Regional Realignments around Pakistan

0
121

Iqbal Khan

Speaking at a joint press conference after the meeting, titled ‘Islamabad Declaration’, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated the brotherly relations of Pakistan with Turkey and Azerbaijan, saying the three countries had resolved to enhance cooperation amongst them.Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan are members of Economic Cooperation Organization—an Asian political and economic intergovernmental organization which was founded in 1985 in Tehran by the leaders of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. In 1992, in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet Union, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and six former Soviet Republics, namely, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan also joined the Organization, forming one of the biggest regional blocs in Asia and beyond. ECO provides a platform to discuss ways to improve development and promote trade and investment opportunities.

Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan have resolved to enhance cooperation on mutual support. Three countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in diverse fields and people-to-people ties, as well as continue to support each other on all issues involving the three countries’ national interests. The understanding was reached at the second Pakistan-Turkey-Azerbaijan trilateral meeting, hosted by Islamabad. It is indeed a good rebuke to NarendraModi’s tall talk of isolating Pakistan in the region and beyond.

Azerbaijan–Turkey relations have always been strong with the two often being described as “one nation with two states”, due to both being Turkic countries and having strong cultural, historical and ethnic ties. Likewise Turkey-Pakistan relationship is multidimensional enterprise. Turkey has played key role for bringing Pakistan and Azerbaijan closer, leading to formation of a well-knit trio.

Pakistan and Azerbaijan have a relationship that has a long history based on mutuality of respect and mutuality of trust, one which is “also bound by a common faith, a common desire to progress and develop as strong, independent, and peace-loving nations.” Pakistan was among the first countries which recognised Azerbaijan as an independent state and also played an instrumental role in the adoption of various UN resolutions at the Security Council which created a legal framework for Azerbaijan’s stance on the issue of Nagorno Karabakh.

Turkey was the one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence in June 4, 1918 (Treaty of Batum) and the first to recognize Azerbaijan’s restoration to independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, Turkey has been a staunch supporter of Azerbaijan in its efforts to consolidate its independence, preserve its territorial integrity and realize its economic potential arising from the rich natural resources of the Caspian Sea. The two countries share an 11-kilometer border, with the Aras River separating Turkey from the Nakhchivan exclave of Azerbaijan.

The three foreign ministers exchanged views on trade, investment, people-to-people relations, security and other subjects. They also discussed how to deal with common challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and Islamophobia, as well as human rights violations against Muslim minorities across the region.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have been the vocal supporters of Pakistan on the longstanding issue of Kashmir dispute with India. Both these countries are also part of the OIC Contact Group on Kashmir which time to time issues strong statements on Kashmir.People of Pakistan and Kashmir remain “profoundly grateful” to Turkey and Azerbaijan for their principled and steadfast support on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Visiting foreign ministers were briefed about the evolving situation and the “dire situation of human rights violations” in Indian-occupied Kashmir, including the prolonged military siege and “deliberate, unilateral and illegal actions” to make demographic changes in the valley.

Pakistan has always shown resolute support for efforts towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue on the basis of “political equality of the two communities”. Pakistan hasalso consistently called for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.Turkish and Azerbaijani ministers were also briefed on “state-sponsored terrorism in our region in an attempt to destabilise Pakistan”, as well as the anti-Pakistan Indian disinformation campaign exposed by EU Disinfo Lab.

Pakistan and Azerbaijan both have ambitious regional integration visions. Although Pakistan hasn’t formally announced it, Islamabad aspires to expand CPEC along the northern, western, and southern directions via the CPEC+ paradigm for turning the South Asian country into the global pivot state. Azerbaijan formally announced its intention late last year to create a regional integration platform between itself and its five neighbours.Trilateral meeting discussed the pairing of Pakistan’s CPEC+ vision with Azerbaijan’s regional integration platform. If that happens, then Pakistan-Azerbaijan Strategic Partnership could move forward at a good pace.

Pakistan and Turkey have agreed to pursue a joint strategy at the international level on matters of mutual interests, in order to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries.The two foreign ministers expressed concerns over the rising trend of Islamophobia and stressed for joint efforts to protect the Islamic values. Both the foreign ministers also emphasised the need for implementation of the 71-point Pakistan-Turkey Strategic Economic Framework at the earliest.

Moreover, Pakistan and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding for promotion of cooperation in the education sector.Pakistan has launched an e-visa facility for the Turkish businessmen in order to bolster trade relations between the two countries. The two countries have Pak-Turkey Strategic Economic Framework aimed to boost trade and commercial ties. The bilateral trade between the two countries stands at around $800 million which according to the Turkish foreign minister did not reflect the close ties between the two countries.

The Azerbaijani foreign minister said the people and government of Azerbaijan were thankful to Pakistan for standing alongside with their country in their time of need. He said people waved the Pakistani and Turkish flags during the victory parade in Baku.Political World Order and International System are passing through interesting times. Ensuing stresses are causing cracks in previously existing interstate alliances and breeding new alignments.

Countries of our region are relocating themselves to new slots of global chessboard as suited to serve their respective national interests. Evolving new alliances in our region have prompted Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan to upgrade their relationship.

Morphing of the two overlapping bilateral relationships into a vibrant trilateral is an encouraging development. This is not against any other country.

Writer is a freelance contributor; email: iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com