When Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan on Tuesday wrapped up his two-day high-profile journey to Pakistan, the country’s foreign ministry used words like “unique” and “unparalleled” to describe the visit, borrowing phrases which are rarely used surrounding other foreign visitors.

It was left to the country’s robust news media to highlight the visit for its significance for Pakistan’s leaders too, going beyond ties just between two countries. One newspaper prominently reported Erdogan’s use of the phrase “brother” while addressing Shehbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of the populous Punjab province, and the powerful younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The younger Sharif has been a prominent champion of Turkey’s expanded investments in Pakistan as a way to revive a badly ailing economy.

For Pakistan’s government, which is battling the worst security crisis in the country’s history that has clearly been compounded by mounting economic challenges, high profile overseas visitors are rare. But in Erdogan’s case, a mix of remote and recent history coupled with expectations for the future, made the visit a special event.

Generations of Pakistanis have gone through their school text books learning about the “Khilafat” movement of almost a century ago, when scores of Muslims from British ruled India felt compelled to travel to Turkey to save the collapsing Ottoman empire.

Though that gesture could not bloc Turkey’s Kemalist onslaught led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the founding father of the modern Turkish republic, it continues to be remembered as evidence of the passion shared by Muslims of south Asia, notably Pakistan.

But in its present context, Erdogan’s visit to Islamabad took place as the two countries seek to build up their geo-strategic ties especially surrounding Afghanistan. By this time next year, if indeed the US-led draw-down of western troops is nearly completed, Pakistan will be looking for support on two equally vital fronts.

On the one hand, Islamabad continues to search for ways of building a new political consensus inside Afghanistan to prevent an all-out internal conflict that will spill over to Pakistan. Turkey’s possible influence over players like Abdul Rashid Dostum — the influential commander of Afghanistan’s “Uzbek” community is often cited in official circles as a useful tool for future efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.

On the other hand, Turkey’s prominence as a key member on the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), continues to arm it with the strategic significance that Pakistan considers valuable for influencing elements of western security policies.

At the same time, recent controversy surrounding Turkey, notably its opposing interests to other important regional players in conflict stricken Syria, cannot be continuously ignored by Pakistan.

For the moment, Islamabad remains determined to keep up with its friends in the Islamic Arab world while also building up with its relations with Turkey. While events surrounding Syria may eventually force Pakistan to take a side in that conflict, Islamabad for now is hoping to avoid making that choice, which will risk its friendship in the Islamic world.

The writer is a political and economic analyst. Courtesy Gulf News.