Turkey-Pakistan defence cooperation is getting stronger. During the recent two-day visit of Pakistan Prime Minister to Turkey, Sharif and Erdogan jointly inaugurated a corvette warship PNS 'Khyber' built by Turkey for the Pakistan Navy under a strategic cooperation project between the two countries
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The ‘Jihadi Triplet’ - Imran Khan (Pakistan), Mahathir Mohamad (Malaysia) and Recep Erdogan (Turkey) have been in the news in recent years; two are out of power though Mahathir wanted to become prime minister again at 97 years of age. Erdogan has successfully ruined the secular Turkey established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and still dreams of establishing an Islamic Caliphate centred on Turkey with him as its Caliph. Imran’s cries against the US and the Pakistani army have subsided to occasional sobbing and watching the English cricket team playing matches in Pakistan after 17 years.
Turkey has been openly supporting Pakistan over Kashmir against India in regional and international forums, and Turkish NGOs, including ones like Hayder Foundation, floated by Diyanet (Turkey’s Religious Directorate) promoting Erdogan’s radical agenda, have been actively supporting separatists in J&K especially after India abrogated Article 370, as well as anti-India activities in states like Jharkhand and Bihar. These NGO’s are members of the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World ‘IDSB’, which has also recruited Islamic NGOs from India as members.
Sharif called for the need to enhance trade between Pakistan and Turkey, including making a pitch to Turkish entrepreneurs
But this is about the Turkey-Pakistan defence cooperation which is getting stronger, in addition to Erdogan’s plans to send jihadis from his country to Jammu and Kashmir, which has been covered elsewhere in these columns. The first corvette warship for the Pakistan Navy PNS ‘Babar’ built by Turkey was launched in Istanbul in August 2021 while the foundation stone for the second ship PNS ‘Badr’ was laid in Karachi in May 2022. Under the bi-lateral project, Turkey was tasked to build four corvette warships for the Pakistan Navy; two in Istanbul and two in Karachi.
News reports of November 27, 2022 reveal that during the recent two-day visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Turkey, Sharif and Erdogan jointly inaugurated a corvette warship PNS ‘Khyber’ built by Turkey for the Pakistan Navy under a strategic cooperation project between the two countries. Sharif said that the fourth warship would be delivered in February 2025. These warships built by Turkey for the Pakistan Navy have a length of 99 metres, a displacement capacity of 2,400 tonnes, and a speed of 29 nautical miles.
In backdrop of the economies of both Pakistan and Turkey beingin shambles presently, Sharif called for the need to enhance trade between Pakistan and Turkey, including making a pitch to Turkish entrepreneurs to invest in a 10,000 megawatt solar power project in Pakistan.
Turkey has invited Pakistan to join the Turkish 5th generation TF-X fighter jet programme
Pakistan Navy chief Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi said the inclusion of the warships built by ASFAT Inc (Turkish state-owned defence contractor firm) will be a huge boost to Pakistan’s defence. He said, "Weakness invites aggression, but strength keeps your enemy at bay. So, the inclusion of the MILGEM-class ships will significantly strengthen the Pakistan Navy in a very big way." He further said that these new warships are very capable platforms, equipped with surface-to-surface and surface-to-air weapon systems.
Referring to the defence cooperation between the two countries, Niazi told media, "Both militaries are continuously exchanging knowledge and expertise. Construction and upgradation projects such as 17,000 tonne Fleet Tanker, PN-MILGEM and Agosta 90B submarines, Super Mushak trainers, UAV drones, and so on are evidence of this strong friendship and military cooperation."
According to news reports of November 28, 2022, Turkey has invited Pakistan to join the Turkish 5thgeneration TF-X fighter jet program. Earlier, Pakistan had scrapped its fifth generation fighter program, Project ‘Azm’ because of lack of infrastructure and resources to develop homegrown fighter jets. Turkey had displayed the scale model of its 5th generation fighter jet at Pakistan’s Defence Expo IDEAS 2022. According to Temel Kotil, CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries, Turkey plans to build the 5th generation fighter jet by 2025. Notably, the Pakistan Air Force has also been offered the Chinese 5th generation fighter jet ‘J-31’. However, Pakistan has not responded to the Chinese offer till now.
Turkey and Pakistan both openly supported Azerbaijan in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh
Turkey and Pakistan both openly supported Azerbaijan in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and would have sent terrorist groups and regulars disguised as fighters for fighting in support of Azerbaijan. It may be recalled that during the 10th edition of the trilateral Economic Cooperation Organisation’s (ECO) Transport and Communications Ministers Meeting concluded in Istanbul on December 15, 2020, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran had agreed to resume the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) cargo train service to boost economic ties between the three countries. This railway covers 6,500 km between Turkey and Pakistan via Iran; covering 1,950 km in Turkey; 2,600 km in Iran and 1,990 km in Pakistan.
Erdogan had the occasion to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit at Bali in November 2022. India needs to send a firm signal to Erdogan and his administration that their defence cooperation with Pakistan would be taken in the stride but any anti-India activities with or without Pakistani collusion would seriously undermine India-Turkey relations.