Turkey And Pakistan

Brothers and Friends Forever

Relations between Muslims of the sub-continent and Turkey date back centuries to the times of the Ottoman Caliphate. The ruling elite of most of the sultanates in the sub-continent was of Turkish origin, and the sultans and the Mughals always paid allegiance to the caliph in Istanbul. Additionally, the regions share historical Islamic ties. The Muslims living under the British Raj deemed the Ottoman Sultan as their Caliph, and the Caliph of Islam and all Muslims. Abdulhamid II, who reigned as the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909, had the unstinted support of Muslims living in colonies under the repressive rule of European powers.

In the early part of the twentieth century, Turkey suffered its worst defeat and calamity during the First World War at the hands of the Allied Forces. Led by Sharif Hussain of Makkah, the Arab governors had also revolted and betrayed their Muslim Turkish brothers and joined hands with the enemy. They massacred the Turkish contingent even in the holy lands. The Ottoman Empire crumbled in face of treason and onslaught of external forces. In this dark period, the silver lining was support it received from Muslims of the sub-continent. Thousands of young Muslim men from British India marched across Iran to fight alongside their Turkish brothers, even though they were under the colonial grip of a power that was fighting the Turks. The Muslims of India also raised a substantial amount of gold and money that was sent to Istanbul for the war effort. After the war and defeat, the Turks never forgot the sacrifice of the Indian Muslims.

The modern Turkish Republic came into being after the defeat of the Ottomans in 1919, while Pakistan was created as the successor state of the Muslims of India from the remnants of British Raj after the Second World War in 1947. Turkey immediately recognized its brother state. Every Turkish school textbook celebrated the fact that Pakistanis were the only real brothers of the Turks. Unfortunately, the Pakistanis had forgotten their good deed and never explained this great event to their own children.

As a result, Pakistan and Pakistanis have enjoyed a positive perception in Turkey and amongst Turks for many decades. 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. The gold and money donated by the Muslims of India became the capital for the establishment of the Türkiye Iş Bankası. In recognition, this bank has been the main sponsor of Turk-Pak Friendship Association and hosts an annual function.

Pakistani METU students Kazi Zulkader, Jahangir Khan and Zaheer Warraich at Turk-Pak Friendship Association annual dinner, Nov 1970

Turks always refer to Pakistanis as kardeş (brother or sister), while they accept other nationalities as arkadaş (friends). This is a great honor for Pakistanis. We always received royal treatment at the hands of Turkish people during our stay in Ankara and visits to other cities.

During the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, Pakistan and Turkey were a part of two important alliances – CENTO which was a defense pact with USA, UK and Iran, and the RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development) where Turkey, Pakistan and Iran were members to enable joint economic development of the region. Both of these came to an end after the Iranian revolution in 1979. However, the relations between Turkey and Pakistan continued to prosper.

On the political front, Turkey has always supported Pakistan's position of holding a plebiscite under the UN to decide if Kashmir wants to join Pakistan, a position which Turkish President Erdoğan reaffirmed in a joint address to the Pakistani parliament and which was attended by Pakistan's military high command. Turkey also supports Pakistan's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In reciprocation, Pakistan has recognized sovereignty of Northern Cyprus and supports Turkey politically on all international fora. Turkey and Pakistan enjoy close relations during both democratic and military regimes, reflecting the depth of relations between the two nations. The kardeşlik (brotherhood) continues to be demonstrated in all spheres. Relations between the two countries are bound to see news heights in future in the defense, economic, trade and cultural domains. Turkish companies are already active in investments in Pakistan in various fields. In 2016, the kardeş countries issued a communique to further strengthen their close ties into a "strategic partnership".

On the diplomatic front, Pakistan has an embassy in Ankara, a Consulate-General in Istanbul and an honorary consulate in İzmir while Turkey has an embassy in Islamabad, a Consulate-General in Karachi and honorary consulates in Lahore, Peshawar, Sialkot and Faisalabad.