Ankara, Turkey – Relations between the Turkish and Bengali-speaking peoples have strong historical and cultural roots, dating back to the late Ottoman Empire period and decades before the founding of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The Muslims of South Asia, including the Bengalis, supported Turkey during the First World War (1914-1918) and the Turkish War of Liberation (1919-1922).
The respect for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, is reflected in the epic poem “Kamal Pasha,” written by Kazi Nazrul Islam, national poet of Bangladesh, in 1921. The father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was greatly inspired by Ataturk when he led the Bengali nation to statehood in 1971 through a war of independence. In the same vein, the support of the Bengal people during the Turkish National Struggle is still remembered with gratitude by the Turkish people.
Turkey recognized Bangladesh on 22 February 1974 on the occasion of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) Summit which was held in Lahore. The Turkish Embassy in Dhakka was opened in 1976 and the Embassy of Bangladesh in Ankara in 1981.
H.E. Ms. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, accompanied by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Ms Dipu Moni, visited Turkey to participate in the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries which took place in İstanbul on 9-13 May 2011. Prime Minister Hasina also paid an official visit to Turkey on 10-13 April 2012 upon the invitation of the then Prime Minister H.E. Erdoğan.
Turkey increased its aid activities in 2017, as a new wave of Rohingya Muslims sheltered in Bangladesh due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. In this context, H.E. Emine Erdogan, Spouse of President of Turkey together with H.E. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, H.E. Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, former Minister of Family and Social Policies paid a visit on 6-7 September 2017 and H.E. Recep Akdag, former Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey paid a visit on 27 September 2017 to Bangladesh, in order to examine the living conditions of Rohingya Muslims and discuss the Turkish humanitarian aid effort.
The latest high level visit to Bangladesh from Turkey was the former Prime Minister H.E. Binali Yıldırım’s visit on 18-20 December 2017. The Prime Minister held meetings with H.E. Abdul Hamid, President of Bangladesh and H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and visited Rohingya Camps in Cox’s Bazaar.
The most recent Presidential level visit from Bangladesh to Turkey was the visit of H.E. Abdul Hamid, President of Bangladesh on 13 December 2017, in the context of the OIC Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul. During the summit, the two Presidents also held a bilateral meeting.
H.E. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, met with H.E. Hasan Mahmud Ali, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, during the abovementioned visit to Bangladesh on 6-7 September 2017. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh H.E. Hasan Mahmud Ali also attended the OIC Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul on 18 May 2018.
Bangladesh hosted the OIC 45th Ministerial Meeting between 5-6 May 2018, a delegation headed by former Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Bekir Bozdag attended the Meeting.
A delegation from Bangladesh headed by H.E. Saifuzzaman Chowdhury, the Minister of Land of Bangladesh attended the Emergency Meeting of the Executive Committee at the level of the Foreign Ministers was held in Istanbul on 22 March 2019.
The political consultations was held on 20 May 2019 in Ankara, between delegations headed by Foreign Deputy Minister Ambassador H.E Sedat Önal and H.E Md. Shahidul Haque, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh–Turkey relations refers to the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Turkey. Both countries are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Turkey has an embassy in Dhaka and Bangladesh has an embassy in Ankara and a consulate in Istanbul.
During the Rohingya crisis, where the Muslim Rohingyas were being expelled from Myanmar, Turkey donated millions of dollars to the government of Bangladesh in order to aid the Rohingyas who are settling in Chittagong. In September 2017, First Lady Emine Erdogan visited and helped provide relief in the shelters of the Rohingyas and promised more co-operation and aid to Bangladesh.
Former Bangladeshi president Ziaur Rahman became the first Bangladeshi head of state to visit Ankara. In 1986, the then Turkish prime minister, Turgut Ozal paid a visit to Bangladesh. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel joined Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat at the silver jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence in 1997. In 1998, the two countries co-founded the Developing 8 Countries group. Turkish president Abdullah Gul paid an official visit to Dhaka in 2010. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Dhaka in 2010. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to Ankara in 2012.
Bangladesh and Turkey are among each other’s key trading partners. The bilateral trade between the two countries is worth more than $1 billion. Bangladeshi export items to Turkey have been dominated by apparel products. Since 2012, Bangladesh and Turkey have been in talks to sign a free trade agreement, but signing of the agreement is halted due to the complications relating to Turkey’s bid for accession to the European Union. The shipbuilding industry of Bangladesh has also been identified as a potential sector for Turkish investment.
Bangladesh and Turkey have signed a joint protocol on trade and investment in 2012. The Bangladesh-Turkey Joint Economic Commission has been holding biennial meetings to discuss the ways for increasing bilateral trade and investment.
In 2013, Turkey supplied Otokar Cobra light armored vehicles to the Bangladesh Army. Bangladesh signed an agreement with Turkey on military training, education and joint cooperation between forces of both nations on 10 March 1981 at Dhaka. As per agreement Turkey’s Naval special forces trained Bangladesh Navy’s special forces Special Warfare Diving and Salvage.
Turkey wants to develop multidimensional relations with its sister country Bangladesh. In this context, the strategy of economic, cultural, political and military cooperation stands out first.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has given his consent to visit Bangladesh early next year to attend the Developing-8 Summit of the seven-nation grouping scheduled to be held in Dhaka. President Erdogan confirmed this when visiting Bangladesh Foreign Minister called on him in Ankara when they agreed to take Dhaka-Ankara relations at new height.
During the meeting, the Turkish President laid emphasized on further expanding the D-8 grouping by including more states with the body. The D-8, Organization for Economic Cooperation, is comprised by eight countries – Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey
President Erdogan, according to a Foreign Ministry press release, has given importance on enhancing bilateral trade and called for taking fresh initiatives to exchange trade delegations between the two countries and participation of each other’s trade fairs and exhibitions in the coming days.
The Turkish President made several specific proposals to enhance bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Turkey, including removal of existing tariff barriers as well as investment in textile and pharmaceutical sectors. He also stressed for inclusion of more new items in the current trade list.
President Erdogan called for ensuring participation of both countries representatives and products in trade fairs of Bangladesh and Turkey. He also asked the Bangladesh government to allocate necessary land for setting up a most modern hospital in Bangladesh with Turkish financial assistance.
Erdogan highly praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for providing shelter to hundreds of thousands forcible displaced Rohingya population in Bangladesh and promised to stay with Bangladesh in all bilateral and multilateral forums to address the Rohingya problems. He also assured Bangladesh to send more medical supplies and necessary support in response to Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh.
The Turkish President further said that he would pay visit to Bangladesh immediately after the Covid-19 situation improved to inaugurate the newly constructed Turkish Embassy in Dhaka. President Erdogan expressed his satisfaction for regular holding Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) between Dhaka and Ankara and agreed to form a forum between the two countries for regular holding of high-level meetings.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was also present at the meeting. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, who is leading a Bangladesh delegation, went to Turkey to attend inauguration of the newly constructed Bangladesh Chancery Complex in Ankara on September 14, 2020. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina officially inaugurated the complex virtually.