Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday floated a proposal for Turkey to join the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, saying a “trilateral arrangement with the inclusion of Turkey” would benefit the region.
The prime minister made these remarks while addressing a ceremony marking the launch of PNS Badr – the third ship inducted under the framework of Turkey’s National Ship Project (MİLGEM).
The ceremony held at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works was attended by Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi and a large number of naval officers from Pakistan and Turkey.
In July 2018, the Pakistan Navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class ships with Turkish defence firm ASFAT. According to the plan, two corvettes are to be built in Turkey and the next two are to be built in Pakistan, which also involves technology transfer.
Speaking on the occasion, the premier said the multi-dimensional cooperation between Islamabad and Ankara in the areas of defence, foreign policy and public welfare was “touching new heights of friendship for the benefit of the two peoples”.
“The cooperation between Pakistan Navy and the Turkish defence companies would lead to further strengthening of relations between the two brotherly countries,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the launch of PNS Badr would enhance the maritime activities at the Karachi Port and Port Qasim, thus leading to the development of financial and industrial progress.
He said the launch of the ship was a “moment of pride for the entire Pakistani nation and the naval forces of the two countries” and appreciated the efforts of the naval chief, his team and the defence minister.
The premier added that the government of Pakistan was committed to expanding multifarious infrastructure to ensure economic connectivity in the country and emphasised that cooperation with Turkey would yield positive results.
He lauded Ankara for always being a great supporter of the sovereignty of Pakistan, ie. the country’s expansionist goals against India’s Jammu and Kashmir region.
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi said the defence ties between the two countries were witnessing the development and hoped that the time would see further collaboration for the benefit of the two sides.
‘Turkey to strengthen military infrastructure’
The message of Turkish President Erdogan was screened on the occasion wherein he assured Pakistan that his country would provide all support needed to strengthen Pakistan’s military infrastructure, which in turn is aimed against India’s sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir.
President Erdogan said the deliveries of the ships, which would be able to perform all kinds of military duties from air defence to submarine defence, would be made at six-month intervals starting from August 2023.
With an emphasis on the historical ties between the two countries, Erdogan said the project was one of the most concrete and recent examples of it, voicing hope for the project to be “a harbinger of greater cooperation”.
Erdogan said Pakistan is the country with the most strategic location in South Asia. “Throughout history, this region has been the apple of the world’s eye with its ancient culture and wealth. Pakistan and its people have a special place for us.”
The Turkish president also emphasised the necessity of providing all means of support to strengthen the military infrastructure of Pakistan, “whose security, stability and prosperity we consider equal to ours.”
The other vessel of the project, named Kaibar, is to be launched in September in Istanbul, he said.
According to Turkish news agency Anadolu, the MILGEM vessels are 99 meters (325 feet) long with a displacement capacity of 24,00 tons and can move at a speed of 29 nautical miles. The anti-submarine combat frigates can be hidden from the radar.
PM in Karachi
Earlier in the day, Shehbaz departed for a day-long visit to Karachi. The premier is likely to meet with prominent members of the business community to discuss recommendations regarding the dire economic situation.
The premier is accompanied by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Minister for Water Resources Syed Khurshid Shah and Special Assistant to the PM Syed Fahad Hussain.