The development of military relations between Turkey and Pakistan, obstacles and challenges

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The Turkish army chief, during a visit to Islamabad, signed an agreement with his Pakistani counterpart, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to increase the level of military cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan.

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The media in Ankara did not mention the exact dimensions of the agreement,

But it seems that the only predictable part of the agreement is holding joint military training and coordinating military exercises.

Pakistani President Arif Alvi also handed the Medal of Honor from the Pakistani government to Major General Umit Dundar, commander of the Turkish army.

According to the Pakistani President, the award was given in recognition of General Dundar’s commendable service in strengthening Pakistan-Turkey relations.

Over the past few years, the Turkish government has paid special attention to developing relations with Pakistan.

Conducting a joint military exercise, an arms deal with Islamabad, and a memorandum of understanding to enhance military cooperation are part of the new dimensions of developing Turkish-Pakistani relations.

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A joint military exercise between Turkey and Pakistan

Turkish efforts 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 through Baku support.

Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov recently announced that the special forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan will hold joint military exercises in September hosted by Baku.

Of course, Pakistan has already participated in a joint naval exercise off the coast of Cyprus at Turkey’s request.

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.

Selling Turkish Helicopters to Pakistan

In 2018, Turkey signed an agreement with Pakistan under which 30 ATAK military helicopters were sold to Pakistan.

But the American handbrake prevented the deal. Because the Pentagon announced that the Turkish helicopter engine was produced with an American license and was not allowed to be exported.

The Turkish defense industry also announced that it has been working on a domestic project to produce helicopter engines for the past two years and that this problem will be resolved soon.

US defense analysts say the Pentagon’s decision has nothing to do with the issue of engine licenses, and that these US actions against Ankara are related to the purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia.

The other dimension is the US approach to Pakistan.

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The Americans made no excuse to export Turkish helicopters to the Philippines, but in the case of Pakistan, they raised the issue of CAATSA and engine licensing.

Since the cessation of US military support to Pakistan, Turkey has sought to sell more arms to Islamabad.

Selling four frigates, 30 helicopters, dozens of personnel carriers and military equipment, wiretapping and security equipment needed by border regiments and demining.

Pakistan ranks 11th in the world in the list of countries importing arms, defense and military supplies.

According to SIPRI reports, between 2014 and 2019, an average of 76% of Pakistan’s military imports came from China.

As a result, Turkey must overcome the barrier of a competitor who is quietly and unequivocally one of the largest exporters of the defense industry.

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Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan

In recent years, relations between Ankara and Islamabad have grown.

But now Turkey appears to be more enthusiastic about developing relations.

Because Turkey’s decision to continue its military presence in Afghanistan is directly linked to Pakistan’s close and distant allies.

At the recent NATO summit in Brussels, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he needs the support of Pakistan and Hungary to stay in Afghanistan.

But political analysts say such a thing is impossible.

Former Turkish Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin, who has been working at NATO headquarters in Afghanistan for many years and has a thorough understanding of the country’s political and security equations, comments on Erdogan’s proposal:

“I very much hope that this proposal is just a mistake. The news and interpretation are wrong. Most of the hardline Taliban leaders are already in Pakistan.

It seems fundamentally impossible that the issue of participation in airport operations with Pakistan will be accepted by the civilian government of Afghanistan.

Because most Afghans believe that their government has been fighting the Pakistani Taliban for years.

Pakistan’s political support is very important and should be for peace and stability in the region.

However, efforts to establish an airport are wrong and it is unlikely that this proposal will be accepted in Afghanistan.”

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The statements of the former Turkish minister seem correct, and a large number of Afghan political and military leaders do not look positively at Pakistan.

But the ongoing cooperation between the Turkish intelligence service and the Pakistani intelligence service will help Turkey get a better position in Afghanistan.

While facilitating the Taliban movement, mediated and led by Pakistan.

Of course, it is important to note that despite all the efforts made by Erdogan and Imran Khan and the constant meetings between Qureshi and Çavuşoğlu, the relationship between Turkey and Pakistan has not developed in all areas.

For example, Turkey-Pakistan trade volume over the past few years has always been between $600 million and $800 million.

Reaching $1 billion for the first time in 2020.

Considering Pakistan’s 220 million population and market capacity. That is not a significant figure.

Turkey hopes to boost its trade relations with Pakistan by linking railway networks with Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But evidence shows that developing defense and security ties is currently more important for both countries.