose is to promote peace and security ought to play its due role in bringing about amity between the two camps.

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.