Recep Tayyip Erdogan, born in 1954, has served as Türkiye’s 12th and current president. From 2003 to 2014, he was Türkiye’s prime minister. Erdogan was elected mayor of Istanbul following the 1994 municipal elections, where he initiated a number of changes that improved the city’s infrastructure and economy. Later, he established the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001.
Türkiye under President Erdogan has undergone a sea change in the past decade and it is almost impossible to discuss Türkiye’s success story in a short paper; however, we have tried to focus on three key areas: Tourism, Industry and Conflict Resolution. Pakistan can draw lessons from its friendly ally’s experience.
Under President Erdogan, Türkiye has witnessed economic revival and it has become one of the fastest growing economies in the region and even Europe. Türkiye has built upon its human and natural resources through an effective management and good governance. There is also a factor of political stability as President Erdogan’s AKP has maintained power for past two terms and this continuity of policies has helped shape a trajectory of development and prosperity.
Tourism potential is one example of harnessing the power of culture and history. The majority of Türkiye’s tourist attractions are historical sites and beach resorts around the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. Increasingly, people travel to Türkiye for its culture, spas, and medical facilities. According to the UNWTO’s global tourism barometer, Türkiye has been the fourth most popular tourist destination since 2021.
One of the most popular tourist destinations worldwide, is Istanbul. Before the Tanzimat period of reform in the 19th century, Islamic judges and Imams oversaw the city under the direction of the Grand Vizier. This ecclesiastical structure was replaced by a mayor and a citywide council, like in France at that time. The local government has played a major role in development and expansion of Istanbul.
Istanbul, features a lot of top attractions thanks to its former role as the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires’ capital. These include the Hagia Sophia, Topkap Palace, Basilica Cistern, Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the “Blue Mosque”), Dolmabahçe Palace, Galata Tower, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, and Pera Palace Hotel. By housing malls and shopping centers like MetroCity, Akmerkez, and Cevahir Mall, which is the largest mall in Europe and the sixth largest shopping center in the world, Istanbul has also recently become one of the largest shopping hubs of the European region. Museums, cultural events, and athletic events are other attractions. There are 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Türkiye, including 17 cultural and 2 combined sites.
Medical tourism is another success story in Türkiye. Due to the influx of thousands of international tourists each month, cosmetic dentistry, rhinoplasty, and hair transplant surgeries are becoming popular due to high quality doctors and competitive prices. With 642,000 visitors coming for medical services in 2021, medical tourism earned a substantive $1.05 billion in income. The ease of obtaining a visa for foreigners and the prompt scheduling of operations has contributed a lot in enhancing medical tourism in Türkiye.
Despite a dip due to Covid 19 the revenue from Tourism has recovered and Türkiye’s tourism industry now contributes more than 60 billion dollars annually.
While Turkish industry is very diverse, the automobile industry is being discussed to draw some lessons for Pakistan. A substantial part of Türkiye’s manufacturing sector is occupied by the automobile industry. The Marmara Region is home to the majority of the businesses involved in the Turkish automobile industry. Türkiye is the 13th largest car producer in the world, according to OICA.net, Türkiye manufactured 1,352,648 motor vehicles in 2022. Many of the largest van, bus, and truck manufacturers in the world, including TEMSA, Otokar, and BMC, are Turkish. Türkiye’s Automobile Joint Venture Group Inc., also known as Togg, is the country’s first manufacturer of all-electric cars. The Turkish automotive industry exports motor cars and parts valued at close to $20 billion, it has a concentration of automakers and parts suppliers and has integrated itself into the global production base network. Major international automakers like Fiat, Tofaş, Oyak-Renault, Hyundai, Toyota, and Ford Otosan have operations on Turkish soil.
It is also important to highlight how Turks look at the Treaty of Lausanne. Various conspiracy theories frequently hit the headlines. The two most significant of them are that the treaty has unpublished, secret clauses and there will be drastic changes in the region after it has expired in 2023. These two assertions have been debunked by respectable Turkish historians; however, the debate continues in the coffee houses and restaurants across Türkiye. Although there has not been a war between Greece and Türkiye since the Treaty of Lausanne, there has been frequent periods of tensions related to Cyprus and Türkiye’s bordering islands in the Mediterranean.
Due to its geostrategic location and position in different international organisations, Türkiye has tried to play the role of a stabiliser and equaliser. Interestingly Türkiye also falls on the confluence of six major civilisations, Greco Roman, Byzantium/Orthodox Christians, Ottoman/Islamic, Arab/Islamic and Turko Mongol, so it has a historic legacy to build upon.
More recently President Erdogan has tried to play a major role in regional conflict resolution and building alliances based on geo-economics. In the ongoing Russia Ukraine war, Türkiye has played the role of a moderator, especially on the issue of Black Sea grain deal, which came under discussion during a recent meet between President of Russia, Vladimir Putin and President Erdogan at Sochi.
Türkiye has also played a major role in conflict resolution in Syrian and Libyan conflicts and developing a better understanding with major players in the Middel East.
With Pakistan, Türkiye has historic, cultural, geo-economic and geopolitical relations which are time tested. Pak-Turk military relations have also grown substantially and there is growing scope for joint ventures in the field of military hardware. For Pakistan, there is a lot to learn from Türkiye’s economic rise and how good governance and harnessing of national potential can help human development, progress and prosperity.