Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday vowed to put structures in place to boost trade and economic ties between what he described as “one nation, two states” (Pakistan and Turkey).
In his first exclusive interview with the Turkish daily Zaman, Nawaz Sharif said that his “visit is aimed at putting in place institutional mechanisms, which will provide a strong platform for further cementing economic ties.”
He underlined the excellent political relations between the two countries: “A huge reservoir of goodwill and affection flows from one country to another.” Nawaz lamented, however, that there is a long way to go to translate these excellent political relations into tangible and robust trade relations.
He called on Turkish businesspeople and entrepreneurs to invest in Pakistan, especially in sectors like energy, infrastructure, engineering and agro-based industry.
Citing recent success stories involving Turkish companies in Pakistan, like Lahore’s Metro Bus System and a wind energy project in Sindh, Nawaz Sharif called Pakistan an investor-friendly country that offers complete legal protection and fair treatment to both local and foreign companies.
The Pakistani Prime Minister is leading a large business delegation to Turkey and their meetings coincide with the Third High Level Cooperation Council.
On Wednesday, he will participate in a business forum in Istanbul to be attended by Pakistani and Turkish businesspeople.
The Prime Minister emphasized Turkey’s role as a bridge between Asia and Europe, and Pakistan’s potential to become a gateway to energy-rich Central Asia.
Education is the nation’s top priority in ensuring equal opportunity and social justice, he said, adding that Turkish support and technical assistance in transforming Pakistan’s education system would be welcome.
“I am very pleased to be here in Turkey once again. As you are aware, relations between Pakistan and Turkey are exemplary. These feelings of affection and close affinity are shared on both sides between the people as well as the leaderships. My visit to Turkey soon after assuming office in May this year demonstrates the close cooperation between our two countries,” he said while replying to a question.
He said as my government takes on the multiple challenges facing Pakistan domestically and regionally, he has a broad agenda to discuss with Prime Minister Erdogan. Primarily my visit coincides with the meeting of the Third High Level Cooperation Council where my Cabinet colleagues and senior officials will interact with their Turkish counterparts. He said he was also keen to interact with Turkish businessmen and investors.
“Domestically, the priorities of my government include economic progress and prosperity of the people of Pakistan. It also includes socioeconomic development, infrastructure development, education, especially technical and vocational training, etc. Pakistan and Turkey already have wide-ranging collaboration in these areas. I would like to see this cooperation strengthen further,” he said.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey trilateral process is an important initiative aimed at promoting peace, stability and socioeconomic development in Afghanistan. “We are grateful to Turkey for its continued support to the process that has now evolved into an institutionalized tripartite mechanism for multiple cooperation in diverse fields. Situation in Afghanistan, especially after the drawdown of troops in 2014, is a challenge for Pakistan and we would like to exchange views with our Turkish friends on this as well,” he added.
To a question, the Prime Minister said Pakistan and Turkey enjoy a “special relationship,” that predates independence of both states and has few parallels in inter-state relations. These friendly ties are deeply embedded in our shared history and common cultural ethos. After independence also, the national political history of both countries share many parallels. Physically we may live thousands of miles apart but our hearts beat together and we are truly one nation, two states.
He said the unique geographical situation of both Turkey and Pakistan make them strategically important. While Turkey could become a bridge between Asia and Europe, Pakistan shares boundaries with two highly populated and big economies of the world and could be a gateway to the energy rich Central Asia.
To another question he said: “Our political relations are excellent. A huge reservoir of goodwill and affection flows from one country to another. However, we have a long way to go to translate these excellent political relations into tangible and robust commercial and economic relationship. For this reason, my visit is aimed at putting in place institutional mechanisms, which will provide a strong platform for further cementing economic ties.”
To a question about talking to the Taliban, the Pakistani Prime Minister said: Peace and stability in Afghanistan is directly linked with peace and stability in Pakistan. The Government in Pakistan would continue to extend sincere support for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. “In that regard, whatever steps that we deem as helpful will be taken. We are hopeful that with international community’s support that includes Turkish support, all state institutions in Afghanistan would be in a position to take full control of the country’s governance by 2014. We also hope that international community will continue to remain engaged and fulfill its commitments for the development of Afghanistan beyond 2014.”
To a query about Kashmir issue, Nawaz Sharif said Jammu and Kashmir dispute is the longest-outstanding issue on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. UN Security Council resolutions provide for holding of a fair and impartial plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir under UN auspices to enable the Kashmiri people to exercise their right of self-determination.
“I hope that UN will play its due role in resolving this dispute. Recent tensions along the Line of Control are indeed a matter of concern for us. Pakistan will continue to respond to the situation with restraint and responsibility. I renew Pakistan’s commitment to a serious, sustained and constructive engagement with India that must include the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he remarked.
In order to relieve the people of India and Pakistan from poverty and illiteracy, it is incumbent on the leadership of both the countries to sit together and ponder over these issues. “I have always given high priority to good relations with India for the sake of durable peace in the region, he said.
Turkey is a trusted friend of Pakistan. Turkey, like any other sovereign country, is free to forge relations with other countries, including India, according to its own national interest. Pakistan has always supported Turkish stance on the Cyprus issue and we are confident that Turkey will continue to support Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue, he added.
On dealing with the menace of terrorism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said “the menace of terrorism in our region is the outcome of wrong policies in the past. Our challenge is to root out this menace from our midst. Pakistan needs the cooperation and support of international community and our neighbors for controlling funding, supply of arms and training to the terror networks.
Soon after assuming office, I invited all political parties in the country to cooperate with the government in collectively addressing the problems facing the country. This offer of mutual consultation and reconciliation is not limited to political parties only. We are ready to hold dialogue with those who are ready to shun extremism. We have more than one option to deal with terrorists, but shall use force only as a last option as we want to avoid further loss of innocent lives.”
About drone strikes in the country, Nawaz Sharif Pakistan is said to be isolated, left alone to deal with its terror problem by its Western allies, especially the US. Drone attacks by the US have actually exacerbated the terror problem in your country. What would be your government’s policy to deal with the US in particular and the West in general?
He said sincere cooperation from the international community, neighboring as well as friendly countries is essential to counter terrorism. Terrorism knows no borders and curbing it is a global challenge. Pakistan and the international community, including the United States, have a shared interest in curbing terrorism. The US strategy of using drone strikes in Pakistan against terrorists not only violate our sovereignty and international law but are also counterproductive and causes further radicalization in the society. These strikes undermine our collective efforts to counter extremism and terrorism. We hope that there is a rethink in the US about the utility of the drone strikes.
He said Pakistan needs a new framework for social change to provide equal opportunities and social justice to everyone, eliminate exploitation of the poor and harness its human resource potential. With knowledge becoming the key driver of socioeconomic development in the 21st century, education is our number one national priority. “We are aligning our policies and strategies to allocate adequate financial resources, initiate institutional reforms, monitor effective implementation of policies and enforce an effective external monitoring and evaluation system.”
Pakistan would welcome technical assistance and support of Turkey in transforming country’s education system.
Pakistan has liberalized its economy and is successfully marching towards market economy. The private sector has assumed the role of front-line player in the economic field. “We are an investor-friendly country and offer equal treatment to local and foreign investors. All sectors are open for foreign investment under complete legal protection,” he said.
He said foreign companies can start their business on 100 percent equity basis. “We would therefore like the support and involvement of Turkish businessmen and entrepreneurs in sectors such as energy, infrastructure, engineering, agro-based industry, etc. Recent successful Turkish projects of Metro Bus System and Solid Waste Management Project in Lahore, wind energy project by Zorlu Energy in Sindh and many more projects in the infrastructure sector are working successfully,” he concluded. NNI