A new defense alliance in Asia is in the making that includes the Caspian region. On November 30, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov held meetings with his counterparts from Turkey and Pakistan, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Muhammad Asif, respectively, in Baku, to boost defense cooperation.
"We held very intensive consultations," Mammadyarov said at a joint press conference following the meeting, according to reporting by Trend news agency. "This first tripartite meeting is another milestone in our relations. We agreed to increase trade turnover, support each other in international organizations, and intend to intensify cooperation in the defense sphere.”
Developments in the defense sector were a focal point of the discussions. Pakistan’s representative proposed creating a joint defense industrial complex, an idea to which FM Cavusoglu agreed, saying “We do not compete with each other in this area, but rather complement each other.”
"We can create joint ventures for the production of defense products and develop cooperation in this area in a trilateral format," Mammadyarov said.
Azerbaijan already conducts business with Turkey and Pakistan in the defense sector, but not with both together.
Defense ties between Baku and Ankara began in 1992, shortly after the creation of modern Azerbaijan and following the collapse of the Soviet Union a year earlier. Cooperation mostly consisted of military education until 2010, when the two sides signed a 10-year strategic partnership agreement that provides for mutual military assistance in case of aggression against either. The agreement also calls for military-technical and military-political cooperation.
The most recent defense and security cooperation agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkey came into force on October 22 of this year, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ratified a document that calls for joint underwater training and drills to prepare for sea-based attacks.
While Azerbaijan’s defense cooperation with Pakistan is not as high as it has been with Turkey, the relationship is not insignificant.
Pakistan is the only country in the world that does not recognize Azerbaijan’s western neighbor, Armenia, in a sign of solidarity with Azerbaijan. The two South Caucasus countries Armenia and Azerbaijan became enemies in the early 1990s due to Armenia’s military aggression to take control over Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain has repeatedly affirmed that Pakistan is ready to equip Azerbaijan’s military in case of any threat to its territorial integrity. Following his visit to Baku in January 2016, Hussain announced that Azerbaijan will purchase JF-17 Thunder fighter-bomber aircraft from Pakistan.
Elnur Ismayil, a research fellow at the Ankara-based BILGESAM think tank, says the geostrategic importance of each country in its own region shows the importance of what is a budding trilateral defense partnership.
“If we take into account the separate achievements of each country in the defense sphere in recent years, it is significant in particular to develop relations in defense and defense industry,” Ismayil told Caspian News.
Ismayil highlighted the strategic value of Azerbaijan having joint defense capabilities in light of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia, and having the support of defense heavyweights like Turkey and Pakistan.
A war was fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan between 1992 and 1994 over Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region. The war claimed the lives of over 20,000 Azerbaijanis, displaced nearly one million, and resulted in Armenia occupying Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts, all which it occupies to this day. Pakistan refuses to recognize Armenia as long as it continues occupying the internationally recognized lands of Azerbaijan.
The next trilateral ministerial meeting will take place in Islamabad sometime in 2018.