Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Pakistan on an official visit to strengthen bilateral and economic relations between the two countries. The visit is significant and comes at a critical juncture for Pakistan’s foreign policy but could place the country into a rather uncertain position with Saudi Arabia.
Imran Khan and Erdogan, along with Mahathir Mohammad, were hailed as two of the formidable leaders of the Muslim world. But when they joined hands to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing Muslim communities, there was stiff resistance from other countries notably Saudi Arabia and UAE. Pakistan was instead forced to stay from the KL Summit hosted by Mahathir after many Middle East countries exerted pressure.
PM Imran Khan was forced to make amends stating it was a misunderstanding among the Middle East nations that the summit would divide the Muslim world and was an alternative to the OIC. The prime minister went to Malaysia last month to maintain cordial ties and explain circumstances which led him to stay away from the conference. Erdogan was the one who revealed that Pakistan was not participating due to Saudi pressure. His visit now is well-timed to reaffirm that relations between both nations remain strong.
Erdogan has been a friend of Pakistan ever since he came to power. He is expected to address a joint session of parliament, making him the first foreign leader to address Pakistan’s parliament six times. Pakistani citizens are respected in Turkish and are working and studying in the country. The Turkish consulate in Karachi is expected to become the largest Turkish mission in the region. This will enhance tourism and trade with Turkey, while both countries are likely to sign a dual-nation agreement soon.
Erdogan has greater ambitions as he seeks to make Turkey a regional player. Turkey launched an offensive in Syria against the Kurds but the crisis has now escalated. Syria forces have attacked Turkish forces and Erdogan has called for retribution. Turkey has approved to send troops to Libya to prop up the faltering national unity government there. Pakistan is battling its own hosts of problems on the economic and political front.
Pakistan cannot afford to lose its allies particularly from Muslim-majority countries nor can it suspend relations at the behest of another nation. It needs to carefully maneuver its foreign policy and maintain cordial relation with all friendly countries. It is welcomed that Erdogan has decided to pay a visit as this juncture when Pakistan has been struggling to receive support on the Kashmir issue particularly from Saudi Arabia.