Turkey and Pakistan initiated security discussions in Istanbul on Tuesday, bringing together scholars and practitioners from both countries to focus on regional issues, policies and economic cooperation.
In what is described as the first Turkey-Pakistan security dialogue, professor Rabia Akhtar from the University of Lahore said the participants elaborated on how the regional security architecture shaped the foreign policies of the two countries.
“This is the first such opportunity to listen firsthand from scholars of the two countries, to share our views candidly, which was intellectually a very, very engaging exercise,” said Akhtar, who is director of the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research at the university.
Pakistani journalist Ejaz Haider said it is important for Turkey and Pakistan to have a strategic dialogue “because there are a number of issues which are common to Pakistan and Turkey.”
“For instance, take the example of Syria, and you can have a comparison with what Pakistan has gone through in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that Turkey and Pakistan’s relationships with the U.S. were also an issue.
“It is important to listen to Turkish scholars and share our findings as how we look at the regional security issues as far as Pakistan is concerned,” he added.
The dialogue between Turkish and Pakistani scholars and practitioners will continue with different institutions in Istanbul until Friday, said Akhtar.
‘Second-generation middle-power country’
Hızır Tarık Oğuzlu, a political science teacher at Istanbul Aydın University, said Turkey has pursued a “much more dimensional foreign policy” since early 2000.
By strengthening its relations with Russia, he said, Turkey enjoyed “strategic autonomy,” but Ankara never said “goodbye” to the West. Oğuzlu stressed that Turkey is a NATO member, is trying to become part of the European Union and has more than half of its trade with the European bloc.
He described Turkey as a “second-generation middle-power country unlike traditional middle powers.”
“Now, in the Western world-led international liberal order, sensitivities of non-Western countries are being taken into consideration more frequently,” he said.
Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, professor of politics and international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Pakistan, said the South Asian region “did not enjoy the end of the Cold War … We remained in that tension.”
He said there were four different eras of containment, including the U.S.’ “Pivot Asia” policy to contain China; the Quad, which Beijing calls the Asian version of NATO; the containment of Russia, which hit back in 2008, 2014 and now in 2022; and the containment of Qatar in 2017.
“India tried to contain and isolate Pakistan, but it failed,” he said, adding the region is witnessing an “arms race.”
Besides the strategic competition between Pakistan and India, he said there are positive trends happening through regional connectivity initiatives, including the Economic Cooperation Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and its flagship program the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
On whether Turkey and Pakistan can cooperate in nuclear tech, the Pakistani academic said that Ankara cannot do so “because it is part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and it can benefit from the Nuclear Suppliers Group.”
He lauded Turkey for its know-how in the “handling of nuclear weapons,” calling it “important.”
“Turkey was part of solving the Cuban missile crisis issue in the 1960s,” he recalled.
He said Ankara was facing sub-conventional challenges “not military, neither nuclear.”