In an exclusive interview with defensehere.com, the Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Merve Kavakcı, assessed the relationship in the field of defense industries between Turkey and Malaysia.
In the interview Her Excellency answered the following questions:
Defensehere.com: 1. How are the current relations between Turkey and Malaysia in the field of defense industries?
Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kavakcı: Malaysia is one of our closest friends in the region, with its developing economy, its dynamic position in the Islamic world, and the close friendship ties between our countries dates back to centuries.
Therefore, we have excellent relations with Malaysia in all fields. We elevated our relations to strategic cooperation and paved the way for closer cooperation in many areas during our President's visit to Malaysia in 2014, marking the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.
The cooperation based on mutual benefit in the field of defense industry and technology, in addition to defense in general, emerged in the forefront among the different strategic cooperation elements that exist between our countries.
During that period, the interest of our companies operating in the field of defense industries increased greatly in Malaysia and important projects have been implemented. For example, one of our companies manufactured several 8x8 armored combat vehicles for the Malaysian army and this project is still in progress. Another company delivered remote-controlled weapon systems.
The high-level and technical mutual visits have had a great impact on the progress of our defense industry cooperation. For example, defense industry companies from Turkey participated in the Defense Services Asia Exhibition (Kuala Lumpur) and the Lima exhibition (Langkawi), two of the most important arms and defense exhibitions organized in Asia.
Likewise, the Malaysian side also participated in the IDEF exhibitions and Turkish companies developed close cooperation with their Malaysian counterparts.
The exchange of 14 cooperation agreements between different prestigious defense companies from both countries, in the presence of the two leaders, during the visit of our President to Malaysia in December 2019, is an indication of the advanced level that our cooperation has reached in the field of defense industries.
The level we have reached in the field of defense industries, the remarkable decrease in our country's dependency on foreign countries and the respectable level that our country has reached in the field of science and technology, have increased Malaysia's interest and appreciation of Turkey.
We are now talking about Turkey as a country that has expanded its vision of the future to space and now has a national space program, instead of a dependent Turkey that reliant on foreign countries.
Defensehere.com: 2. What are the opportunities available to Turkish companies wishing to export to Malaysia?
Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kavakcı: Malaysia is a friendly Muslim country of great importance in Southeast Asia with its strategic geographic location, dynamic, open and strong economy as well as highly skilled workers. It is strategically located in the ASEAN region, which has a population of 650 million people and ASEAN has an important place in Malaysia’s international politics.
We believe that unfortunately the challenges facing the world today are numerous, complex and unpredictable. Pandemic, climate change, cybersecurity, food security, new technologies, the lack of clarity in the line between peace and war are among the examples of these challenges.
Bilateral and regional security issues hold an important place on Malaysia's agenda because of its strategic geographic location. The country is present in international missions as well as in the UNIFIL mission.
In this context, we realize that Malaysia, trusts and shows interest in the products of our country that has moved to the forefront in the field defense industries and has proven to be successful in the global market. Our companies are also very interested in Malaysia. Therefore, we can say that this communication and interaction is not temporary, but rather in progress.
Some tenders that have recently been opened, such as those for the purchase of UAVs, drones and armored 4x4 vehicles, as well as the purchase of advanced electronic software, have attracted the attention of our defense industry companies.
The date for receiving bids in line with these tenders has expired. The results will be announced soon after the evaluation process that is currently underway is completed. We are looking forward to the result. Our companies are also in touch with their Malaysian counterparts for the post-pandemic phase. And this vitality makes us happy.
Defensehere.com: 3. The prominent product of the Turkish defense industries in recent years has been UAVs/drones. At what degree is Malaysia interested in these Turkish drones?
Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kavakcı: The Malaysian defense authorities in general show great interest in high-tech and reliable defense industry products. There is a growing need for drones and UAVs in aviation around the world. In Turkey, studies concentrating on developing drone technologies are progressing intensively. Malaysia also closely follows armed and unarmed drones, which are among the distinctive products of the Turkish defense industry that uses the latest technologies.
Two of our companies have submitted their bids for the unarmed drone tender, which Malaysia recently announced, and the bidding period has expired. We are following up on the outcome of the tender, hoping that the selection will be in the favor of our companies.
Defensehere.com: 4. The topic of technology sharing/transfer within the scope of defense industry relations between Turkey and Malaysia is on the agenda as much as the topic of import and export. What do you say about this?
Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kavakcı: The topic of technology transfer within the scope of military and defense cooperation with Malaysia as a friendly country is definitely on our agenda. Because our accumulated knowledge backed by our experience in this field is constantly evolving.
In view of the cooperation projects in the field of defense industries that have been implemented with Malaysia, we are pleased to see that Turkish companies are working in coordination with the Ministry of National Defense and the Presidency of Defense Industries in Turkey in a manner that provides the highest levels of benefit to Malaysia.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, some of the cooperation terms that were exchanged between the defense industry companies of both countries during our President's visit to Malaysia in December 2019 discuss and include technology transfer as well.
Defensehere.com: 5. The partnership between Turkey and Malaysia within the framework of the national warplane project (TF-X), was on the agenda. What does the Malaysian side say about this partnership?
Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kavakcı: The CEO of Turkish Aerospace Inc., Mr. Temel Kotil visited the Malaysian Prime Minister at the time, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, at the Kuala Lumpur Summit held in December 2019 and offered cooperation and partnership in the national warplane project (TF-X). But as you know, Mahathir Mohamad's government fell in February 2020 and a new government was formed, but this topic may become one of the important projects between the two countries in the post-pandemic period.
Defensehere.com: 6. What kind of work does the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur do in the matter of developing relations in the field of defense industries between the two countries?
Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kavakcı: As an Embassy and mostly through our Military Attaché, we direct and guide Turkish companies that wish to develop joint ventures in the field of defense industry in Malaysia, as well as the companies that wish to participate in or bid on tenders, or search for local partners for that purpose.
We also coordinate their requests regarding visits or meetings with different defense industry companies and Malaysian official authorities, with the relevant authorities in Malaysia so that they can realize these visits.
We also include the developments in the Turkish defense industries and potential joint projects that can be achieved in partnership Malaysia on our agenda, and this sometimes can be done in the form of holding official meetings if needed.
For example, as a result of the efforts of our Embassy, we hosted a high-level delegation consisting of the Malaysian Minister of Defense, the Chief of the General Staff, the Commander of the Navy, the Commander of the Coast Guard and commanders from the Special Operations Directorate before the pandemic in December 2018. As a part of their visit, we arranged for them visits to the leading Turkish defense industry companies.
As a result of the positive impressions we reflected here, the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who visited Turkey in July 2019, visited our defense industry companies and received comprehensive information.
Also, as I mentioned before, Turkish defense industry companies held successive meetings with their Malaysian counterparts prior to the Kuala Lumpur Summit held in December 2019. We encouraged them to sign mutual goodwill agreements, and 14 agreements were signed between the Turkish and Malaysian companies in the presence of the leaders of both countries and currently we are following the process of implementing these agreements.
Defensehere.com: 7. Which Turkish defense industry companies have offices or representatives in Malaysia, and can you give brief information about the activities of these companies?
Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kavakcı: The well-established defense industry companies in our country continue to operate in Malaysia. Aselsan owns a company called "ASELSAN Malaysia Sdn Bhd" in Malaysia, and has as representatives who pursue various projects.
FNSS, which currently manufactures armored combat vehicles for the Malaysian Land Forces, has a project follow-up office in Pekan, where the manufacturing is taking place.
As for the Istanbul Maritime Company "İstanbul Denizcilik A.Ş", which has been operating through its regional office in Kuala Lumpur since 2017, it is in contact with the Malaysian Navy and Coast Guard commands to meet the needs for ship and boat construction and design projects.
Likewise, Havelsan has been in Malaysia since 2019.
Regardless of whether our companies have offices in Malaysia or not, we provide all kinds of support for their activities as the Embassy and will continue to do so.