Larger conflict looming: Pakistan’s chief of army staff to visit Azerbaijan
Today’s Azerbaijani news reports that General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Army Staff of Pakistan, will visit Azerbaijan on June 20. He will lead a delegation to meet with representatives of the host nation’s defense ministry and military officialdom.
Details are scarce, but news reports state that the Pakistani general will discuss expanding military cooperation between the two states, which has already grown substantially in recent years.
Both nations are NATO partners: Azerbaijan is a member of the Partnership for Peace and Pakistan of Partners Across the Globe. Azerbaijan joined NATO’s North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1992, making it one of if not the first of what are now forty NATO partners around the world.
On June 17 Pakistani Air Vice Marshal Tariq Zia met with the deputy defense minister of Azerbaijan, Air Force Commander Ramiz Tahirov, to discuss strengthening cooperation between the two nations’ air forces. The Azerbaijani defense chief thanked his military counterpart for training Azerbaijani pilots at the Pakistan Air Force Academy, and was paraphrased as saying, “the development of cooperation in the military aviation sphere and ties between the Air Forces contribute to further strengthening the Azerbaijani and Pakistani armies’ combat capability.”
It is to be assumed that Pakistani-trained pilots participated in last year’s 44-day war of aggression waged by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two sides lauded what is identified as a strategic partnership.
A report of the results of the meeting in Trend News said:
“During the 44-day war with Armenia in 2020, Pakistan was among the first countries voicing political support for Azerbaijan. Pakistan also supports Azerbaijan in the restoration of the country’s liberated territories.”
On June 9 a meeting occurred in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku between Pakistani Army Military Operations Director-General Nauman Zakaria and Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces General Staff Deputy Chief Ayaz Hasanov during which the sides deliberated on “ensuring operational interoperability between the various types of troops and units of the two countries’ armies, planning and conducting joint operational exercises and other aspects of mutual interest.”
The Azerbaijani Defense Minstry reported that among other issues discussed were joint military exercises.
The following day the Pakistani military delegation met with Azerbaijani Deputy Defence Minister Ramiz Tahirov and the latter expressed gratitude for the training of Azerbaijani pilots at the Pakistan Air Force Academy. The two discussed further military cooperation in various spheres that contributes to “the further strengthening of the Azerbaijani and Pakistani armies’ combat capability.” Plans to expand cooperation between the two countries’ air forces were agreed upon.
At the same time an Azerbaijani delegation led by Naval Forces Commander Subhan Bakirov visited Pakistan to upgrade cooperation between the navies of the two nations as well as “regional and domestic security.” The navy chief met with Pakistani army head General Qamar Javed Bajwa (who will be in Baku within hours) at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on June 8 to discuss defense and training issues as well as what was described as the regional security situation.
It was reported that the Pakistani army chief spoke of “brotherly relations” with Azerbaijan and offered extensive assistance in the military realm. And he also praised the Azerbaijani armed forces’ military prowess (after last year’s war against Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijan’s naval commander thanked Pakistan for its military support.
So this month the two nations have held meetings to increase military cooperation with their land, air and naval forces.
Pakistan was the second nation to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991; only Turkey preceded it. To this day Islamabad refuses to recognize Armenia until it acknowledges Nagorno-Karabakh – all of Nagorno-Karabakh – as Azerbaijani territory.
(Information in the next paragraph is from Dr. Nazrin Alizada’s Azerbaijan-Pakistan Military Relations, April 13, 2021.)
The two nations signed an agreement on Cooperation in Military and Defence Fields in 2002, and further military cooperation was initiated when President Pervez Musharraf and his Chief of the General Staff Aziz Khan visited the country in 2004, when Pakistani Defense Minister Syed Ather Ali visited in 2010, and when then-former Prime Minister Nevaz Sharif visited in 2016. After the last visit it was announced that the two nations would conduct joint military exercises and that Baku was interested in obtaining Pakistani F-17 Thunder fourth-generation multi-role combat aircraft.
It is uncertain how much assistance Pakistan supplied Azerbaijan in last year’s war. Credible sources state Pakistani “volunteers” fought alongside Azerbaijani troops and that some are buried in a “martyrs cemetery” in Azerbaijan.
What is certain is that Azerbaijan, already backed to the hilt by its “one nation, two states” sponsor Turkey and now by Pakistan as well, is emboldened to further acts of military aggression in the Caucasus. And not just the Caucasus. Iran would be well-advised to monitor the emergence of the Ankara-Baku-Islamabad triad. Russia, too, of course, if Russia can be persuaded to pay attention to anything concerning its pan-Turkic allies.