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Return to Sender: Will Aid Fiasco Harm Close Bond Between Pakistan and Turkiye?

© AP Photo / Burhan OzbiliciTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz stand during a welcome ceremony, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz stand during a welcome ceremony, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. - Sputnik India, 1920, 21.02.2023
Ankara and Islamabad have shared a close bond due to the common thread of Islam. Now, however, there are growing concerns this relationship could suffer.
As Pakistan was dealing with a worsening economic crisis and a looming sovereign default, vast swathes of southern Turkiye were flattened by the devastating earthquake, with more than 40,000 already confirmed dead.
However, as dozens of nations stretched a helping hand to Ankara, a bizzare incident came to light.

Aid Blunder

Media reports suggested on Monday that Pakistan apparently repackaged and shipped out the same aid to Turkiye that it had received from Ankara following the calamitous floods in 2022.
Reports further revealed that Pakistani authorities only changed the boxes of the relief material before returning it to its sender.
The messages reportedly written inside the boxes indicate that the materials were a goodwill gesture from Turkiye for Pakistani people who have been ravaged by floods, while words inscribed on the outside mentioned that these products were delivered by Islamabad to the Turkish people to overcome the effects of the deadly earthquake.
New Delhi-based experts believe Pakistan's reported aid fiasco in Turkiye is an "embarrassment" for the country, which could put Islamabad in a bad light in front of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mohit Sharma, a researcher at the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), and Dr. Nazir Mir, an expert on Pakistan's foreign policy at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), consider that Pakistan's gesture was "bizarre" and came at a wrong time.

"It is an embarrassment for not only that the aid was meant for the flood victims is taken away but also it is sent to the same country that it came from. This is not only a case of inefficiency from the Pakistan side but also trying to play a trick to show Turkiye how concerned Pakistan was about it," Dr. Mir said in an exclusive conversation with Sputnik on Monday.

Sharma, meanwhile, suggested that the act may be bizarre, but it may not have a significant impact on the close partnership between the two countries.
"This act might seem bizarre and it is, and this can be a matter of embarrassment for any country. But given the strong relationship between the two, this act in my view is not that significant so as to alter their relations negatively," Sharma told Sputnik.
According to him, the two countries enjoy a mutual give-take relationship: both see themselves as leaders of global Islam. Since both countries are now affected economically, they would have more avenues for cooperation.

Failed Visit of Pakistan's PM

Interestingly, Pakistan's aid blunder came only two days after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Turkiye to offer his nation's "support" to Ankara.
Given Pakistan's current financial situation, with depleting forex reserves enough to sustain only 18 days of imports, the Sharif-led government is not in a position to help Turkiye, where a massive rebuilding exercise will be required to get the earthquake-hit areas up and running.

"The visit to me seemed inevitable, given the fact that Islamabad has been trying to court Turkiye on various issues, like for investment in Pakistan and for support against India. However, the question is how is the trip going to help Pakistan when it needs to focus on its internal matters, like economy? What Turkiye needs is aid which Pakistan is trying to send like quilts, etc which is not enough. And it is not in a position to do more," Dr. Mir elaborated.

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Mir then reiterated that PM Shehbaz is making efforts to raise funds for Turkiye in Pakistan but it may be a burden for the country amidst a serious economic crisis.
That's why he feels that these gestures, though meant to show solidarity, may not help Pakistan in the short or long terms, both domestically and with its relations with Turkiye which will be busy dealing with the damages caused by the earthquake.
On the other hand, Sharma feels that India may have earned a great deal of goodwill through the work done by its disaster response force in Turkiye. New Delhi's gains in the region should not be linked with an apparent downturn in Ankara's relations with Islamabad.

"The amount of goodwill that India gains can be seen as an independent function, and we need not establish necessary linkages with Pakistan's bizarre act. People in Turkiye are too engrossed in grief and rebuilding, and so I don't think India-Pak dichotomy is really on the Turkish minds," Sharma concluded.