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Why Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Türkiye matters

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will inaugurate a warship built by Türkiye for the Pakistan Navy when he arrives in Istanbul on a two-day visit. 

Sharif will be in Türkiye on November 25 and 26 at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said. 

The two leaders will jointly inaugurate the PNS Khaibar – the third of the four MILGEM-class corvette ships being built by Türkiye – at the Istanbul shipyard.

In July 2018, the Pakistan Navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class ships with Türkiye’s state-run defence firm ASFAT, under which two corvettes were to be built in Türkiye and two in Pakistan, also involving the transfer of technology.

Pakistan President Arif Alvi visited Türkiye in August 2021 for the launching ceremony of the first corvette, PNS Babur, whereas the groundbreaking for the second warship, PNS Badr, took place in Karachi in May this year.

“Pakistan and Türkiye enjoy fraternal ties deeply embedded in commonalities of faith, culture and history and underpinned by exceptional cordiality and mutual trust,” the PMO said in a press handout. 

“The MILGEM project represents a significant milestone in the Pakistan-Türkiye strategic partnership that continues to progress on an upward trajectory.”

Türkiye, Pakistan to boost cooperation at all levels – Erdogan

The deliveries of the ships, which possess the ability to perform all kinds of military duties from air to submarine defence, will be made at six-month intervals starting from August 2023.

With an emphasis on the deep-rooted historical ties between Türkiye and Pakistan, Turkish President Erdogan said in May that the project was one of the most concrete and recent examples of it, voicing hope for the agreement to be “a harbinger of greater cooperation”.

Growing political and economic ties

Diplomatic ties between Türkiye and Pakistan may have been established 75 years ago, but the relations between the peoples of the two countries goes back to over a hundred years when the Muslims of the subcontinent extended their support for the Turkish War of Independence.

Sharif, who was sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister in April this year, will be on his second visit to Türkiye in a span of just six months.

In his last visit, Sharif emphasised on bolstering economic partnership between Islamabad and Ankara, saying that Pakistan, with a population of over 220 million, offered Turkish investors a strong market and numerous investment opportunities.

READ MORE: Türkiye to help strengthen Pakistan’s military infrastructure – Erdogan

The past six years of Türkiye-Pakistan economic partnership has seen a steady rise, with trade volume between the two countries rising from $599.6 million in 2015 to $1.1 billion in 2021, as per the data released by Turkish Statistical Institute.

Pakistan mainly imports cotton, textile yarn, fabrics, textile machinery, general industrial machinery and equipment, metals, chemical materials and products from Türkiye. Whereas, Islamabad’s key export items to Ankara include cotton fabrics, articles of apparel, clothing accessories, synthetic dyes, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and rubber tyres.

It is, therefore, likely economic cooperation will again be on top of the Pakistan prime minister’s agenda, with reports coming in that he will be accompanied by several ministers, seeking interactions with leaders of the Turkish business community.

Sharif’s visit will also see him holding “wide-ranging discussion encompassing bilateral relations, the regional situation and other issues of common interest”, according to the Pakistan PMO.

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