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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Development of Pakistan-Turkey military relations; Obstacles and challenges

Holding a joint military exercise, an arms deal with Islamabad and a memorandum of understanding to enhance military co-operation are part of a new dimension in the development of Turkish-Pakistani relations.

During a visit to Islamabad, the commander of the Turkish Army signed an agreement with his Pakistani counterpart, General Qamar Javid Bajwa, to increase the level of military cooperation. The Ankara media did not mention the exact dimensions of the agreement, but apparently the only part of the agreement that can be covered by the media is holding joint military training courses and coordinating military exercises.

Pakistani President Aref Alavi presented him with the Pakistani Government Medal of Honor during a meeting with General Omid Dondar, Commander of the Turkish Army.

According to the Pakistani president, the award was given in recognition of General Dondar’s meritorious service in strengthening Pakistan-Turkey relations.

Over the past few years, Erdogan’s government has paid special attention to developing relations with Pakistan. Holding a joint military exercise, an arms deal with Islamabad and a memorandum of understanding to enhance military co-operation are part of a new dimension in the development of Turkish-Pakistani relations.

Joint exercise of Turkey and Pakistan

The efforts of Erdogan’s team prompted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to support the Republic of Azerbaijan during the recent Karabakh war and to increase cooperation between the Ankara-Baku-Islamabad triangle by supporting Baku. Recently, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov announced that the special forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan will hold a joint military exercise hosted by Baku in September.

Of course, Pakistan has already participated in a joint naval exercise off the coast of Cyprus at Turkey’s request, and Islamabad is a de facto supporter of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, and Turkish Cypriots can only travel to Turkey and Pakistan with their passports.

Sale of Turkish helicopters to Pakistan and US red lights

In 2018, Turkey signed an agreement with Pakistan under which 30 ATAK military helicopters were sold to Pakistan. But the US handbrake prevented the deal. Because the Pentagon announced that the Turkish helicopter engine was produced under US license and was not allowed to be exported. The Turkish defense industry also announced that it has been working on a domestic helicopter engine production project for the past two years and that this problem will be resolved soon.

U.S. defense analysts say the Pentagon’s decision has nothing to do with the issue of the engine license, and that one of Washington’s offensive actions against Ankara is over its purchase of the S400 missile system from Russia.

Another dimension is the US approach to Pakistan. The Americans did not give any excuse for exporting Turkish helicopters to the Philippines, but in the case of Pakistan, they raised the issue of the Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and the issue of engine licenses.

Turkey has been trying to sell more weapons to Islamabad since US military support for Pakistan was cut off and the sale of four frigates, 30 helicopters, dozens of personnel carriers and military equipment, the sale of eavesdropping equipment and security equipment needed by the Border Guards and demining regimes were other items of Turkey’s defense-security exports to Pakistan. Of course, the import of defense items and weapons from China, Russia and Italy to Pakistan is more than the amount purchased from Turkey.

Pakistan ranks 11th in the world in the list of countries importing weapons and defense and military supplies, and according to reports by the Swedish Institute (SIPRI), between 2014 and 2019, an average of 76% of Pakistan’s military imports came from China.

The result is that Turkey has to cross the barrier of a rival that is quietly and without fuss, one of the major exporters of the defense industry.

Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan

In recent years, Ankara-Islamabad relations have been growing, but now it seems that Turkey is more motivated to develop relations. Because Turkey’s decision to continue its military presence in Afghanistan is directly related to Pakistan’s close and distant allies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the AKP, said at a recent NATO summit in Brussels that he needed the support of Pakistan and Hungary to continue his presence in Afghanistan. But political analysts say such a thing is impossible.

The former Turkish minister’s remarks seem true, and a significant portion of Afghanistan’s political leaders and military commanders do not have a positive view of Pakistan. But continued co-operation between the Turkish intelligence services and the Pakistani intelligence service will help Turkey to have a better position in Afghanistan, while at the same time facilitating the Taliban, mediated and led by Pakistan.

Of course, it is important to note that despite all the efforts of Erdogan-Imran Khan and the constant Qureshi-Cavusoglu meetings, the Turkey-Pakistan relationship is still not one that has developed in all areas.

For example, the volume of Turkish-Pakistani trade over the past few years has always been between $ 600 million and $ 800 million, reaching $ 1 billion for the first time in 2020, which is not a not a significant figure Pakistan’s population of 220 million and market capacity.

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