FRIENDSHIP, CULTURE AND DIPLOMACY

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Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye to Bangladesh, His Excellency Mustafa Osman Turan, discusses bilateral trade, investment opportunities, and business development strategies that will mutually benefit Bangladesh and the Republic of Türkiye.


 

Over the last few years, there have been remarkable developments in Bangladesh-Türkiye bilateral relations. What factors have galvanised the relationship that has so many prospects for both countries?

Both Türkiye and Bangladesh are nations rich in history and deeply rooted in culture. The similarity in the foundations on which Bangladesh and Türkiye are built on has been an integral factor in developing this strong relationship. Our two peoples share the pride of their independence and love for their language and culture. I believe this has brought us together to support each other throughout history.

More recently, our relationship has been growing stronger due to the fast-growing economies. Bilateral trade is booming and so is our people-to-people communication. Turkish serials on Bangladesh television channels have also created a lot of curiosity among its people to visit my country. There is also a strategic element – Bangladesh is trying to pursue a balanced foreign policy between various countries, and Türkiye has emerged as a reliable partner in this equilibrium.

His Excellency Mustafa Osman Turan
Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye to Bangladesh

Speaking of prospects, we have recently heard about Türkiye’s ambitions to double overall trade volume with Bangladesh to USD 2 Billion in the coming years. Which Bangladeshi sectors do you believe will do great in the Turkish market?

Our trade volume is definitely booming. When I came here around three years ago, it was around USD 850 million dollars, and now it’s close to USD 1.5 billion. Throughout the years, trade between our two nations has been balanced. Bangladesh exports a lot of jute, pharmaceuticals, and generic drugs to Türkiye, and we export machinery, chemicals and cotton to Bangladesh.

In the years to come, we want to diversify the items in our trade portfolio and increase this trade volume even further. One of the major areas of cooperation is the ICT sector and the agro-industry sector in Bangladesh. While Bangladesh is self-sufficient in agriculture, investments in agro-industries can be largely beneficial. Other significant areas of collaboration are in the shipbuilding and the leather industry.

Türkiye currently invests in the household electronics sector, readymade garments sector, and the energy sector in Bangladesh. In the years to come, we would like to bring our contracting companies who are very good at building roads, bridges, tunnels, hospitals and mega infrastructure projects. In the list of the 250 best contracting companies in the world, 45 are from Türkiye which goes to show how successful they are in doing business in different countries.

With Bangladesh’s steady economic growth, the country’s aspirations to become a global manufacturing hub is drawing closer to reality. Which industries in Bangladesh do you think could benefit most from Türkiye’s advanced technological capabilities?

In line with Bangladesh’s ambitions of becoming a manufacturing hub, Türkiye has already offered its support to establish a manufacturing plant in the defence industry segment. We have proposed building patrol vessels for the navy and the coast guard. Our proposal includes training, technology transfer and sharing the know-how. If that goes through, there might also be a prospect for civilian shipbuilding. Türkiye is also building its own electric cars under the brand name Togg. Once it’s in the market in March next year, they will also look into possibilities of creating manufacturing hubs in other parts of the world. This could also be an area of collaboration – building electric cars together.

 


Our trade volume is definitely booming. When I came here around three years ago, it was around USD 850 million dollars, and now it’s close to USD 1.5 billion. Throughout the years, trade between our two nations has been balanced.


 

As a NATO member with substantial influence at the UN and OIC, how can Türkiye support Bangladesh’s standings in global forums?

Türkiye and Bangladesh have been collaborating for many years. Our relations in international organisations were so close that the permanent representation of Bangladesh in New York was co-located in the same building as Türkiye’s permanent representation in New York. So, our diplomats worked side by side in the same building for many years. That is also true for our positions taken on many different international issues. For example, our positions on the Palestinian issue are very close.

We have always supported each other in peacekeeping operations around the world. Recently, refugee issues have affected both countries. Türkiye hosts almost 4 million refugees, most of whom are from Syria, and Bangladesh hosts over a million Rohingyas. We cooperate and act in solidarity in organisations like OIC or the UN and have many avenues for collaboration.

Our positions on foreign policies are also very similar. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s principle of “Friendship to All; Malice to None” is similar to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s “Peace at Home; Peace in the World.” So, both countries can contribute to international peace and stability.

The Bangladesh-Türkiye Business Forum was launched at the Turkish Embassy in Dhaka. How does it aim to expedite connections and optimise the potential between the two nations?

As a natural consequence of our trade and investments, there is growing interest in both Turkish and Bangladeshi business circles to collaborate. A handful of renowned Bangladeshi companies are either doing business or are eager to do business with Türkiye. When I realised this, I started engaging with various business groups and was able to bring together 11 Bangladeshi and 6 Turkish companies that were already operating in Bangladesh. That’s how we launched Bangladesh-Türkiye Business Forum last July. Dr Rubana Huq is the chairperson of the Business Forum. The forum currently includes a host of high-profile Bangladeshi businesses including AK Khan & Co Ltd, Kazi Farms Group, BSRM, Square Group, Bengal Group Ltd, Cosmos Group, Singer Bangladesh Ltd, United Group, MM Ispahani Ltd, Akij Group and Turkish Airlines in Bangladesh. Through this forum, we will rebrand Türkiye in Bangladesh, and Bangladesh in Türkiye. Our countries will promote trade and investment projects that will benefit businesses, and organise cultural events that will increase our people-to-people contact.

Throughout your tenure, you have been promoting deep-rooted historical and cultural ties between the two countries. What aspect of Bangladeshi culture do you find most interesting?

Since the time I started working here, I have become a fan of Bangladeshi art and literature. I have also been fascinated by the Sufi culture in Bangladesh. To celebrate our shared love of this culture, we organised Sufi events at the embassy and at the Shilpakala Academy. Our Sufi musicians and whirling dervishes also performed in Sylhet and Chittagong.

Throughout my interactions with the people, I have come to learn about their strengths, vigour and enthusiasm. I am very impressed by the power and creativity of Bangladeshi women at all levels of society. Their contribution has also been recognised by many international scholars working on inclusion and sustainable development. Whether at the peak of the government, such as the Honourable Prime Minister and the Honourable Speaker of the Parliament, or in remote char areas, women in Bangladesh are the country’s driving force for social development. In fact, some of the most influential and impactful NGOs in the world, for example, BRAC and Friendship, are from Bangladesh. Their efforts are focused not only in Bangladesh but also in other countries to deliver much-needed development assistance to disadvantaged groups.

Now that you are at the end of your tenure, what are you looking forward to next, and what memories will you be taking home with you?

After three years, my tenure is ending and I am looking forward to going back home and being amongst my friends and family in Türkiye. We have been separated for a long time so there is a lot to catch up on. I am also excited to continue promoting good relations between our two countries and exploring avenues to facilitate our relationship further.

My time here in Bangladesh has been really rewarding. The thing that will remain with me most is the hospitality of the people. I will cherish the memories of the long philosophical conversations I have had during the addas that I have become so fond of,  the delicious Bangladeshi food, and being received as one of their own. I will always keep a special place in my heart for the Bangladeshi people, and the friends I have made in this country.

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