Exploring newer avenues in BD-Turkey relations
Bangladesh and Turkey are two important member states of the World Trade Organization, the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. These countries share the common views of cultural, social and political history with independent religious beliefs, Islamic values and secular non-sectarianism. The evidence of relations between Turkish-Bengali people is found in the poem "Kamal Pasha" by the national poet of Bangladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam. The poem was written in honour of Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Besides, the unwavering support of the Bengalis in the Turkish independence movement including the caliphate movement is a reminder of the historical relationship.
However, the Development Eight (D-8) organization is a great example of a joint venture between the two countries. Bangladesh is a founding member of the Economic Development Alliance among the eight developing countries created in 1997 by a Turkish initiative.
The current President of Turkey visited Bangladesh in 2010 and his Prime Minister also visited in the same year. In this context, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh visited Turkey in 2012. Since then, relations between the two countries have been good, but since 2013, relations have deteriorated due to Turkey's dissatisfaction with Bangladesh's political activities. However, after Sheikh Hasina sent a message condemning the failed military coup against Erdogan in July 2016, relations began to revive.
After the coup, Erdogan began a new campaign to establish internal unity as well as increase international support. In this situation, the President of Bangladesh Abdul Hamid went to Turkey to attend the OIC conference in 2016, and a fruitful discussion was arranged between the two statesmen. As a result, the Turkish President and First Lady rushed to the rescue of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in 2016. Since then, Turkey has been playing a strong role for Bangladesh in the UN and various international organizations on the Rohingya issue, which has brought them back to Bangladesh.
Analysts say that although Bangladesh has been very vigilant on the Rohingya issue recently, it has not been able to garner much international support. They cited the silence of neighbouring historical ally India and its pro-Myanmar policy as one of the reasons. Then there is the opposition of China, the largest economic investor in Bangladesh. Despite having good relations with Bangladesh, silence and opposition may be one of the reasons for not being able to properly highlight the importance of Bangladesh to them. According to diplomats, if Bangladesh can make its allies realize its importance, then Bangladesh will be in a favourable position on this issue.
In the context of the two-pronged policy of the friendly countries, Bangladesh should create new economic opportunities by reducing its dependence on them and increasing its relations with foreign countries. And one of the most effective steps in its implementation could be to increase the overall relationship with Turkey. Turkey is currently an emerging regional power, from which Bangladesh can enjoy commercial and defence benefits. As Bangladesh's tensions with Myanmar over various borders, including St. Martin's Island is increasing day by day, Bangladesh will have to increase its military strength in the near future to strengthen its position in the region. And Turkish defence industry is now world-class, which is affordable for Bangladesh. Taking advantage of this opportunity will also reduce Bangladesh's dependence on Chinese arms.
Looking at the economic transactions of the two countries, it can be seen that in the 2016-17 financial year, Bangladesh exported 631.63 million dollars to Turkey and imported 212.30 million dollars. In addition, a number of large projects are currently underway in Bangladesh, and Turkish construction companies also want to invest in them. It should be noted that Turkish companies are famous following China for their global construction.
In the last two years, the two countries have already held a number of top-level meetings on Bangladesh-Turkey trade and investment relations and future prospects. In 2019, on 23 January, 12 April and 22 November of the same year, a total of three seminars were held between the major business organizations of the two countries. The seminar was organized by Iktilli Industrial Area and Hasiad Industrial Area of Turkey and FBCCI of Bangladesh.
The then Turkish President Suleiman Demirel came to Bangladesh in 1996 with Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat on the silver jubilee of Bangladesh's independence. In that continuity, Turkish statesman Erdogan is going to come to the golden jubilee of Bangladesh this year. Apart from this, the recent visit of the Foreign Ministers of the two countries has opened up new possibilities, among which the economic transactions of the two countries have increased from one billion to two billion dollars. Turkish investment in Bangladesh, cooperation in RMG sector and Turkey's determination on the Rohingya issue are clear indicators of a deeper relation. Each of these issues is important for Bangladesh.
Therefore, it can be said that Turkey-Bangladesh relations will help in implementing the Vision-2041. In addition to this, it can be assumed that Bangladesh's dependence on certain issues will not be limited to specific countries. However, strengthening Bangladesh's presence in the international arena and gaining the confidence of investors depends on the stability of Bangladesh's internal political situation and policy formulation and implementation in time, which we must ensure.
The writer is a student,
University of Chittagong