Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Turkey-Pakistan ties would grow faster: Sohail [Sohail Mahmood, Pakistani ambassador to Turkey]

Interview - Omer Zahid Malik, Ankara, Turkey, pakobserver.net; see also.

Image from article of Sohail Mahmood, Pakistani ambassador to Turkey
Q. Relations between Pakistan and Turkey are unique as the relations are not confined to governments of the two countries but the people of the two countries also feel warmth for each other. What is your view in this regard?
A. Indeed, Pakistan and Turkey enjoy a special relationship – founded firmly on common faith, cultural and linguistic affinities, and shared history. Our abiding ties are underpinned by exceptional warmth, cordiality and mutual trust, the examples of which are rare in inter-state relations. These feelings transcend the leadership and governmental levels, and are particularly strong at the peoples’ level. In a remarkable tradition, the two peoples have always stood by each other, in good and difficult times. They have always supported each other on their respective national causes, especially Kashmir and Cyprus. On different occasions, the unique quality of our relationship has been encapsulated in the phrase, “One Nation – Two States.” ...

Q. How can relations between the two countries be strengthened through cultural collaboration and people-to-people contacts?
A. Enhancing cultural collaboration and people-to-people contacts is among the key priorities. In this context, the role of the Parliament, media, youth, think-tanks, and civil society is important. It is heartening that our contacts in these realms are consistently expanding.
One positive indicator of the growth in people-to-people exchanges in recent years is the growing number of Pakistani students in Turkey. Already, there are more than 1,700 under-graduate, graduate and Phd students attending Turkey’s public and private Universities. We are also making efforts to increase the number of Turkish students to go to Pakistan for higher studies. Under a new agreement between the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YOK), a larger number of Phd scholars would be coming from Pakistan to Turkey in the next few years. On the other hand, three Turkish Universities have Urdu Departments – namely Ankara University, Istanbul University, and Selcuk University in Konya. The research done at these Departments on the Urdu language and literature, as well as the Urdu graduates of these Universities, constitute a valuable asset for intensified cultural collaboration and people-to-people exchanges. Moreover, the Turkish Government has recently approved the teaching of Urdu as an elective subject at the high school level throughout Turkey. This measure would result in further promotion of Urdu and our bilateral people-to-people contacts.
As part of the Embassy’s public diplomacy efforts, we have pursued a number of initiatives to foster closer bonds at the people’s level, with a particular objective to transmit to the younger generation the illustrious tradition of abiding ties between Pakistan and Turkey. Every year, we organize “Jinnah Young Writers Awards” competition in which senior high school students from 81 provinces of Turkey participate and submit essays on a selected theme pertaining to Pakistan-Turkey relations. Similarly, for the last six years, we have been holding “Chughtai Art Awards” in which high school students from a chosen province of Turkey make paintings on a given theme. Successful students are given awards by high-level Turkish dignitaries and their works are displayed in prominent art venues. In addition, events such as Pakistan Food and Mango Festivals, photography exhibitions, and special Cultural Nights showcasing our customs and traditions as well as fashion and music are organized on a regular basis.
Turkey’s famous Yunus Emre Institute is in the process of opening Cultural Centers in Lahore and Karachi. The establishment of these Centers would further contribute to the efforts already underway.

Q. The year 2017 marks the 70th year of Pakistan-Turkey Diplomatic relations. What plans are there for celebrating this occasion?
A. The leadership in both countries has decided to celebrate this milestone in a befitting manner. Already several events have either been held or are in the pipeline. For example, Turkey’s traditional Mehter band participated in the Pakistan Day Parade in Islamabad on 23 March 2017. The two sides are due to issue a joint commemorative postal stamp in August. A number of other events including seminars, exhibitions, special publications and cultural exchanges are in the cards. In sum, there is a fascinating story of Pakistan-Turkey brotherhood spanning centuries and of its ongoing transformation into a strategic relationship. It is our endeavor to tell this story to the world in the most imaginative way possible.

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