Turkey’s largely developed and currently growing economy contrasts sharply like that of Pakistan while the human development gap in Pakistan also remains high while in Turkey it is relatively low. However, from a perspective of handling various crises which have recently emerged, Turkey has been dealing with many of the same things Pakistan is either dealing with at present or will clearly have to address in the very near future. With this in mind, here are several key areas where Pakistan can learn from its traditional Turkish ally.
1. Open Credit Lines With China – Not IMF
During his first major policy speech since winning re-election Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the introduction of Turkey’s first ever Yuan Renminbi denominated bonds while further stating that the country plans to fight inflation by opening up new credit lines with China. As China is already a major investor in the Turkish market, Ankara’s Yuan denominated bonds and potential to borrow from China on favourable terms is vastly preferable to dealing with western finance houses with whom the Turkish President has said the country is “at war”.
Instead, in going the Chinese route, Turkey will be able to work with a partner that is looking to protect its own investments in Turkey all the while working towards a sustainable long term partnership where further trade avenues open up in both directions and for the benefit of both nations.
Pakistan currently faces all the economic problems of Turkey but in a far more urgent and magnified way. While Turkish inflation is married to a rapidly growing economy, in Pakistan while the economy continues to grow, inflation is viewed as being a derivative of mismanagement as much as external factors including a highly valued US Dollar.
That being said, the solution to Pakistan’s economic problems is actually the same as that which President Erdogan has just introduced in Turkey. While some in Pakistan have said that going to the IMF is inevitable, this is anything but the case. China has invested more into Pakistan in a short period of time than any other country and it is clearly in China’s own interests – interests shared with Pakistan to make sure that Pakistan’s economy doesn’t fail in the short term.
This is the case for several reasons. First of all, Pakistan’s future sustainable economic growth based largely on the investment China has already put into the country is contingent on Pakistan waiting for the fruits of this investment to blossom. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and associated projects are already helping to change Pakistan for the better at a localised level. That being said, it takes time before the success of a megaproject of CPEC’s size is uniformly felt in the country as a whole. Therefore, it would behove China to help inject fresh cash into the economy during this interim period while Pakistan waits to collectively ride the wave of prosperity that CPEC will bring to all regions of the country.
Secondly, because China is a major investor in Pakistan, it’s own prestige is on the line in many respects in the context of Pakistan’s economic solvency. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that Chinese policy makers would allow Pakistan to fail irrespective of who is in charge of the country. Finally, even if Pakistan did go to the IMF, in the long term, the typically draconian conditions the IMF sets in exchange for cash injections to a domestic economy would be prohibitive to Pakistan’s future growth on a model that prioritises Pakistani characteristics over western ones. China will surely be well aware that if the IMF takes charge of Pakistan’s economy, this could also threaten China’s positive involvement in the country. Therefore, taken in totality it is in the interest of Pakistan to ask China for economic assistance whether in the form of further investment or in respect of a credit line. Just as was the case for Turkey, it is also clearly in China’s interest to say ‘yes’ to such a request.
2. Don’t provoke America – don’t be provoked by America
Pakistan and Turkey find themselves in similar situations as two traditional American partners in terms of security and the west’s overall geo-strategy who are now increasingly in the cross-hairs of Washington’s hawkish policy makers. Turkey has discovered that its putative “ally” has worryingly close relationships with anti-Turkish terror groups while Pakistanis have long known the role of the US in fanning the flames of terror on Pakistani soil. Likewise, while Turkey remains a member of NATO, the US has sanctioned two Turkish Ministers of State, while now the US is threatening to remove Turkey’s ease of access to the US domestic market.
When Turkey fights YPG/PKK terrorism, one cannot help but be reminded that the US is openly allied with the YPG/PKK in northern Syria. Likewise, while Pakistan has lost more soldiers and civilians in the war on terrorism than any other state, the US has recently cut off Pakistan’s security aid to what has been called a “historic low” while the US was directly behind the push for Pakistan to be “greylisted” as a state sponsor of terror.
America’s behaviour toward Turkey and Pakistan is clearly not the behaviour of a respectful partner. The solution is for Pakistan’s foreign policy chiefs to adopt a similar stance and tone as Turkey. Turkey does not openly proclaim a love of America’s rival superpowers (Russia and China) every time a new issue of contention arises. Likewise, Turkey does not issue hyperbolic Iranian style threats to the US (aka “death to America) during ever more frequent geopolitical rows. Instead, Turkey reminds the US of a past alliance while also reminding Washington that if Turkey is treated with anything but respect, it will simply pivot its interests to partners who can act in a respectful win-win manner.
Turkey’s approach to the US is firm but calm and perhaps it is this calm which makes even a highly rambunctious Trump administration think twice about throwing out a decades long partner. Pakistan ought to adopt a similar approach to the United States. While building on the all-weather friendship with China, concentrating on consecrating a long-term friendship with Russia and enacting trade deals throughout south east Asia, Pakistan should continue to remind the US that in this new era in pan-Asian development, Pakistan is a non-aligned country that puts its own interests first – just as the US President proudly proclaims the same of his nation. As Pakistan’s new political leader Imran Khan said during his victory speech, Pakistan desires good relations with the US but these good relations must be based on mutual respect. Turkey and Pakistan have nothing to lose and much to gain by reminding their wayward partner of this message.
3. Broaden educational and cultural exchange
President Erdogan further announced the creation of special Turkish economic centres throughout multiple foreign cities during his lengthy speech on the 3rd of August. Likewise, Turkey is also working on many joint cultural/educational initiatives throughout Africa. Pakistan should in this sense, approach both China and Turkey about the possibility of building centres of cultural/economic exchange and even schools throughout Pakistan. In the future, if educated Pakistanis are conversant not only in Urdu and English but also Mandarin Chinese and Turkish, a future generation of Pakistanis will be able to communicate with the leaders of the 21st century’s leading economy – China, while remaining fluent in English which will remain a vital international language, all the while also being conversant in Turkish which is crucial not only in dealing with Turkish officials and businessmen but in dealing with the Turkic peoples of central Asia and parts of the Caucasus with whom Pakistan ought to build further partnerships.
By involving both China and Turkey in programmes of cultural exchange and education, the prestige of China and Turkey in south Asia will be simultaneously lifted, while Pakistanis will be given valuable intellectual and economic tools to help make their country more competitive in the future.
While Turkey and Pakistan have very different histories, both currently stand at a similar political crossroads. By learning from the success of Turkey’s new multipolar foreign, economic and cultural policies, Pakistan can attain valuable insight in how to make its own future stronger, more sovereign, more prosperous and more peaceful.