Turkey and Pakistan’s decision to work closely in Afghanistan has raised speculation that it could lead to new alignments in the Mediterranean region and South Asia, which could have implications for India.
The alliance, Turkey claims, is aimed at economic revival of war-ravaged Afghanistan, where the former maintains over 800 troops, some even guarding the airport in Kabul. Ankara and Islamabad are also reviving cross-country railways for cargo movement via Iran’s Zahedan.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s moves have been the focus of a recent article in a leading daily in Saudi Arabia. An article titled ‘Erdogan triggering new alignments to achieve his aims’, published in Saudi Gazette (believed to be backed by the Saudi State), has claimed that Erdogan’s moves have thrown up a counterweight, with some Greek analysts calling for an Indo-Greek alliance to balance Turkey-Pakistan ambitions.
In the article, the Gazette goes on to quote Jerusalem Post, which recently published an article on the Pakistan-Turkey alliance and the rapidly shifting strategic landscape.
“The old post-Cold War US-led security architecture and the assumptions that surrounded it can no longer be relied upon. In the major events of the region over the last decade — the Syrian civil war, and the competition over gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean — the US has been notably absent as it recalibrates its priorities and modes of engagement,” the article said.
“As a result of this absence, new connections and new power nexuses are emerging. From this point of view, the coming together of two states seeking major revisions of the current power balance in their respective neighborhoods, in their favor, makes logical sense,” it said.
Analysts say Turkey wants to emerge as the leader of the Islamic World. This would challenge Saudi Arabia’s preeminence. Riyadh, over the last few years, has developed strong defence and economic ties with India, much to the discomfort of Pakistan.
People following Turkish foreign policy told ET that Erdogan has assured his country will extend all help in Pakistan’s socio-economic development. Erdogan had said, “Turkey is ready to provide all support in transport, energy, tourism, healthcare, education, and law enforcement, which will help in socio-economic development of Pakistan.”
Erdogan also said that defence cooperation is the “most dynamic element” of bilateral cooperation.
In light of this statement and growing synergy in defence, the two nations are bringing about new dynamics in their respective areas of influence. They have already shown interest in arms purchase while also holding joint drills, the Gazette reported.
Pakistan is in the process of purchasing four Turkish-built MILGEM corvette ships from state-owned defense contractor ASFAT. It has also placed an order for 30 T-129 ATAK helicopters. The total cost of orders for purchase of Turkish weapons systems is now in excess of $3 billion.
Pakistan has supported Turkey in its disputes over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean region. A series of joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean took place last year. Similar joint exercises have also been held in the Indian Ocean.
Turkey, in turn, is backing Pakistan’s claims in Kashmir. Erdogan had said in February last year that the issue was as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan. Ankara, however, welcomed the recent ceasefire arrangement between India and Pakistan.
There are also allegations of a nuclear axis between Turkey and Pakistan. Both nations have large standing armies and considerable military assets. “Pakistan’s participation in the Armenia-Azerbaijan clash, despite reservations at home, is a clear sign of its alliance with Turkey is growing stronger. And, Turkey has been quick to please its strategic partner by supporting it at the FATF meeting…,” according to the Gazette report.