PM TRACKER
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PAKISTAN, TURKEY SEEK TIES IN DEFENSE INDUSTRY

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From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

June 13 - 19, 2005
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, during his 4-day official visit to Turkey paved the way for new avenues of cooperation between the two brotherly countries, which are already enjoying excellent bilateral relations in economic, trade and defense areas.

The closeness between Pakistan and Turkey was really demonstrated when the two Prime Ministers addressed a joint news conference in Ankara on the conclusion of the visit. Shaukat Aziz and his host and counterpart, Recep Tayyib Erdogan, extended their unqualified support on the sensitive issues of Kashmir and Cyprus.

Erdogan declared that Turkey fully supports Pakistan on Kashmir while Pakistan's premier said "whatever steps Turkey has outlined and deems necessary on Northern Cyprus, we affirm our support without any reservations."

Talking to newsmen flying with him back home, Prime Minister described his visit productive and expressed the hope it would result in furthering the excellent relations between the two brotherly states in all areas. "We have wide-ranging talks with the Turkish leadership and the two sides had identical views on all regional and international issues".

The Prime Minister expressed the hope that his discussion with the Turkish leadership and interaction with the private sector will lead to a higher level of Turkish investment in Pakistan, besides improving the volume of two-way trade. He said the two sides talked about increasing cooperation in the defense field and the co-production of certain military equipment. Pakistan-Turkey relations were deep rooted in history and two countries share the common heritage, he added.

Shaukat Aziz, who held extensive interaction with the Turkish private sector, hoped that it will lead to an increased flow of investment from Turkey to Pakistan and boost the two-way trade which currently stands at only 400 million dollars.

The Prime Minister said during his talks with the Turkish leaders, he also discussed the challenges facing the OIC and Muslim Ummah and that what the two countries could do together to project the true image of Islam.

In fact, the warmth and fragrance of friendship was stemmed from centuries old and deep-rooted relations between the two countries.

For quite sometimes, the two states have developed a consensus to forge stronger economic links within the framework of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), and under Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Unfortunately, these efforts have not yielded meaningful results in the form of economic cooperation either in the regional or bilateral grounds. However, the resolve that Shaukat Aziz expressed lasts a while, that situation might take a turnaround. PM Shaukat Aziz declared his visit as a 'turning point' especially in terms of our desire to raise the level of cooperation between our neighbours.

Apart from seeking expansion in bilateral trade and business relations, the two leaders voiced their interest in making ECO and OIC more effective and result producing organizations. Indeed, this is a charming assertion of intent, though not so new. The two countries along with Iran, it may be recalled, had first set up RCD as far back in 1964. But that body failed to deliver the task of enhancing regional economic cooperation among the three states. This significant regional organization went out of business in 1979.

 

 

The idea of regional partnership though did not lose its appeal because of the promise of economic advantages it offers. Hence, the trio set up another organization in 1985 under the banner of ECO, for the express purpose of promoting economic, technical as well as cultural cooperation. It was expanded in 1992 to include Afghanistan and six newly independent Central Asian countries. However, ECO too failed to make much progress on its stated objectives. Twenty years on it is yet to put in place the necessary infrastructure and institutions. One hopes the 'turning point' remarked by our Prime Minister is applicable to the multilateral context of ECO as well.

A fresh idea that both leaders explored and agreed on was presented by Erdogan, saying that the two sides had a "potential to take many steps" to increase cooperation in defense industry. These steps, his aide later revealed, could lead to joint production of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and patrol boats. The aide also said that a Turkish company, Aselan, is ready to sell electronic warfare equipment to Pakistan Army. Turkey indeed has a lot to offer Pakistan in this particular field, being a member of the world's most powerful military alliance, NATO.

As such it has access, though limited, to advance technologies in the area of defense. Joint ventures with Turkey, therefore, hold great possibilities for Pakistan in upgrading its military equipment. Some of these technologies employed in electronic warfare equipment can be useful in modernizing the economy as well.

Before leaving for Turkey last week, the Prime Minister held a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf and the four Chief Ministers in which they had given full mandate to the President to make a decision on the NFC issue.

Before the mandate, the President had announced two days earlier that he would give his award within a few days. It is believed that the Prime Minister advised him to delay his decision till the budget 2005-06, which has been prepared on the basis of previous NFC award, is passed.

Returning to Islamabad on Friday, the Prime Minister met the visiting delegation of the leaders from Indian held Kashmir. He described their visit to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan as a major development towards confidence building measures (CBMs) between Pakistan and India. "Pakistan will never let them down and would not accept any solution of Kashmir, which was not acceptable to Kashmiris," the PM assured the Kashmiri leaders.