- Deepening ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan has pluses, but also an underside
Pakistan has hosted a trilateral summit with Turkey and Azerbaijan, which culminated on Tuesday with the meeting of the three Foreign Ministers, the host Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Mevlut Davotoglu of Turkey and Jeyhun Bayramov of Azerbaijan. The summit reached an agreement on an increase in defence ties. The last time Pakistan and Turkey were in a multilateral defence arrangement with Turkey was when they were both members of CENTO along with Iran. Cento was a sort of ‘joint’ in the ring of alliances the USSR threw around the USSR, with turkey being the easternmost member of NATO, and Pakistan the northernmost and westernmost of SEATO. SEATO collapsed after the 1971 War, after the creation of Bangladesh meant that Pakistan was out of South-East Asia, as did CENTO. Turkish and Pakistani relations continued, as they had since they had since the creation of Pakistan.
This was a summit of states all of which have territorial disputes of one kind or another, and all with recent eruptions. Turkey has seen activity recently which saw renewed tensions in its dispute with Greece in the Aegean, which include, but is not limited to, the division of Cyprus. Azerbaijan has a dispute with neighbouring Armenia with the Nagorno-Karabakh region, an imbroglio dating back to cavalier boundary-drawing before the USSR broke up, over which there was another war only recently. Pakistan has a dispute with India over Kashmir, which only recently was worsened by India, not just by its increased aggression on the LoC, but also because it had changed the status of the disputed territory. Turkey has taken a special interest in Azerbaijan, just as it has with the Central Asian Republics, and now it wants Pakistan to buttress this arrangement.
It is also useful to see this development in the light of the global maneouvring between China and the USA. Turkey is still a NATO member, but it h-has been moving away from the USA recently and closer to China. China has frictions with Russia, which backed Armenia recently, and thus grew close to Azerbaijan. Pakistan, of course, has a historic relationship with China. While the deepening of relations is useful, Pakistan must weigh whether it brings it added support on the Kashmir cause, and whether it does indeed bring about additional trade, before deciding whether these ties are beneficial.