Turkey has emerged as one of Pakistan’s biggest arms exporter after China. Turkish President Erdogan recently expressed unrelenting support to Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute and has been assisting Islamabad economically, politically and militarily. Should India be concerned with the growing ties between Pakistan and Turkey?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a two-day visit to Pakistan with an agenda to further strengthen the relations between the two countries. Addressing the joint session of Pakistan’s parliament for the fourth time in his tenure, Erdogan arguably made the bond between Islamabad and Ankara stronger than ever before.
Apart from the 13 bilateral deals signed that include one military deal, President Erdogan and Prime Minister Imran Khan held talks to improve the strategic economic framework which could boost the current trade that is capped at $900 million.
Pakistan and Turkey have a long-standing annual military exercise since 2000 which now, under Erdogan and Khan, looks to move ahead. In 2018, Pakistan received four corvettes from Ankara under the largest-ever defence deal in Turkish history.
Following that, in October of the same year, a 17,000-ton fleet tanker was built by the Pakistan Navy in collaboration with the Turkish defence forces. A locally-manufactured T-129 ATAK (Advanced Attack and Reconnaissance Helicopter) has been purchased by Pakistan under the new deal which could soon be featured alongside the Pakistani fleet. The deal has now made Turkey the second biggest arms supplier for Pakistan after China.
Reports claim that the meet between Erdogan and Khan also ensured that both the countries are on the same page and are ready to support each other in FATF or in the United Nations General Assembly.
“He came, he saw and conquered”, an Urdu daily carried the headline on its front page praising the Turkish President. The article following the headline preempts whether the signed deals include a deal that would host Pakistani Jihadi commanders in Ankara.
It is not a secret that since assuming office, Erdogan has come under international pressure for providing refuge and even hosting several jihadi organizations of Pakistan.
A week before Erdogan’s visit to Pakistan, on February 6th, Ehsanullah Eshan took to twitter to announce that he has been out of the custody of Pakistani intelligence agencies. A former spokesperson of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Ehsanullah also claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Malala Yousufzai.
The interesting part, however, is his admission that he is residing in Turkey along with his family. When a Pakistani daily asked him about his escape from high-security custody, he refused to reveal any details.
Even though Erdogan has repeatedly said that he and his country supports Pakistan in fighting terror, the fact that hundreds of terror accused seek refuge in Turkey enables anyone from the outside to doubt the credibility of their fight against terror.
On 14 February 2020, President Erdogan went onto say that “Kashmir is as important to us as it is to our friend Pakistan” and has supported Islamabad on the issue of Kashmir from the platform of United Nations as well. He also made it a point to grieve about the suffering of Kashmiri people under the Indian State. This has, quite naturally, left New Delhi fuming.
In the wake of the repeated statement by President Erdogan, India cut its defence exports to Turkey in October last year. The Indian Government also called off the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Turkey.
With the new defence deal between Turkey and Pakistan and Islamabad offering Ankara to be a part of the CPEC project, should New Delhi be concerned by the forthcoming presence of Turkish organizations and armed-forced near the Indian border?