Erdogan triggering new alignments to achieve his aims

February 28, 2021
Turkey’s ambitious President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s ambitious President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

NEW DELHI — New alignments are emerging within a rapidly evolving geopolitical context in the Mediterranean and South Asia, with Turkey’s ambitious President Recep Tayyip Erdogan forging a strategic alliance with Pakistan in order to realize many of his aims.

His move, however, has thrown up a counterweight with Greek analysts calling for an Indo-Greek alliance, such that India and Greece formulate a new doctrine of cooperation that could counter the Turkish President’s dreams.

Speaking in a webinar titled “Indo-Greek Cooperation: Countering the Turkey-Pakistan Nexus” organized by Red Lantern Analytica, Andreas Mountzouroulias, editor-in-chief, Pentapostagma, Greece, called for an Indo-Greek alliance in the wake of Turkey supplying nuclear missile technology to Pakistan. He argued that to counter this alliance, India and Greece should consider joint production of weapons.

In addition, Jonathan Spyer of Jerusalem Post also explained why the alliance between Pakistan and Turkey is coming into being in a 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.

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.

Both Turkey and Pakistan had indicated the ties would develop in every sphere with Erdogan, stressing during the last visit for the HLSCC meeting, that Turkey will extend all help in Pakistan’s socio-economic development, according to Pakistan’s leading newspaper Dawn in a February 2020 report.

Dawn reported that 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.” The paper also quoted Erdogan as saying that defense cooperation was the “most dynamic element” of the bilateral cooperation.

In light of this statement and growing synergy in defense, the two nations are bringing about new dynamics in their respective area of influence. They have already shown interest in arms purchasing while also holding joint drills.

A recent joint military exercise dubbed “Ataturk XI-2021,” involving Turkish and Pakistani Special Forces, was held in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which borders Afghanistan. It is the latest manifestation of an emergent strategic alliance of these two countries, said the Jerusalem Post report.

Pakistan is in the process of purchasing four Turkish-built MILGEM corvette ships from the Turkish state-owned defense contractor ASFAT. It has also placed an order for 30 T-129 ATAK helicopters. The total cost of orders placed by Pakistan for the purchase of Turkish weapons systems is now in excess of $3 billion.

The report also indicated the growing closeness was also reflected in the diplomatic sphere. Pakistani senior officials have expressed support for Turkey in its disputes over gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean. A series of joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean, involving the navies of both countries and including violations of Cypriot and Greek territorial waters and airspace, took place over the last year. Similar joint exercises have also been held in the Indian Ocean.

Turkey, in turn, in a development causing concern in New Delhi, has begun to support Pakistani claims in Kashmir. Erdogan said in February 2020 that the issue was as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan. Referencing the events of the Turkish War of Independence, Erdogan said, “And now, we feel the same about Kashmir today. It was Çanakkale yesterday and Kashmir today; there is no difference between the two.” Turkey raised the issue of Kashmir at the UN General Assembly in September 2019, shifting from a policy of non-interference on an issue that India regards as an internal matter.

The strategic partnership between Ankara and Islamabad is also raising concerns in the nuclear realm. Pakistan is a nuclear power. Erdogan, in a September 2019 speech quoted by Reuters, said, “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us] we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept.” He continued, “We have Israel nearby, as almost neighbors. They scare [other nations] by possessing these. No one can touch them.”

Turkey's plan to rope in Pakistan in suspected development of atomic weapons shows aggressive intent as Ankara is already protected by a nuclear umbrella on account of its membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Suspicions about Pakistan's covert support for Turkish nukes has been aroused by a recent meeting of the Turkey-Pakistan High-Level Military Dialogue Group (HLMDG). The assemblage took place on Dec. 22-23. Pakistan's Defense Secretary Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Mian Muhammad Hilal Hussain led the delegation from Islamabad, while Deputy Chief of Turkish Army Gen, Selcuk Bayraktaroglu headed the Turkish delegation, said an article published by the website

There were other indications that the delegation held discussions about nuclear delivery systems. The visitors from Islamabad met top Turkish Army generals and bureaucrats dealing with missile production and aerial know-how. The report also indicated that transfer of nuclear missile technology to Turkey could have far-reaching ramifications for regional stability and security.

In addition Economic Times in an opinion piece had stated, “Though Turkey strongly pursues its nuclear program citing the need for energy, its real intention is to acquire nuclear weapons which can enhance its bargaining capability. It is in this context, to beef up his image, Erdogan has resorted to acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Erdogan, with these provocative moves, hopes to emerge as a pre-eminent leader. Turkey is banking on Pakistan to make it go nuclear. Both Turkey and Pakistan have a large standing army, with considerable air and naval assets.

In addition, Turkey has been supporting terror groups in various parts of the Middle East. Hamas operates its cyber-warfare from Turkey, which also supports the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has been a key ally of Turkey in Syria, Libya and other Middle Eastern hotspots.

Both the countries have been leading smear campaigns against Europe for being anti-Islamic. Erdogan has been in the forefront of leveling personal charges against French President Emmanuel Macron. Similarly, when UAE decided to establish diplomatic relationship with Israel, Turkey campaigned against UAE and its allies, while Pakistan did not take a clear stand.

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 and on the Kashmir issue.

With the new axis furrowing their own path, while also supporting each other in their bid to achieve their aims, it will be adding a new dimension to the complicated geopolitical global chessboard with each region already having their unique problems. This is sure to kindle another round of regional problems that could develop into a global issue, threatening peace and stability. — Agencies

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