Pakistan–Turkey relations

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Pakistan-Turkey relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and Turkey



Pakistan has an embassy in Ankara, a Consulate-General in Istanbul and an honorary consulate in Izmir whereas, Turkey has an embassy in Islamabad, a Consulate-General in Karachi and honorary consulates in Lahore, Peshawar, Sialkot and Faisalabad. As of 2016, in a joint communique, Pakistan and Turkey plan to strengthen their close ties into a "strategic partnership".[1][2]

Relations date back generations before the establishment of the two states, more precisely during the Turkish War of Independence when the Muslims of the northwestern British Raj sent financial aid to the declining Ottoman Empire, due to historic relations between the Mughal Empire and the Ottoman Empire, which was followed by the formation of the Turkish Republic and the Independence of Pakistan. Pakistan and Turkey enjoy close cultural, historical and military relations which are now expanding into deepening economic relations as both countries seek to develop their economies. Turkey supports Pakistan's position of holding a plebiscite under the UN to decide if Kashmir wants to join Pakistan, a position which Turkish President Erdogan reaffirmed in a joint address to the Pakistani parliament and which was attended by Pakistan's military high command.[3][4] Turkey supports Pakistan's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group[5] Analysts have also observed that Turkey and Pakistan enjoy close relations during both democratic and military regimes, reflecting the depth of the relations between the two nations.[6]

Ties which had historically remained close on nationalist and cultural grounds further deepened under President Erdogan's Islamic-rooted political approach, as he termed Pakistan "home away from home". He became the only foreign leader to address Pakistan's Parliament, the National Assembly more than once, doing so a record three times.[7] As of 2016, President Erdogan has visited Pakistan 7 times, domestic politics also spillover, infamously Fethullah Gulen linked officers leaked tapes alleging corruption and arrested Erdogan's close aides, while Erdogan was on a trip to Pakistan, Erdogan accused the Gulenists of sabotage while representing Turkey in a friendly nation.[8] Gulen-linked schools are under pressure to close and teachers have had their visas turned down at the behest of the Turkish government since the attempted coup, an indicator of Pakistan's close ties to the Turkish government.[9][10] The Pakistan and Turkish Air Force signed a deal to purchase 52 Super Mushkak trainer jets from Pakistan for Turkey to help train new pilots and support recovery of the Turkish Armed Forces in the aftermath of pilot shortages after the attempted coup.[11][12][13]

As a result, Pakistan and Pakistanis have enjoyed a positive perception in Turkey and amongst Turks for many decades. The two nations are in the process of strengthening economic relations with a Pakistan-Turkey Free Trade Agreement aiming to raise bilateral trade volume to $10 billion by 2020.[14][15] Turkey and Pakistan have a strong defence relationship consisting of joint exercises and a substantial portion of the Pakistan Navy's fleet consisting of joint Pakistan-Turkish naval ships such as fleet tankers and fast attack craft.[16] Pakistan supports the Turkish position on Cyprus,[17] Azerbaijan[18] and Armenia, as such Pakistan has no diplomatic relations with Armenia, with Turkey supporting Pakistan's position on the Kashmir dispute,[19] including alleged human rights violations of Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir.[20] As a result, the two countries have enjoyed strong military and diplomatic relations which is now strengthening towards economic co-operation, with the free trade agreement going through substantial stages of progress.[21]

Development of bilateral relations[edit]

Turkey established diplomatic relations soon after the independence of Pakistan in 1947 and bilateral relations became increasingly close owing to cultural, religious and geopolitical links between the two countries.[22] Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah expressed admiration for Turkey's founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and also a desire to develop Pakistan on the Turkish model of modernism. Similarly Pakistan would follow the footstep of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal to develop a modern Islamic Pakistan and all other so called ism are rejected by people of Pakistan.[23] Similar ideas were expressed by the former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, who grew up in Turkey and had received extensive military training there.[23][24][25] Jinnah is honoured as a great leader in Turkey, and a major road of the Turkish capital Ankara, the Cinnah Caddesi is named after him, while roads in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Larkana are named after Atatürk. On 26 October 2009, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan and was the fourth world leader who spoke to the Pakistani parliament. Erdoğan said that Pakistan had always occupied a special place in the hearts and minds of the Turkish government and people.

Cultural relations[edit]

Shashlik, a common Eurasian dish.

Both Pakistan and Turkey are mutually influenced by Arab, Turko-Mongol and Persian cultures. The region of Anatolia in Central and Eastern Turkey was occupied multiple times by Persian Empires which has brought Persian cultural and linguistic influence since ancient times.[26]

The Indus Valley region of Pakistan was occupied by the Achaemenid empire going back to the fifth century BC.[27]

Modern-day Turkey was home to many ancient European civilizations, including Greek. The country has many traces of cultural and historical influences from the ancient Greeks including Greek archeological sites found in the region.[28][29]

Pakistan also became influenced by Greek culture and civilization, especially in the aftermath of Alexander the Great's invasion of the region which later led to the formation of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. Gandhara is a major site of ancient Greek legacy in Pakistan.[30]

Turkey became a Turkic speaking country as a result of Seljuq occupation and Turkification of the region. Though Pakistan is not a Turkic-speaking country, its languages, particularly Urdu, a standard register of Hindustani, is strongly influenced by the Turkic language of the Mughals before it became their empire's official language. As a result, it has many loanwords from that language. The etymology of the word "Urdu" traces itself back to Turkic (Mughal) rule.[31] Moreover, the common cultural influences on Pakistan and Turkey span several centuries, as many Turkic and Iranic peoples ruled vast areas of Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.

The designs of clothing of the two countries also have common origins in Central Asia.

Both Turkey and Pakistan practice Sunni Hanafi Islam which was the interpretation of Islam implemented by the Ottoman Empire and Mughal Empire respectively, strong strands of moderate Sufism exist and the religious ministers of both nations frequently contact each other.[32]


The Abdullah Gul Interchange near Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, this interchange was inaugurated by the Turkish President Abdullah Gul during his visit to Lahore in 2010.

Turkey and Pakistan are founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organization and part of the Developing 8 Countries (D-8) organization. Both nations have worked to negotiate a preferential trading agreement, aiming to considerably increase trade and investments, especially in transport, telecommunications, manufacturing, tourism and other industries.[33] Both governments have sought to increase the volume of bilateral trade from $690 million to more than $1 billion by 2010.[25][34] Pakistani exports include rice, sesame seeds, leather, textiles, fabrics, sports goods, and medical equipment. Turkey's exports to Pakistan include wheat, chickpeas, lentils, diesel, chemicals, transport vehicles, machinery and energy products.[35] Turkish private corporations have also invested significantly in industrial and construction projects developing highways, pipelines and canals.[22] The two countries are negotiatating the Turkey-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement.

Train service[edit]

A container train service was launched by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani between Islamabad and Istanbul on 14 August 2009. The first train carried 20 containers with a capacity of around 750 t (738 long tons; 827 short tons) [36] and will travel 6,500 km (4,000 mi) from Islamabad, through Balochistan and Tehran, Iran and on to Istanbul in two weeks' time.[37] According to the Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, after the trial of the container train service, a passenger train will be launched.[38] There are also hopes the route will eventually provide a link to Europe and Central Asia, and carry passengers.[39][40]

Strategic ties[edit]

Both nations were part of Cold War alliance called the Central Treaty Organization. Its goal was to contain the Soviet Union (USSR) by having a line of strong states along the USSR's southern frontiers. Military contacts remain resolute, uncompromising and stalwart as ever.[41]

Kashmir conflict[edit]

The Turkish ambassador spent a week in Pakistani Kashmir's capital city of Muzaffarabad to express solidarity with the Kashmir cause. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that “We are well known for the pain and problems of Kashmiris and we condemn the brutality of India in Kashmir”.[42]

Trilateral Ankara cooperation process[edit]

Turkey launched a trilateral summit process between the two states and Afghanistan in February 2007, following a visit by then Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül to Islamabad, as the backbone of its diversified foreign policy in Southeast Asia and Pakistani deputy Humair Hayat Khan Rokhri confirmed that according to Gül “we are all brothers who need to support each other,” in order to, “bring security and stability to the region.”[43]

An 1 April 2009 meeting between Pakistani and Afghan leaders, conducted as part of the trilateral Ankara cooperation process, saw the three countries pledged to increase coordination between their political, military and intelligence tiers in the fight against militancy and terrorism. Chairman of the Turkish–Pakistani Friendship Association Burhan Kayatürk has stated that, “It is the first time that the military and intelligence chiefs of Afghanistan and Pakistan have attended the trilateral summit, which is a reflection of the deeper commitment to work together.”[44]

At the 17 April 2009 Friends of Pakistan Tokyo Donors Conference, Turkish State Minister Mehmet Aydın pledged $100 million to Pakistan for infrastructure, health and education projects. Turkish Parliamentary Deputy Kayatürk has called on neighbouring countries, including India, to make similar commitments as “It is in their interests to see a stable Pakistan; otherwise violence will spill over into their territory.”[44]

Pakistani and Afghan parliamentary deputies came together in Ankara on 5 May 2009, as part of the trilateral Ankara cooperation process, where they met with the now Turkish President Gül and new Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to discuss a variety of issues. Head of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission Murat Mercan stated;

“Today we need cooperation between our countries more than ever. I believe Turkey, having historical brotherhood relations with both, is in a special position to improve and deepen this cooperation. Turkey is confident that the cooperation to be established between Afghanistan and Pakistan will help a lot to solve the problems.”[45]

Chairman of the Pakistani Parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission Asfandyar Wali Khan conveyed his thanks and stated,

“We need Turkey’s support to build stability in the region.”

Mercan concluded,

“We are finally on the verge of institutionalising the trilateral Ankara cooperation process within the framework of parliamentary joint initiatives,” with follow-up meetings due to be held in Islamabad and Kabul at four-month intervals.”

Military relations[edit]

Pakistan and Turkey have maintained long-standing military ties with Turkey also providing training to Pakistani air force officers in upgrading its F-16 fleet.[25] On 2 April 1954, Pakistan and Turkey signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Both countries, valued as important states in their regions, joined the U.S.-led Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) aimed to bolster military and strategic cooperation and counter the spread of communism and Soviet influence in the region.[46] Turkey has openly supported Pakistan's stance on the Kashmir conflict. Ankara, further, recognizes Jammu and Kashmir, as part of Pakistan, with which it endeavours to 'spice up' bilateral relations, and the Turkish ambassador to Pakistan spent nearly a week in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir (Pakistani Administrated Kashmir), in order to show Turkish solidarity with the Pakistanis in regards to Kashmir and maintained political and military support during its wars with India.[46][47] Pakistan has reciprocated by expressing support for Turkey's policy on Northern Cyprus.[34][48] Both nations have sought to expand cooperation to fight terrorism.[25][34] Both countries are also members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Turkey is also currently a major arms seller to Pakistan.[49] Turkey previously purchased arms from Pakistan[14][50] and continuous to purchase aerial weapons and components from Pakistan.[51][52]

Aid exchange[edit]

In the aftermath of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, Turkey stepped up its efforts to help the Pakistani people of the affected areas.[53] Turkey announced a package of $150 million for the quake-hit people.[54] The Turkish aid organization Kizilay also constructed a mosque in Pakistans Azad Kashmir region bordering Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir. The mosque is being built in the Ottoman Style in Pakistan's Bagh District.[55]

Pakistan supplied Turkey with aid during the 1999 earthquake[56] and during the 2011 Van earthquake.[57][58]

Opposing ambitions[edit]

During the Afghan civil war, Turkey became a strong supporter of the Northern Alliance, as it partly consisted of Uzbek and Turkmen members, with which Turkey shares cultural and linguistic ties.[59] Pakistan meanwhile maintained strong relations and support to the Taliban whom were ethnic Pashtuns that have ethnic ties to Pakistan's own Pashtun population as well prevent Pakistan's fears of Afghanistan falling into the control of the Northern Alliance whom were supported by Pakistan's various adversaries, including India.

This changed in late 2001 when Pakistan was under international pressure to abolish all its ties with the Taliban and re-align with the United States and NATO in the so-called "War on Terror" following the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington DC which were directly blamed on Al-Queda and indirectly on the Taliban for sheltering them. As a result, the United States lifted all sanctions that were imposed on Pakistan following Pakistan's 1998 nuclear weapons tests.[60]

In recent years Pakistan and Turkey have moved in close cooperation to help bring a lasting solution to Afghanistan, since Abdullah Gul declared that “We are all brothers who need to support each other, in order to bring security and stability to the region.”[42]

Turkey has also supported the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in China whom are ethnic Uyghurs that Turkey also shares cultural and linguistic ties with.[61][62] Pakistan struggling with domestic Islamist insurgency as well as being a close and historic ally of China has strongly opposed the ETIM and has taken severe actions against members of Uyghur communities within its borders even suspected of being participant in anti-Chinese activities.[63] Separately, Pakistan has killed many foreign militants in its territory during anti-Taliban/Al-Qaeda military operations amongst which were Uyghurs[64][65] as well as Turks[66] and Uzbeks.[67][68]


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