The growing defence ties between Turkey and Pakistan: Should India be worried?

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month paid a state visit to Pakistan, signing a host of defence agreements with his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan. Notably, Turkey is now Pakistan’s second-biggest arms supplier after China

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Pakistan on his two-day visit earlier this month. He was the only foreign leader to address a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament – the National Assembly and the Senate- for the fourth time during his presidency. Overall, the visit has cemented relations between Ankara and Islamabad like perhaps never before.

President Erdogan was accompanied by a crowd of businessmen and top officials during his visit, who had comprehensive trade talks with their Pakistani counterparts to finalise strategic economic framework and free trade agreements to further boost the current trade volume of $900 million. 

In April 2019, a direct Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) was inaugurated to facilitate linking Iran, Central Asia, Turkey and Europe through international road to ease customs control. 

Notably, the Turkish consulate in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi would be Turkey’s largest facility anywhere in the world. 

Besides, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had offered Turkey to join projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Having an annual military exercise and air force exchange program since 2000. Ankara and Islamabad have a wide engagement spread for the following years, with plans of joint research programs, military training, and Pakistan’s acquisition of several defence products from Turkey depicts their keen interest in advancing their technological capabilities to further bonds that would enable them to police the national and regional threats. 

Significantly, with the signing of these new defence deals, Turkey has become Pakistan’s second-biggest arms supplier after China. 

“For Turkey and Pakistan, it’s a moment to celebrate their defence cooperation. We have been very keen to look forward to other defence and other trade agreements. We have always been committed to support Pakistan in their worst time and continue helping them do much better than before,” said Sabri, a former director at the Institute of Turkish Studies in an interview with kranti news

With Turkey scaling new horizons, Pakistan has emerged to partner with it. 

 Ankara and Islamabad have geared up to take the bilateral and security cooperation ahead in recent years. In July 2018, Ankara exported four corvettes to the Pakistan Navy, after it won a multi-billion-dollar tender. The deal was dubbed as the largest-ever defence deal made in the Turkish defence history by then defence minister. Whereas in later in October 2018, the Pakistan Navy commissioned the largest warship, a 17,000-ton fleet tanker built in collaboration with the Turkish defence contractor STM, at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. 

The deep-rooted friendship is traced back to 1988 when the Pakistan-Turkey Military Consultative Group was established to foster military relations between the two countries.

However, the scope of their cooperation grew and was named under the institutional mechanism of High-Level Military Dialogue Group (HLMDG), a reason behind Ankara buying MFI-17 Super Mushshak aircraft from Pakistan and helping to upgrade three Pakistani submarines. 

Additionally, Pakistan has sealed a deal with Turkey for purchasing their locally-manufactured T-129 Advanced Attack and Reconnaissance Helicopter (ATAK), which could soon be part of Pakistan’s military fleet. However, this could materialize only after US authorities approve a license of defence manufacturer, Turkish Aerospace Industries, to export the helicopter to Pakistan. 

John White, a London-based leading defence analyst, told kranti newshttp://www.krantinews.co.in “Pakistan’s relations with Turkey have been enhanced during PM Imran Khan’s tenure.”

White further noted that “during 2000 US’ embargo of Pakistan, the country’s Air Force had suffered many difficulties in maintaining and operating its F-16s-fighter jets and C-130s military transport aircraft.” 

“Surprisingly, Turkey stepped forward to fill in the vacuum and helped Pakistan’s Air Force not only to upgrade its US-made equipment but also provided every spare part to keep its war and logistic squadrons running,” the London-based expert said.

“With continued US pressure, Ankara supported Pakistan during that era,” he added.

“After the signing of series of historic defence pacts between the two countries, Turkey has become the second-largest arms exporter to Pakistan after China,” noted White.

Towards the foreign policy end, Pakistan and Turkey are nearly on the same wavelength to support each other’s stance whether it’s Turkey supporting Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) or backing Pakistan at the United Nation’s General Assembly on the Kashmir dispute.

It remained evident through President Erdogan’s concerns expressed over the deteriorating conditions in Jammu and Kashmir, with the further mentioning of worsened conditions due to taking of “unilateral steps during his address to the Pakistan parliament. This was followed by a joint declaration of the Pakistan-Turkey High-level Strategic Council, which also made a ‘specific reference’ to the Kashmir issue.

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