Tripartite military-industrial complex between Islamabad, Baku, Ankara on cards
Azeri envoy envisions establishing tri-nation defence industrial cooperation in spheres ranging from military-technical to science, research, production, sales
LAHORE: A transnational military-industrial complex between Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, recently hinted at by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, may be moving towards realisation faster than expected.
Earlier on Nov 30, the three countries held their first trilateral talks in Baku. The three countries have all had defence related agreements in the past with each other, but are now looking towards creating a trilateral format of defence cooperation, which could prove vital given the strategic location each country has in its own region.
Already, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has encouraged Pakistan to use the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which was built on the basis of the Azerbaijani-Georgian-Turkish interstate agreement.
It is also worth noting that while Turkey is already an ardent ally of Azerbaijan, given their history and involvement with Armenia, Pakistan’s addition to the mix will also aid Baku in their struggle. This could also mean Turkey and Azerbaijan reciprocating with increased support to Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute.
Speaking exclusively to Pakistan Today, Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Ali Alizade said: “Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Turkey are brotherly countries and already have a strategic partnership on a bilateral level. Traditional friendly relations between our countries based on confidence, trust and respect have given us the confidence to take this to a trilateral level.”
This sentiment was also expressed by Cavusoglu, who said that the partnership between the three countries was ideal, explaining, “We do not compete with each other in this sphere, but complement each other.”
In his turn, Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that the three countries closely cooperate in the defence industry in a bilateral format and stressed the need for a tripartite format of cooperation in that sphere. “We can establish joint ventures for the production of defence products and develop cooperation in this sphere in a trilateral format,” he added.
Fuad Shahbazov, Expert-Advisor at Foreign Policy Analysis Department Centre for Strategic Studies under the President of Azerbaijan, explained the significance of the meeting to Pakistan Today, saying, “Each country is a key player in their own region. Hence, the trilateral cooperation in regional security and economic cooperation were on the top agenda during the ministerial meeting.”
Meanwhile, it seems that all three countries want to get started with the military-industrial complex. First suggested by Khawaja Asif at the Baku talks, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan Saeed Khan Mohmand told Pakistan Today, “Our three countries already have excellent defence cooperation bilaterally; however, by pooling resources, taking advantage of each other’s relative expertise and engaging in joint ventures, we can significantly boost our defence cooperation.”
Ambassador Alizade, while praising the existing relations between the countries also seemed hopeful for the future, which could greatly help Azerbaijan’s nascent stage defence industry.
“I think we can establish and enhance defence industrial cooperation at a trilateral level, in spheres ranging from military-technical to science, research, design, production, and sales,” he told Pakistan Today.
Fuad Shahbazov also predicted that the joint military-industrial complex was not far away, and that several high-level meetings of Azerbaijan and Pakistan military delegations both in Baku and Islamabad had taken place in recent years.
“Since its establishment, Pakistan has been able to build effective military industry throughout these years, and now pretends to be one of the biggest weapons exporters in South Asia. Baku has been seeking ways of expanding military cooperation with Pakistan, particularly over the last several years,” he said.
While much is being made of the possibility of this transnational trio introducing a new factor to the defence markets globally and of their respective regions, another thing to arise from the talks between the countries is the restoration of air transport on a bilateral and trilateral basis, upon which broad agreement has already been reached.
Ambassador Saeed told Pakistan Today that the decision had been taken in view of the growing trade and economic relations, and the three sides agreed on increasing connectivity by rail and road and making concerted efforts to restore air link between Baku and Islamabad—suspended since 2016 due to financial non-viability.
The signs were also encouraging from Baku as ambassador Alizade said, “Visa procedures have been simplified for our Pakistani brothers and sisters from January of this year, and now every Pakistani citizen can get Azerbaijan visa online.”
This re-linkage and the involvement of Turkey could be a game changer, as according to Fuad Shahbazov, in the case of Pakistan-Azerbaijan bilateral relations, military cooperation occupies a very significant place.
Commenting on the involvement of Turkey, Naveed Ahmad, a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa, said, “In the evolving scheme of things, Turkey will of course act as a senior partner, with excess to western technology and better and diverse domestic industrial base. The three countries have significantly identical military hardware needs, and joint projects make absolute economic sense, even without further export to other clients for mid-tier, affordable technology coming with no-strings-attached.”
It is also worth noting that Baku and Islamabad signed a military cooperation agreement in 2014 during the 5th meeting of the Azerbaijan-Pakistan Working Group on Military Cooperation in Islamabad.
Pakistan has trained around 100 units of military personnel in Azerbaijan over the past decade, whilst Turkey also provided training to Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officers in upgrading its F-16 fleet.
Overall, if push does come to shove, any trilateral defence cooperation between the three countries could prove to be invaluable, as it would enter all three into different market regions, yet leaving them inextricably involved.