nCa News and Commentary
Ashgabat, 11 June 2014 (nCa) — President Berdymuhamedov and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of Malaysia had extensive tête-à-tête Tuesday morning before the signing of five bilateral documents including a joint statement.
Contrary to the usual practice, there were no expanded format talks.
The media was present only at the start of the tête-à-tête and the press conference where both the leaders made brief statements but did not take any questions.
The Bernama story quoted here best sums up the gist of the press conference:
Bernama: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said Malaysia wants to explore new fields of collaboration in Turkmenistan including in halal products and Islamic banking.
He said Malaysia is also interested in sharing its expertise in the mining, construction, chemicals, tourism and communications sectors.
Najib said he conveyed this to Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov during their four-eyed meeting at the Presidential Palace here on Tuesday, after the ceremonial welcome was accorded on him.
The prime minister, who is on a two-day official visit beginning yesterday to Turkmenistan, his second after 2011, also expressed his appreciation to Berdimuhamedov for granting Petronas a greater role in the country’s oil and gas (O&G) sector.
Petronas has been participating in Turkmenistan’s O&G exploration industry since 1996, operating in the Caspian Sea.
“I must thank the President for wishing to see a greater and enhanced role for Petronas in Turkmenistan.
“We are committed to continuing to provide technical training for your students through the collaboration,” he said at a joint press conference with Berdimuhamedov after they witnessed the signing of four documents between representatives from Malaysia and Turkmenistan.
The documents were a Cultural Cooperation Agreement between Malaysia and Turkmenistan; Agreed Minute on the terms of reference for the Joint Committee on Trade between Malaysia and Turkmenistan; a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Education Cooperation; and a MoU on Long-term Cooperation between Petronas and the State Agency in Charge of Hydrocarbon.
Earlier, Najib, who is Finance Minister, and Berdimuhamedov signed a joint statement marking his official visit to the Central Asian republic.
The prime minister said he had a fruitful and warm meeting with Berdimuhamedov where they shared the same sentiments on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
“We both emphasised the importance of boosting the overall cooperation between Malaysia and Turkmenistan, which will contribute substantially to the strengthening of friendship and mutual understanding for the benefit of the people of our two countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, Berdimuhamedov expressed his appreciation for Malaysia’s contributions to the country, saying collaborations would benefit both nations.
“I hope we could continue to cooperate to provide a firm foundation in expanding our bilateral relations for the benefit of our countries and the people,” he said.
Malaysia and Turkmenistan have enjoyed close and warm relations since diplomatic relations were established in 1992. Turkmenistan is Malaysia’s third largest trading partner in the Central Asian region.
Total trade between the two countries in 2013 was recorded at US$33.13 million (RM106.2 million), compared to US$11.68 million in 2012 and US$24.27 million in 2011. /// Bernama
In addition to the Berrnama story, it is important to append that Prime Minister Najib said that Malaysia can be a gateway to ASEAN for Turkmenistan.
He thanked Turkmenistan for creating a ‘specific way for Petronas for move enhanced and meaningful role’ in Turkmenistan. “This will allow Petronas a greater role in the development of the oil and gas sector of Turkmenistan,” he said.
Earlier in the press conference, Berdymuhamedov said that there is mutual understanding on all the important issues between the two countries.
He said that during our talks we paid great attention to conflict prevention in Asia.
The Turkmen president said that the legal and physical conditions exist for building relations in a fair and balanced way.
He mentioned the UN, OIC and NAM as ready international platforms for interaction between the two countries in the multilateral format.
Berdymuhamedov described the presence of Petronas in Turkmenistan as a success story and said that it was one of the first foreign companies to start working here
Both sides underlined the importance of the shared spiritual values.
Although there was no mention of strategic partnership, it was evident from Tuesday talks that the Turkmen-Malaysian cooperation will raise itself to the level of strategic partnership in the foreseeable future.
The concept of strategic partnership defies any clear-cut description.
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘strategic’ as anything relating to long term interests and goals; a strategic partnership, therefore, would entail a framework to achieve shared long term interests and goals.
In a contextual sense, it can be argued that a certain level of reciprocated trust, and the mutually beneficial dependence that issues from that trust, will give credence to describe a partnership as strategic.
Strategic partnership also carries a certain aura of exclusivity.
When Prime Minister Najib said that Malaysia can serve as gateway to ASEAN for Turkmenistan, he was basically hinting at this kind of exclusivity that eventually leads to strategic partnership.
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Myanmar (Burma) is the current chair of ASEAN.
They are all economic dynamos on varying scales but there combined strength as a fast emerging market is what makes AWEAN region as an attractive partner for Turkmenistan.
High end fashions designed to cater to upwardly mobile, discerning and moderate societies, herbal based medicines, leather goods such as purses and gloves, hand knotted rugs, petrochemicals, and fertilizers are some of the things for which Turkmenistan can find a ready market in the ASEAN.
Likewise, sensibly priced quality goods from these countries can be of tremendous benefit to Turkmenistan.
Malaysia has rightfully chosen to stress the possibility of cooperation in Halal (kosher) foods. The consumers in Turkmenistan, as elsewhere in Central Asia, are now reading the labels carefully to make sure that they are eating Halal food. With prosperity trickling to the grassroots level, Central Asia is potentially a huge market for Halal foods – and Malaysia is one of the world leaders in Halal food products.
If Malaysia can be the gateway to ASEAN for Turkmenistan, Turkmenistan can be the gateway for Malaysia to the Central Asian markets. With its own interlocking trade ties across the region, Turkmenistan can play an important in distributing the Malaysian Halal foods in a wide territory.
The joint committee for promotion of mutual trade, for which the basic document was signed Tuesday, would be the vehicle for making all this possible.
Petronas, a Fortune 500 company, has done the heavy lifting to bring the bilateral partnership to this level. It literally jumped into the unknown waters when it acquired the first offshore block of Turkmenistan. It was a daring decision and there were times in the initial years when it seemed like a doomed project.
The foundation stone laying ceremony last month of the Kyanly petrochemicals plant, where the natural gas from Petronas PSA would be used as the raw material, was a heartwarming event for anyone familiar with the patience, hard work and relentless tenacity that went into make all this happen.
Some bumps will always remain there – that is inevitable when two fast moving and comprehensively evolving countries engage in broad based partnership. Nevertheless, the road from here to strategic partnership is clearly charted now.