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Defense breakthrough in Turkish-Pakistani partnership

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Pakistan and Turkey share a common fate thanks to their strong cultural, historical and military relations. Since the treaty of friendship and cooperation signed on April 2, 1954, the two countries have gradually improved their ties. There are several areas where they provide sufficient support to one another. In the Kashmir conflict, for example, Turkey sides with Pakistan, recognizing Jammu and Kashmir as part of Pakistan. In the Northern Cyprus issue, as another example, Pakistan stands with Turkey. The two nations also share a similar agenda when it comes to the war on terror and both countries are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

However, above all, the defense issue, which is one of the most significant areas in today’s global developments, tops the bilateral partnership. Previously, Turkey purchased several arms including minor aerial weapons and components from Pakistan. The countries' air forces signed a deal on the purchase of Pakistan’s PAC MFI-17 Mushshak, a license-built fixed-gear basic trainer aircraft, to help train new pilots and support the recovery of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the aftermath of pilot shortages after the Gülenist Terror Group’s (FETÖ) deadly coup attempt in 2016.


In July 2018, Pakistan's navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class (National Ship) ships from Turkey, which is Turkey's largest single military export deal worth $1.5 billion. Pakistan’s Navy Commander Adm. Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cut the first metal plate of the first of the four MILGEM Ada-class corvettes during a ceremony held on Sept. 29, 2019.

Over the last decade, nearly 1,500 Pakistani military officers have received training in Turkey. The two are already collaborating on drone production, while Turkish and Pakistani troops held joint counterterrorism exercises with Uzbek forces in Uzbekistan in April 2019. Both could soon join forces to develop and co-produce their own fighter jet after which they could go in together on a stealth fighter. Turkish military attaches from each branch of its armed forces have been posted in the Pakistani Embassy in Ankara while Turkey also provides training to Pakistani air force officers in upgrading the F-16 fleet.

Pakistan and Turkey are working together in construction including the development of fifth-generation air force fighter jets. Turkey helped upgrade a batch of F-16 fighter jets for the Pakistan Air Force, manufacturing engines as well as spare parts.



Both countries have come even closer militarily owing to the security situation of neighboring countries and due to the instability in ties with the United States recently. In November 2019, navies of both countries participated in drills in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) also secured an agreement with Pakistan’s premier engineering school, the National University of Science and Technology, for research and development cooperation and faculty and student exchanges. TAI also agreed to set up an office at Pakistan’s National Science and Technology Park, a section of which will focus on defense projects, including cyberwarfare, drones and radar technology.

The economic numbers
The current trade volume between Pakistan and Turkey is $900 million (TL 11.92 billion). The two countries are engaged in the Strategic Economic Framework (SEF) that aims to boost the trade volume between the countries. Turkish arms transfers to Pakistan totaled $112 million from 2016 to 2019, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). During this period, Turkey was Pakistan's fourth-largest source of arms, surpassing the U.S., while Pakistan was Turkey’s third-largest arms export market. These numbers will grow as Turkey fulfills recent orders from Pakistan exceeding $3 billion, including the purchase of four MILGEM Ada-class corvettes, two of which will be built in Pakistan, and 30 Turkey-made T-129 Tactical Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopters (ATAK).

Pakistani and Turkish aspirations for defense were both born from bitter experiences of being sanctioned by the West. The continued Western interference also drives and problematizes Pakistan-Turkey defense cooperation. The T-129 helicopter deal has been in limbo as the U.S. Congress has blocked export licenses to Turkey for its American-British-designed LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines, which are mounted in pairs on each helicopter. Turkey is therefore working on developing a replacement for the T800-4A, namely the TEI TS1400, which is currently in the prototype stage years away from service.

While China will remain Pakistan’s main source of imported defense hardware, Turkey too provides an alternative to increasingly inaccessible U.S. and French equipment, and modestly eases Islamabad’s dependence on Beijing. The T-129s are intended to replace Pakistan’s aging fleet of U.S. AH-1F Cobras. Pakistan has also purchased Turkish armaments for its JF-17 fighter jet, which is jointly manufactured with China.

In a nutshell, having already enjoyed strong bonds resulting from their historical journey, Turkey and Pakistan have managed to further deepen their cooperation, particularly via the defense issue. This is promising in terms of the future of bilateral relations between the two countries.

 

dBSPL

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The lands of today's Pakistan and the cherished nation that formed it have been the eastern border and unshakable stronghold of our common civilization for centuries in all its glory. We know that strong Pakistan means strong Islamic geography, strong sovereignty, history has taught us this.

Pakistan and Turkey are two countries whose interests are parallel to each other to the maximum extent, not only in terms of historical and cultural ties, but also in terms of risks/opportunities in today's and future socio-political and regional geopolitics. Whatever the terms and conditions, whatever the political climate in the world, the interests of these two countries can never conflict. Many developments in recent years reveal a strong will to put this historical friendship on stronger military, economic and political foundations, again. It's up to us whether we use this potential or not, and we have a responsibility to future generations for what we do (and don't do) today.
 

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