Similar problems bring both countries closer
Turkey’s foreign minister was in town for an unconventionally long five-day visit meeting with the top officials in the PTI government, the military and even called on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to offer condolences on the passing of his wife. Both countries currently have tense relations with the US which have had economic repercussions. Sanctions were placed on Turkey after a US pastor was held on espionage charges that accelerated the slide of the Turkish Lira that has lost its value by almost 50% this year and continues to face pressure. Meanwhile US aid to Pakistan has been significantly cut under the Trump administration, US military training for Pakistan was suspended recently and an indication that securing a necessary IMF bailout for Pakistan will be made difficult by the US. Not only has this created more space for both Pakistan and Turkey to come closer on the diplomatic front but also in terms of defense and trade deals.
In May of this year both countries signed off on their biggest bilateral defense deal for thirty T129 combat helicopters amounting to $1.5 billion to be sold over five years. In addition to this Turkey will build and export four warships to Pakistan. Pakistan has also supplied Turkey with small arms in the past and around 1,494 Pakistani military personnel have received their military education/training in Turkey after an exchange program was initiated between the two countries back in 2000.
In 2015 negotiations were initiated on a free trade agreement between Pakistan and Turkey but did not go too far. The PTI government will attempt to restart those talks while Turkey has agreed to encourage their businesses to invest in Pakistan as well. But this is all easier said than done. Turkey has a serious corruption and nepotism problem with Erdogan’s son-in-law serving as finance minister and a severely politicized central bank. On the other hand, the ease of doing business in Pakistan is abysmal. For both countries to take full advantage of any trade deals these issues will need to be addressed.