'Pakistan, Turkey enjoy close collaboration on bilateral & regional forums'

'Pakistan, Turkey enjoy close collaboration on bilateral & regional forums'

Islamabad (Web Desk): Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that Pakistan and Turkey enjoy close collaboration on bilateral, regional and multilateral forums.

In an interview with Turkish news agency Anadolu ahead of his three-day visit to the country, the premier said both Pakistan and Turkey have a similarity of views on regional and international issues.

PM Shehbaz said Pakistan and Turkey support each other on all issues of core national interest including Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Cyprus.

Terming the Pak-Turkey relations as "exemplary", the prime minister said historical relations were grounded firmly in common religious, cultural, and linguistic links and transcend political changes on either side.

He mentioned that both countries were celebrating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

"In these seven and a half decades, the two sides have always stood by each other in the face of all changes," he said, adding that people-to-people and cultural contacts were on an upward trajectory.

PM Shehbaz said Pakistan was now focusing on economic cooperation with Turkey as the current level of bilateral trade still was not a true reflection of the excellent state of the relationship.

"This is also an area where immense opportunities exist for both countries," he said.

During the visit, the prime minister said he would be meeting leading Turkish business companies to encourage them to utilize the immense opportunities existing in Pakistan in various fields, including energy, infrastructure, e-commerce, municipal agro-based industry and IT sectors, etc.

He said with a population of over 220 million, Pakistan offered its investors a strong and large consumer market with an ever-expanding middle class.

On Pakistan’s role in US policy in the region, he said Pakistan and the US had a longstanding and broad-based relationship in various areas of mutual interest.

He hoped that the continued constructive engagement could promote peace, security, and development in the region.

"We wish to deepen and widen our engagement with the US, which remains Pakistan’s biggest export market and a major source of FDI and remittances," he said.

PM Shehbaz said Pakistan had instituted dialogues with the US in various areas, including climate change, health, energy, trade and investment, which are playing an important role in strengthening our bilateral ties.

He said Pakistan encouraged major US companies to invest in Pakistan's lucrative market and enhance commercial ties, particularly in the throbbing IT sector.

On China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), PM Shehbaz said the vision of connectivity and win-win cooperation at the heart of the project was in line with his government’s priorities, as well as the vision for Pakistan as a peaceful, prosperous region.

As the earliest proponent of President Xi’s visionary BRI, he said Pakistan firmly supported the BRI’s five-pronged emphasis on physical connectivity, financial cooperation, trade facilitation, policy consultation, and people-to-people linkages.

“With the CPEC, we have successfully realized our two countries’ shared vision and the BRI’s ideals. With CPEC entering a new phase of high-quality development, our Belt and Road cooperation will accelerate Pakistan’s industrial and economic modernization,” he said.

He mentioned that work was underway on CPEC Special Economic Zones, and Pakistan was incentivizing foreign investments in key industrial sectors.

On relations with India, PM Shehbaz Sharif said Pakistan pursued its shift from geo-strategy to geo-economics, we are looking to forge partnerships, especially within the region, based on connectivity, collective development, and prosperity.

Pakistan and India have a lot to gain from mutually beneficial trade, he said.

However, he mentioned that in the aftermath of the Indian illegal and unilateral steps of August 5, 2019, Pakistan took a principled stance and curtailed a range of bilateral activities.

"This decision reflected Pakistan's unequivocal condemnation of the reprehensible Indian design of depriving the beleaguered Kashmiris of their fundamental rights through an unjust and muscular policy," he said.

However, he added, given the ongoing situation in Kashmir, “it is hard to imagine that progress can be made on the trade front”.

"For normalisation of relations, India must revisit its actions of Aug. 5, 2019, and not seek further division, bifurcation, and demographic changes in the occupied territory to perpetuate its illegal occupation," he said.

In order to accrue the utmost benefit from mutually beneficial trade, the onus lies with India to create a conducive environment for dialogue and engagement, he added.

On situation in Afghanistan, he said the engagement with the interim Afghan government was "not a matter of choice but a necessity".

He said the world cannot abandon the Afghan people and must shoulder the responsibility to immediately address the country’s humanitarian crisis and fragile economy.

PM Shehbaz said that the current authorities in Kabul had repeatedly given assurances to us as well as to the wider international community that they would not allow their soil to be used against any country.

Responding a question regarding his domestic policies, Prime Minister Shehbaz said, that the first and foremost challenge is to revive the economy that lost steam during the past four years.