A group of scholars and practitioners from Turkiye and Pakistan deliberated on regional security issues Tuesday in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul.
In what is described as the first Turkiye-Pakistan security dialogue, Professor Rabia Akhtar from the University of Lahore said the participants discussed 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 Turkiye and Pakistan to have strategic dialogue “because there are a number of issues which are common to Pakistan and Turkiye.”
“For instance, take the example of Syria, and you can have a comparison with what Pakistan has gone through in Afghanistan,” he said, adding Turkiye and Pakistan’s relationships with the US was another issue.
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“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.
Turkiye is a ‘second generation middle-power country’
Hizir Tarik Oguzlu, a political science teacher at Istanbul Aydin University, said Turkiye has pursued a “much more dimensional foreign policy” since early 2000.
By strengthening its relations with Russia, he said, Turkiye enjoyed “strategic autonomy,” but Turkiye never said “goodbye to West. It is a member of NATO, is trying to become part of the EU and has more than half of its trade with this European bloc.”
He described Turkiye 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-e-Azam University, said the South Asian region “did not enjoy the end of the Cold War…We remained in that tension.”
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He said there were four different eras of containment, including the US’ “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 Organisation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and its flagship programme the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
On whether Turkiye and Pakistan can cooperate in nuclear tech, the 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 Turkiye for its know-how of the “handling of nuclear weapons,” calling it “important.”
“Turkiye was part of solving the Cuban missile crisis issue in the 1960s,” he recalled.
He said Turkiye was facing sub-conventional challenges “not military, neither nuclear.”
‘Pakistan can benefit from Turkish economic model’
Syed Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, an international relations professor from Peshawar, reflected on India’s “territorial expansionism” and resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
He said the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation was “hostage to India,” which has resulted in low trade among the South Asian nations.
On Turkiye-Pakistan relations, he lauded the Turkish economic model as “wonderful,” adding “Pakistan can benefit from it.”
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“The two countries can trade in their own currencies,” he suggested.
Calling for an end to double standards, he said: “whatever happens in Afghanistan never stays in Afghanistan…It always has a spillover effect.”
Ejaz Haider, a Pakistani commentator and journalist, said Pakistan “needed political stability and economic progress,” which will allow it to deal with hard as well as non-traditional security issues.
Professor Ahmet Kasim Han from Aydin University pointed out the importance of “logistics” to boost Turkiye-Pakistan relations.
Farhan Siddiqui, an academic from Quaid-e-Azam University, noted trade, refugee issues, ethnic conflicts, social and national cohesion and national security as common issues between the two countries besides “democracy and democratization and making bridges with the rest of the world.”