Turkey-Pakistan Ties: India’s Loss is China’s Gain

Turkey-Pakistan Ties: India’s Loss is China’s Gain

In pursuit of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's concept of strategic depth, Turkey has been reaching out to rising powers in Asia while at the same time offering itself as a mediator in disputes in its near abroad. As part of this approach, Turkey is leveraging its longstanding ties with Pakistan and its stature as one of the few industrialized countries in the Muslim world to create a diplomatic role for itself in Afghanistan. But in a sign that Ankara's geopolitical outreach cannot transcend regional fault lines, Turkey kept India out of the January 2010 tripartite summit on Afghanistan at Pakistan's behest. In the face of India's diplomatic protest, Turkey subsequently sought to downplay the move, but it may nevertheless be indicative of a larger realignment in the region, with the Pakistan-Turkey relationship serving as an incubator.

Turkey was one of Pakistan's most-consistent allies throughout the Cold War, both ideologically and militarily. Military-to-military contacts remain as strong as ever, with the two countries now seriously exploring the coproduction of weapons ranging from armored vehicles to new-generation corvettes. Importantly, both sides also wish to boost defense exports to Islamic countries as an alternative to "expensive" Western weapons. However, given that Gulf Cooperation Council countries have recently placed substantial orders for American weapons, more likely candidates would be Egypt and Iran -- with the latter increasingly wooed by Ankara even at the cost of Turkey's long-standing ties with Israel.

A strong defense relationship with Pakistan gives Ankara the confidence to continue its troop presence in Afghanistan. While Turkey likes to describe its military contingent in Afghanistan as the only foreign force acceptable to the Afghan populace, it nevertheless understands that the well-being of its security presence may hinge on Pakistani support, given the latter's influence with the Taliban.

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