Security analysts and politicians say Turkey and Pakistan have strong military co-operation and many areas of mutual interest.
Turkey and Pakistan are expanding ties through joint military exercises and defence production, building on a long tradition of military co-operation.
Pakistan’s defence minister, Syed Naveed Qamar, visited Ankara last week, where he discussed with his Turkish counterparts the possibilities of local production, co-production, and transfer of technology for defence-related products according to the needs of the two countries.
Qamar referred to a recent agreement to build a fleet tanker for Pakistan’s navy by Turkish defence firm STM, describing it as “a best model for our future defence co-operation,” the Pakistan Embassy said in a statement.
Likewise, Ankara views a project to upgrade F-16 fighter jets of Pakistan undertaken by Turkish Aerospace Industries as a symbol of defence co-operation.
Turkey and Pakistan also decided to raise the level of the High Level Military Dialogue Group, an institutional mechanism that was created in 2002 between the two countries general staffs and has had eight meetings so far.
This week, the two countries began joint military exercises to contribute to defence co-operation and exchange of experience and information on military equipment, according to a statement by the Turkish general staff.
Five Turkish F-16s are participating in the Indus Viper-2013 exercise at the Mushaf Air Base in Punjab province in Pakistan for the first time since 2008. The joint exercise runs from March 4th to March 18th.
Another combined naval military exercise code-named Aman-13 is also being hosted by Pakistan in the Arabian Sea, with participation of Turkish frigate TCG Gokova (F-496), one underwater defence, an underwater assault team and two staff officers.
Naval forces from Pakistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Britain and the US are taking part in the four-day exercise that ends Friday (March 8th).
The aim of the naval exercise is “to show a common determination against terrorist and criminal events in a naval operating area” and “to contribute to international peace and stability,” according to the general staff.
For Aytekin Geleri, terror analyst at the Institute of Strategic Thinking, an Ankara-based think tank, while trying to broaden defence industry links with Pakistan, Turkey, as a NATO member, also has “certain sensitivities” that need to be taken into consideration by Islamabad.
“It’s important for Pakistan to respect and closely follow international operations with regard to al-Qaeda and other terror groups,” he told SES Türkiye, describing the extended co-operation as “the best way to meet common security needs.”
President Abdullah Gul, while meeting with Qamar last week, said, “the whole world recognises the sacrifices of the people and troops of Pakistan in fighting terrorism and extremism,” referring to the regional situation.
Geleri said Ankara is keen to extend military projects with Pakistan as the two countries traditionally had close ties.
“However, this co-operation should be in a way that doesn’t damage Turkey’s membership obligations with NATO,” he added.
Celalettin Yavuz, a Middle East security analyst at the Ankara-based Centre for International Relations and Strategic Analysis, believes that the Pakistani-Turkish defence relationship “is a special one marked by an immense reservoir of goodwill on both sides.”
“The thing is our areas of interests are not crossing each other even though there are some topics where the countries don’t follow the same policy… But they have never been against each other,” he told SES Türkiye.
Even though in the past Turkey offered help to Pakistan to boost anti-terrorism co-operation with neighbouring Afghanistan and other regional countries, Yavuz said Ankara tries to avoid being “a hard-power” in the region.
Speaking to SES Türkiye, Burhan Kayaturk, an AKP deputy and chairman of the Turkey-Pakistan Friendship Group in parliament, highlighted the “strong co-operation potential” between the two countries’ defence systems.
Turkey, he added, “has never intended to implement hard power” in the region. Instead it is promoting leadership through “soft power” in diplomacy and the economy.
“However, we can’t stay calm when terrorists are targeting us, our people, our partners in the region. Pakistan and Turkey has more potential to work together and address the regional challenges,” he added.
On March 5th, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement to condemn the weekend’s bomb attack in Karachi, Pakistan, that left at least 45 people dead and many others wounded.
“We strongly condemn such attacks which are targeting the security and stability of Pakistan, wish God’s mercy upon those killed, and offer condolences to the families of the victims, and wish speedy recovery to those wounded,” the statement said.
The ministry also underlined that general elections would strengthen Pakistan’s democracy, domestic peace and stability.