Since the onset of the Global War on Terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks, cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey has centered on three issues: counterterrorism, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and long‐term defense cooperation. Both Pakistan and Turkey are acutely aware of terrorism—domestic and international—as each continues to deal with their own secessionist movements; the Balochis in Pakistan and the Kurds in Turkey. Pakistan and Turkey, alongside Afghanistan, have participated in the Pakistan‐Afghanistan‐Turkey Trilateral Summits to work on shared military exercises and share intelligence information on terrorist activities.
Though not yet agreed upon, Pakistani and Turkish defense and government officials have held high‐level discussions about manufacturing warplanes and missiles in Pakistan. In 2018, Pakistan collaborated with a Turkish defense company to build the largest warship ever constructed at the Karachi Shipyard. Notably, in the aftermath of the December 2020 Turkey‐Pakistan‐High‐Level Dialogue Group session between Pakistan’s Defense Secretary and Turkey’s Army General, Turkey has been reported to seek Pakistan’s support in pursuing and developing a nuclear weapons program. In addition to arms manufacturing, both countries have also been collaborating on technology—the Turkish Aerospace Industries has created a research and development section at Pakistan’s National University of Science and Technology that will focus on cybersecurity, drone surveillance, and radar technology.
Pakistan and Turkey have also routinely claimed to fight for the rights of Muslims across the world, and, thus, have often supported each other’s territorial disputes. For instance, Pakistan is one of the only countries in the world that does not recognize Armenia as a sovereign state. Pakistan also acknowledges Turkey‐ally Azerbaijan’s claims over the disputed territory of Nagorno‐Karabakh. In fact, in January of 2021, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Turkey, and Azerbaijan held talks and issued a joint statement to support their claims to Kashmir, Cyprus, and Nagorno‐Karabakh respectively. Prime Minister Khan has also maintained Pakistan’s stance on the Kurds, backing Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria. Turkey, in turn, supports Kashmir openly, much to India’s ire, as it maintains that Kashmir is an internal matter, and views Erdogan’s support as a “gross interference.” In September 2020, in his address to the UN General Assembly, President Erdoğan won praise from Prime Minister Khan after calling Kashmir a “burning issue” a year after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the Indian‐administered Kashmir’s special status. Both countries have overtly supported Palestinians, routinely declaring in the UN and other international forums that neither support any political settlement that does not support the Palestinian people.
Prioritizing Economic Ties
Although defense cooperation and diplomatic support over territorial disputes improve Pakistan’s regional security status, they do not help resolve Pakistan’s core dilemma: a dwindling economy. Pakistan’s economic woes have dominated Prime Minister Khan’s domestic and foreign policies; woes which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no shortage of critics of Khan’s economic policies and plans, and calls for reform keep getting louder. As such, part of Prime Minister Khan’s quest to improve Pakistan’s economy has been to focus on its neighbors and regional partners—and, recently, Turkey has played a key role in this plan.