Saturday December 09, 2023

Our turn now

August 31, 2018

Our brotherly country Turkey is currently facing the worst economic crisis, mostly fuelled by international politics of revenge. According to media reports, the Turkish currency (lira) has lost almost half of its value in the last year, and around 30 percent in just the last one month.

The country’s dependence on foreign debt has worsened the situation even more. Denouncing the pressure to adjust the interest rate, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan equated increasing the interest rate to committing treason. The currency crisis intensified when US President Donald Trump in his recent tweet announced doubling the steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey. On the other side, the Turkish president declared the crisis a ‘national battle’ against economic enemies, and motivated the nation in the following words: “if they have their dollar, we have the people; we have Allah”.

Turkey has enjoyed great respect in the eyes of millions of people around the world since the last many centuries. The Ottoman Empire was once a prominent global power. Although the Subcontinent was never under the direct control of the Ottoman dynasty, local people had strong affiliations with it. Around a hundred years ago when the Ottoman Empire was facing similar threats in the form of foreign aggressions, the people of the Subcontinent tried their best to safeguard Turkey. The Khilafat Movement, jointly run by Hindu and Muslim leaders, is one significant chapter in the history of our struggle for freedom. Thousands of Indian women had donated their gold jewellery to support the Turkish people. It is believed that the financial contributions generated during the Khilafat Movement helped Turkey establish its largest bank, the Turkiye Is Bankasi, and the Grand National Assembly, located in Ankara.

After Independence, Pakistan and Turkey developed cordial relations in every field. Neither are Pakistanis people of Turkish origin nor do the two countries share geographical borders, yet the people of Pakistan have always been referred to as ‘brothers’ in Turkey. Pakistanis have also had similar feelings for their Turkish friends.

During the tragic earthquake of 2005, Erdogan was the first world leader who urged his nation to help Pakistan on a priority basis. He himself visited the disaster areas to witness the rehabilitation activities. The Turkish Red Crescent Association also arrived in Pakistan with the slogan ‘Simdi Sira Bizde’, meaning ‘Now, it’s our turn’.

Although the current Turkish government believes in building diplomatic relations of equal status with the international community, its opponents describe its foreign policy as Neo-Ottomanism. They are afraid that Turkey’s engagement in the formerly Ottoman-controlled regions is drifting away its focus from the West and moving it towards Asia. However, the country’s positive role in supporting the Palestinian cause and the issue of Rohingya Muslims reflects that the Turkish people have, in fact, throughout history, supported oppressed nations on the basis of principles.

It seems that such a laudable humanitarian contribution has not been acceptable to some global powers, and that is why conspiracies have been fuelled against the Turkish regime in the form of currency war. Luckily, the government has timely taken significant measures to tackle the challenges of psychological warfare. First, President Erdogan asked the people to have confidence in their national currency, and urged them to exchange dollars and gold for Turkish liras. Second, in a serious attempt to combat the ongoing crisis, the Turkish government has reportedly launched a massive crackdown against all those social media accounts and news portals which were posting fake news related to the lira. Most importantly, the regime is seeking a win-win cooperation from its neighbouring countries and friendly states. In this regard, the decision by Qatar to invest $15 billion in Turkey’s financial markets and banks is remarkable.

Turkey is a role model for many countries including Pakistan, and other countries must also come forward to support Turkey in this critical time. In response to Erdogan’s appeal, a large number of Pakistani citizens have also launched a ‘Buy Lira’ campaign to show solidarity with Turkey.

The ongoing crisis has, in fact, brought numerous opportunities for the brave nation of Turkey. According to Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the number of tourists who arrived in the first seven months of the current year has increased by nearly 25 percent as compared to last year. Russians were the highest in number, followed by Germans and Iranians. Being Pakistani citizens, we must also extend bilateral cooperation with our brotherly country in the field of tourism. Finally, I would like to assure our Turkish friends that they must not consider themselves alone in their struggle. The people of Pakistan will always stand by their Turkish brothers.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani