Jun 24 2019

Turkey and Pakistan boost military, strategic cooperation - analysis

Regional geopolitics are pushing Turkey and Pakistan into a deeper alliance, with Ankara emerging as Pakistan’s second leading arms supplier and looking toward greater economic engagement, an analysis for Amman-based Al Bawaba news said on Sunday.

Turkey and Pakistan have signed nearly 60 defence cooperation agreements in recent years and their military consultation group, created in 2003, has been upgraded to a high-level cooperation council. Turkey has become Pakistan’s second biggest arms supplier, after China, and their improved ties are the result of several broader developments.

“The regional geopolitical scenario is getting worse and Turkey faces new risks on its borders due to the ongoing Syrian civil war and Arab-world frictions with Iran and Qatar,” geopolitical analyst Sabena Siddiqui wrote for Al Bawaba. “Second, U.S. relations with both Turkey and Pakistan have been extremely erratic over the past year.”

Ankara and Washington disagree over Syria and Turkey’s looming S-400 deal, while the war and instability in Afghanistan have made Pakistan-U.S. ties unpredictable, according to Siddiqui.

Also, Ankara is expected to play an important role in resolving the Afghanistan conundrum at the upcoming Turkey-Pakistan-Afghanistan summit, and Turkey’s troubled relations with the European Union mean it could use more friends.

“Preferring ambiguous neutrality to taking sides, Ankara has maintained balance in its foreign policy and extending military ties with Pakistan increases its leverage in Asia even as the European Union (EU) is trying to assess a new direction,” said Siddiqui.

Turkey, meanwhile, has shown itself as Islamabad’s most dependable ally, according to Siddiqui. It was the only country that backed Pakistan in its effort to join the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and when it was put on the ‘grey list’ by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) last year.

Turkish military attaches from each branch of its armed forces have been posted in the Pakistani embassy in Ankara, and Turkey helped upgrade a batch of F-16 fighter jets for the Pakistan Air Force, manufacturing engines as well as spare parts, according to Siddiqui.

In 2018, Islamabad bought four MILGEM Ada corvettes from Ankara and 30 Turkish ATAK helicopters. The corvette sale was the largest single export in the history of Turkey’s defence industry, according to then-National Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli, while the ATAK deal was worth $1.5 billion.

Analyst and former Pakistani air force pilot Kaiser Tufail said last year that Turkey and Pakistan could soon join forces to develop and co-produce their own JF-17 fighter jet, after which they could go in together on a stealth fighter.

The two are already collaborating on drone production, while Turkish and Pakistani troops held joint counter-terror exercises with Uzbek forces in Uzbekistan in April. Over the last decade, nearly 1,500 Pakistani military officers have received training in Turkey, Siddiqui said.

Siddiqui also sees the two developing greater economic engagement.

“A direct Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad trade corridor was inaugurated last year in April. Linking up Iran, Central Asia, Turkey and Europe, the trade possibilities with this fast-track route are endless,” she said.