Pakistani-Turkish strategic military cooperation could portend nuclear alliance

The chief of the Turkish Land Forces, General Ümit Dündar, met with Pakistan’s General Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of army staff, at the General Headquarters of the Pakistani army in Rawalpindi on July 5. The meeting centered on increasing military cooperation between the two nations, which has been advancing qualitatively of late.

On the same day Pakistani President Arif Alvi presented the Turkish commander with a prestigious military award he had also been received by an honor guard at the military headquarters. His visit was treated as an important one.

The ceremony at which he was awarded the honor was attended by several ranking civilian and military officials, including the Turkish ambassador to Pakistan, Ihsan Mustafa Yurdakul. Dündar was hailed as a “sincere and close friend of Pakistan who played a role in the strengthening of Pakistan-Turkish ties.”

At the General Headquarters meeting, Pakistan’s General Bajwa told his Turkish counterpart: “We highly value our brotherly relations with Turkey, which are deeply rooted in history and entrenched in our cultural and religious affinities.”

The visit was not a routine state-to-state affair; it signalled a special military alliance in the making.

Last month Turkey began the construction of the last of four Milgem-class anti-submarine warfare corvettes it contracted to build for the Pakistani navy, half to be built in each nation.

In recent days Turkey has hosted Pakistani military forces in both special operations and air combat exercises, Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021, respectively. In the second Turkish and Pakistani multirole combat aircraft engaged in mock encounters with MiG and Sukhoi aircraft provided by Azerbaijan and Rafale fighter jets supplied by Qatar. MiGs are the mainstay of the Indian air force, Sukhois of the Armenian, and Rafales soon to be so for both the Indian and Greek air forces.

Pakistan’s participation in the current Sea Breeze military exercise in the Black Sea for the first time is presumably attributable to Turkey’s invitation.

The Pakistani military has also been intensifying cooperation with Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan of late. Pakistani chief of army staff Bajwa visited Azerbaijan on June 20. Three days earlier Pakistani Air Vice Marshal Tariq Zia met with the deputy defense minister of Azerbaijan, Air Force Commander Ramiz Tahirov. On June 9 Pakistani Army Military Operations Director-General Nauman Zakaria met with Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces General Staff Deputy Chief Ayaz Hasanov in Baku.

The evolving Pakistani-Turkish and Pakistani-Turkish-Azerbaijani military alliance is a formidable one. Pakistan and Turkey alone have a combined population of over 300 million. They are among the ten countries with the largest air forces in the world measured by total amount of military aircraft. Jointly they have some 2,500 military planes and helicopters.

What is most alarming about the progression of their bilateral military alliance is the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power and there are indications that Turkey aspires to be one. In a speech in 2019 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was recorded stating: “Several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us that] we can’t have them. This I cannot accept. There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them.”

Just as the U.S. and NATO station B61 tactical nuclear weapons in Turkey, so could Pakistan store nuclear weapons of its own there. And Islamabad could collaborate with its strategic military ally to assist it in acquiring nuclear weapons of its own in more than one manner.