Foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Turkey arrived in Pakistan to meet their Pakistani counterparts on 13 January in Islamabad as second trilateral cooperation meeting. They discussed issues regarding COVID-19 challenges, climate change, trilateral trade enhancement, peace and security, cultural cooperation, and strengthening diplomatic relations further. The first trilateral meeting was held in Baku in 2017. Both nations have enjoyed good diplomatic ties with Pakistan and supported Pakistan on its stance on Kashmir. Pakistan has also been supportive of both of the countries in their times of crisis. In the 2016 Turkish military coup, Pakistan pledged assistance to Turkey, and recently in the war against Armenia, Pakistan supported Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh, loud and clear.
Because of the common faith and religion, these countries have been close to each other from the time of their being. Turkey has deep cultural and economic ties with Pakistan and respects Pakistan on the movement led by Muslims (Khilafat Movement in support of the Ottoman Empire) in history. Pakistan was one of the first nations to recognize Azerbaijan after it came into existence in August 1991, shortly after the implosion of the Soviet Union. Pakistan considers Azerbaijan as a Muslim brotherly state like Turkey.
In the meeting held in Islamabad, Azerbaijan had been keen to enhance its trade and strategic relations with Pakistan. They both regard themselves as close friends; however, the trade between these two countries has not given much importance in terms of their trade volume, as we see. The bilateral trade between Baku and Islamabad is about $17 million, said Azeri Ambassador Ali Alizada. In the meeting with the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), he showed the deep economic interest of Azerbaijan to trade with Pakistan and Invested in Pakistan. He also encouraged Pakistani businessmen to invest and joint venturing in Azerbaijan. On the cultural level, Baku state university has a well-functioning department of the Urdu branch, which teaches Azeri students the national language of Pakistan. Furthermore, last year, in Pakistan, the Azeri news agency was launched, which shows the coherence of the bilateral relationship. Azerbaijan also showed interest in the military equipment of Pakistan and to buy JF-17 from Pakistan.
Moreover, Pakistan’s exports to Azerbaijan were $16.04 million and $796 thousand worth of good imports. To enhance this volume, Azerbaijan, including Turkey, has shown deep interest in trilateral cooperation. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan is also a reliable partner of China in the Belt and Road Initiative and also benefits from the CPEC project in Pakistan, as the latter has invited Azeris to invest in Pakistan. The meeting has its importance due to the Foreign minister of Azerbaijan has visited Islamabad after a decade.
Concerning Turkey, Pakistan has always been close to her. Both have always been supportive of each other and enjoy a close cultural, economic, and high level of diplomatic relations. In early 2020, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visited Pakistan and also addressed the joint session of the Parliament. With the meeting of his Pakistani counterpart, Turkey has pledged to strengthen its cultural and economic relations further, not to mention the close military cooperation between the countries. Erdogan also pledged to the trade amplification to $5 billion in 5 years. Although Turkish companies have invested $5 billion in Pakistan, they are fervent to do more.
Concurrently, in 2019, Pakistan added Turkey into a visa-free travel list for the purpose of the trade, business, and tourism flow. Both of the countries are also considering signing an agreement on dual nationality in which both citizens can have the citizenship of the other country at the same time.
In the realm of defense, Pakistan Turkey High-Level Military Dialogue Group (HLMDG) held a meeting on 24 December last year in which they discussed their military ties and further enchantment of the military exchange programs. Turkey is also the second-largest arms supplier of Pakistan after China and has Pakistani soldiers training in Turkey. Pakistan encouraged Ankara to invest in export-oriented industries in Pakistan under the CPEC project and joint venturing in the Pakistani textile industry.
Moreover, in terms of current trade, Pakistan exports $295 millions worth of good to Ankara, mainly cotton, plastics, textile articles, clothing, among other things, whereas Turkey exports Pakistan $376 million worth of Turkish products, which are machinery, nuclear reactors, iron and steel, aircraft and spacecraft among other goods. The recent rift with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has pushed Pakistan closer to Ankara as Ankara and Riyadh are at odds with each other on Middle East issues, and the Syrian Crisis ending up supporting the other sides. Turkish relations also deteriorated with Riyadh after the killing of renowned journalist Jammal Khashoggi.
Arguably, it seems to be abandoned from the West. Turkey has to find support in the other sides of the continent to be backed for its assertiveness in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions. Turkey and Azerbaijan are staunch supporters of each other no matter what because of their deep cultural and socio-economic ties. At the same time, Turkey-Pakistan-Azerbaijan’s cooperation would seem to be welcomed by China and Russia paradoxically.
The trade and investment programs of these countries would encourage economic opportunities in the region vis-a-vis other countries like Afghanistan and Iran. These countries also condemned India for its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and also encouraged peace, security, and stable Afghanistan, which is always thanked by Pakistan. Because of the geostrategic location of Pakistan, these countries have been emerging to show interest in the investment in Pakistan, which would benefit not only Pakistan but also the region. These three countries have the potential to use each other as the market for their goods and would be very lucrative in terms of exchange programs for the students and professionals. This trilateral cooperation would not only benefit Pakistan but also helps Ankara to exert its influence in the South Asian region and vis-versa.
For the investment, peace and stable region are the preconditions that ought to be met for any country’s development and prosperity. These trilateral cooperation meetings should include other countries in their net so that the mutual cooperative strategy is devised and equal economic and cultural opportunities are provided to the people of each country. If the countries which are at odds with each other would work on the mutual common ground other under this net, then the conflicting issue, they can also discover the proper mode of understanding of the particular conflicting issue and other member countries must encourage the dialogue between them, in good faith, to achieve the peace and security in the region.