Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that Pakistan and Turkey support each other on all issues of core national interest – whether it is Jammu and Kashmir or Northern Cyprus. The prime minister in an interview with Turkish news agency Anadolu thanked the leadership of Turkey for its principled support on Jammu and Kashmir dispute. “Both Pakistan and Turkey have a similarity of views on regional and international issues and enjoy close collaboration on bilateral, regional, and multilateral forums,” Sharif said ahead of his three-day official visit to Turkey. Terming the Pak-Turkey relations as “exemplary”, the prime minister said historical relations were grounded firmly in common religious, cultural, and linguistic links and transcend political changes on either side. He mentioned that both countries were celebrating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. “In these seven and a half decades, the two sides have always stood by each other in the face of all changes,” he said, adding that people-to-people and cultural contacts were on an upward trajectory. PM Sharif said Pakistan was now focusing on economic cooperation with Turkey as the current level of bilateral trade still was not a true reflection of the excellent state of the relationship. “This is also an area where immense opportunities exist for both countries,” he said. During the visit, the prime minister said that he would be meeting leading Turkish business companies to encourage them to utilize the immense opportunities existing in Pakistan in various fields, including energy, infrastructure, e-commerce, municipal agro-based industry and IT sectors, etc. He said with a population of over 220 million, Pakistan offered its investors a strong and large consumer market with an ever-expanding middle class. On Pakistan’s role in US policy in the region, he said Pakistan and the US had a longstanding and broad-based relationship in various areas of mutual interest. He hoped that the continued constructive engagement could promote peace, security, and development in the region. “We wish to deepen and widen our engagement with the US, which remains Pakistan’s biggest export market and a major source of FDI and remittances,” he said. The prime minister said Pakistan had instituted dialogues with the US in various areas, including climate change, health, energy, trade and investment, which are playing an important role in strengthening our bilateral ties. He said Pakistan encouraged major US companies to invest in Pakistan’s lucrative market and enhance commercial ties, particularly in the throbbing IT sector. On China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said the vision of connectivity and win-win cooperation at the heart of the project was in line with his government’s priorities, as well as the vision for Pakistan as a peaceful, prosperous region. As the earliest proponent of President Xi’s visionary BRI, he said Pakistan firmly supported the BRI’s five-pronged emphasis on physical connectivity, financial cooperation, trade facilitation, policy consultation and people-to-people linkages. “With the CPEC, we have successfully realized our two countries’ shared vision and the BRI’s ideals. With CPEC entering a new phase of high-quality development, our Belt and Road cooperation will accelerate Pakistan’s industrial and economic modernization,” he said. He mentioned that work was underway on CPEC Special Economic Zones, and Pakistan was incentivizing foreign investments in key industrial sectors. On relations with India, he said Pakistan pursued its shift from geo-strategy to geo-economics, we are looking to forge partnerships, especially within the region, based on connectivity, collective development, and prosperity. Pakistan and India have a lot to gain from mutually beneficial trade, he said. However, he mentioned that in the aftermath of the Indian illegal and unilateral steps of August 5, 2019, Pakistan took a principled stance and curtailed a range of bilateral activities. “This decision reflected Pakistan’s unequivocal condemnation of the reprehensible Indian design of depriving the beleaguered Kashmiris of their fundamental rights through an unjust and muscular policy,” he said. He highlighted that in the wake of continued brutalization of the Kashmiri people, attempts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory (IIOJK), and continued denial by India of the Kashmiris’ right, its self-determination, it was hard to imagine that progress can be made on the trade front. “For normalization of relations, India must revisit its actions of August 5, 2019, and not seek further division, bifurcation, and demographic changes in the occupied territory to perpetuate its illegal occupation,” he said. In order to accrue the utmost benefit from mutually beneficial trade, the onus lies with India to create a conducive environment for dialogue and engagement, he added. On situation in Afghanistan, he said the engagement with the interim Afghan government was “not a matter of choice but a necessity”. He said the world cannot abandon the Afghan people and must shoulder the responsibility to immediately address the country’s humanitarian crisis and fragile economy. He said Pakistan was emphasizing to the interim government to live up to their international commitments that the country will not be used for terrorism, that girls and women be able to pursue education, and that they form an inclusive government. PM Sharif said the current authorities in Kabul had repeatedly given assurances to us as well as to the wider international community that they would not allow their soil to be used against any country.