‘Türkiye, Bangladesh determined to boost trade, cultural ties at optimum level’

Türkiye and Bangladesh are determined to boost bilateral trade and cultural relations at the optimum level, Turkish Ambassador to Bangladesh Mustafa Osman Turan said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu.

Underlining that relations between the two nations are based on a solid foundation with shared history, culture, values, and religion, the envoy said that both Muslim nations are currently following an “excellent course” to boost trade and cultural ties.

Turan, who has completed his three-year tenure as Türkiye’s envoy in Bangladesh and is likely to be replaced soon, noted that Bangladesh’s role is “instrumental” for peace and stability in the South Asian region.

“We have our new policy in Asia and Bangladesh is the key actor in our policy to promote peace and stability in the region,” Turan said, adding that the two countries are following the philosophy and guidelines set by the founding fathers of both nations – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

He said: “Türkiye is a country which follows Ataturk’s dictum ‘peace at home, peace in the world’ while Rahman also said ‘friendship to all and malice to none’.”

Hailing Bangladesh for contributing to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, Turan said joint efforts by Türkiye and Bangladesh would play a significant role in world peace.

Expressing gratitude to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her solidarity with Türkiye just after the failed military coup attempt in 2016, Turan stated that Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan was the first international leader in Bangladesh in 2017 to support the Bangladeshi government in addressing the Rohingya influx crisis.

Bilateral trade

Turan noted that the bilateral trade between Türkiye and Bangladesh has already crossed the $1 billion threshold, and now it is close to $1.5 billion.

“We buy jute from Bangladesh for our carpet industry and half of the raw materials for this industry of ours is supplied from Bangladesh. We also purchase pharmaceuticals from our friendly nation of Bangladesh,” the Turkish diplomat added.

Referring to the top exporting items from Türkiye to Bangladesh, he added that his country sells many types of machinery, chemicals, and cotton items for the factories in Bangladesh.

“These are traditional items of trade but we want to diversify our bilateral trade. For example, we want to extend trade in the ICT (information and communication technology) industry as Bangladesh is making great headway in this sector,” Turan pointed out, saying that the trade and investment in shipping and agro-industries are also booming.

Ankara is also looking to explore the potential in light engineering, and leather products, he added.

To ensure the optimum use of all potential sectors, he added that both countries are interested to convene a Joint Economic Commission meeting in Dhaka soon. “I met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently and she promised that the Joint Economic Commission would be convened very soon in Dhaka.”

Defense cooperation

Turan marked the defense cooperation between Dhaka and Ankara as another big progress in the last three years of his tenure.

“We are already cooperating with Bangladesh in terms of military-to-military cooperation. We have trained almost 3,000 Bangladeshi officers in Türkiye,” he said, noting that whenever he visits the army, navy, or air force headquarters, many Bangladeshi officers come to him and speak in Turkish.

Recently, Bangladesh has started procuring military hardware and weapons systems from Türkiye. “We have made big progress in our defense industry. First, Bangladesh procured armored vehicles for its peacekeeping troops, then it procured Multiple Launch Rockets System (MLRS) and these were demonstrated during the Victory Day parade in Bangladesh in December 2022.”

He also informed Anadolu that recently the two countries signed four significant contacts and one of them was regarding the Turkish drones that Bangladesh procured.

“Currently, there is a foreign exchange shortage in many countries, including Bangladesh. So we have slowed down our defense industry cooperation. But as soon as Bangladesh returns to its strong economy, it will resume with new vigor,” Turan said, adding that Ankara is hoping that the Bangladesh navy and air force will also increase defense cooperation like the army.

Construction sector

Turan claimed that out of the world’s best 250 construction companies, 45 belong to Türkiye. So, Bangladesh can benefit from Turkish construction companies.

“So far, no Turkish company is working in Bangladesh. But a few weeks ago a Turkish company signed a contract to construct a 14-kilometer (8.6 miles) portion of the Dhaka-Sylhet highway. This is a beginning,” the Turkish diplomat said.

He hoped that other Turkish construction companies would come to Bangladesh in near future. "We are planning to sign a government-to-government agreement on a public-private-partnership (PPP) project in Bangladesh. This agreement will pave the way for future cooperation in the construction sector.”

Turkish language, culture

Referring to the popularity of Turkish historic mega drama serials and the country’s language and culture in Bangladesh, Turan said that Ankara will set up a cultural center in Dhaka soon.

“Due to COVID-19, we could not make much progress in this field. I think my successor will continue it. We have Yunus Emre Cultural Centers around the world. I think it would be great if we have a Yunus Emre Cultural Center in Dhaka as it would organize Turkish language training and cultural events to strengthen people-to-people connectivity,” he noted.

The Turkish ambassador also suggested that Bangladesh establish a cultural institute in Ankara or Istanbul. “I proposed it to the prime minister and she warmly accepted it.”

Joint business forum

Underlining the significance of a forum for boosting bilateral trade between Türkiye and Bangladesh, he said that a joint business forum would be constituted soon.

“Now 13 large business companies will be the founding members of the Bangladesh-Türkiye Business Forum. We are hoping that they will be instrumental in developing our economic and trade relations,” Turan said.

Source: Anadolu Agency