Hanging right in the middle of East and West, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Pakistan wasn’t just lip service, click mania and shaking hands, there were lots of things happened beyond the dictum can only be observed in between the lines.
As a significant event, if one is to dissect the entire speech of Mr. Erdoğan at the Joint Session of Parliament one gets to get some main points out of it; the rationale of persisting Democracy, the strategic maneuvering of Fateullah Gullen Terrorist Organization (FETO), the idea of Daesh penetrating the stronghold of Muslim states, Turkey playing a role in the Kashmir issue and finally the fate of all the Muslim states and the part which Turkey and Pakistan can play. This actually blurred the lines of division between the requirement and the reality; in fact the actuality of the visit is much more broad and confusing. Yet even then, this visit means that the two states are now moving up with their relationship and giving it a strategic outlook. This will obviously have certain impacts and implications which both Pakistan and Turkey will get out.
The foremost implication will be obviously that there will be a thorough cleansing of the Pak-Turk school system from Pakistan. In that the former administration which are Gullenists, will be removed and replaced with administration employed under the care of Erdoğan. As we know that within Turkey a very solid purge is already going on with more than 35,000 people inside jails. In fact this cleansing has now traveled to Pakistan where it has already begun because all the employees of Pak-Turk School System have been asked to leave.
This will have an impact of its own; the further dichotomy of religious sects within Pakistan, a state where there is already an identity crisis regarding religion and people either follow the Saudi version of Islam or the Iranian version of Islam, without knowing the actual identity if Islam as a religion, social system and even political system. Perhaps there will be a Turkish version of Islam within Pakistan after this episode. At least there could be a new kind of following given how much would Turkey spend on this inculcation. In fact this could also be found in the contents of speech when Mr. Erdoğan claimed there should be a kind of Muslim Unity between the two states that stands above the rest.
Then there is of course the idea of bilateral trade, which although was not much highlighted in Erdoğan’s speech but it is a main part of the entire visit to Pakistan. In fact this trade is to be of a much more enhanced version. It will not only include the business ventures for Turk companies but also mean defense trade deals for Pakistan. Pakistan needs to increase its trade revenue and if their fraternal bond is going to go somewhere, the other state will have to fulfill the economic needs of Pakistan.
In the economic foyer Turkey is nothing like Pakistan as it has shown progression while Pakistan has been on a constant decline; the other idea behind this visit was to show that a deep yet imbalanced economic relationship exists between these two states. One where Pakistan is going to be at the receiving end and Turkey is going to gain certain other things out of it. Thus the second major theme of the visit was the idea that the two states are now moving forward into a very coherent strategic relationship.
For Turkey, Pakistan is a good market; arms and otherwise as well as the idea of presenting Turkey more valiant opportunities of economic might, something they lost after Erdoğan’s second term. This is also coupled with the idea of the economic corridors of which Pakistan is key and Turkey could majority benefit from the routes to Central Asia which Pakistan can present. This is also important because after the fallout between Russia and Turkey, the latter state suffered quite some losses because of the heavy sanctions imposed on it and as a result some of its main routes to Central Asia were disrupted.
There is another element to this visit and the relationship dynamics which are now unfolding. Previously it was seen that with the kind of solid relationship which Pakistan has with Kindom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), something not much different from what it seems like with Turkey, there was a lot of give and take. This is of course a precursor to all the alliances. Yet in that course of action, KSA had been on the demanding end of making Pakistan something like a foreign actor into its own regional wars. Take the example of Yemen crisis and the Saudi demand of asking Pakistan to send its troops to fight. The situation here could be something very similar.
Turkey is at the moment involved in some very stifling war fronts; Syria, Kurds, Iraq and ISIS, the keen thing is how much is Pakistan open to being on a war-front for Turkey, the president of which met with not only the P.M and President of Pakistan but also with its Army Chief. This idea is of course more of an ‘iffy’ statement and there would be overwhelming discourse pledging its denial but in the course of foreign relations, no state is too explicit or implicit. After Pakistan’s visit, Erdoğan’s statement was clear message to the European Union about possible joining Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Sino-Russo led eastern world order, if Turkey is continuously denied.
Ever since July 15, 2016 and the failed coup attempt in Turkey, Pakistan has been perhaps one constant for Turkey. This is because it stood beside Turkey and gave an all-out appraisal of the bravery and courage as well as the resilience with which the people of Turkey stood up for democracy. Perhaps this action opened up old memories for Pakistan of days when dictatorship reigned. Or perhaps it was the fear of looking into the future being similar to that of Turkeys’.
In more ways as can be counted, Turkey and Pakistan share similarities with each other. Turkey has had an equal share of military dictatorships, Turkey has some cultural similarities with Pakistan, Turkey has seen its own share of powerful and authoritarian governments, Turkey is also places at a very important geostrategic position, Turkey is at this time also going through multiple fissures within its domain along with so many other similarities which involve the political and security dimensions.
Another rather stark similarity happens to be that in both states the present leadership is at the moment jostled up, insecure and has a deep phobia of the fast changing strategic environment and in need of a solid fraternity which can re-shape their existence within the international realm. This was the major theme of Erdoğan’s visit to Pakistan in November 2016 although it was well masked beneath a rhetoric which was marked with power.
For Turkey and more importantly Erdoğan is the idea of his superiority and dominance is a visible matter of discourse. The fact that he defeated the coup and along with it the idea of defeating the mighty armed forces of Turkey means a great deal for the rest of instable states and governments. This dominance is also visible because Erdoğan’s himself has a personality which is of imperial sort, authoritarian and hegemonic. Thus the message he has brought with him could be in slight undertones about the upper hand of democracy and how to overcome all the civil-military relations if they do persist. It is somewhat of a message for Pakistan to take note of and perhaps even follow.
This hegemony then tells us another story behind the Erdoğan visit; the idea of Pan Turkism. This idea actually holds that there would be Turkish dominance in Middle East, but here we can say that for Pakistan, Turkey is now the most important Muslim State and an inspiration to look up to. Even at the cost of giving up its liberal ideals which are already diminishing. It also could signify a coming alliance between Muslim States in order to foster supremacy within all the Islamic nations which the two states can attain. Thus Mr. Erdoğan emphasized on the need to build a strong Muslim unity.
Yet in all this discourse, Kashmir issue which could have been the highlight of the visit was somewhat blurred. In this case, Pakistan must now know that for the rest of the international states, Kashmir issue is nothing more than a rhetorical idea which keeps coming up and keeps going down. No one would solve it until they get some serious advantage out of it, and even Turkey does not.
All in all if we sum up, Turkey and Pakistan both are going through internal strife yet at one end we see someone who has managed to keep this strife under a water-tight compartment, and at the other we see a state without any actual policy pattern of its own. It just seems that Pakistan has a new favorite now in the face of Turkey and Turkey has a new scapegoat and a new state upon which it can inflict its agendas; the agendas of not Turkey but of Mr. Erdoğan. It is true that in the international realm things are always static and moving; we can see that this is a need based relationship. Turkey is a big power with its hands in many a crises, is a NATO member and wishes to be a part of the EU; a state like that means gold for Pakistan which is already staggering its balance within the region with India-US-Israel trio which now seems more culpable than ever.
The idea of what exactly does Turkey require of Pakistan is one which is jostling and blurred but one thing can be said that in the New Great Game, both Turkey and Pakistan will have a part to play and this is the grand scheme for Turkey which it is securing amidst all the insecurities. For Turkey, Pakistan is an important key to its security scheme and vice versa but the truth is that there are no champions and there are no losers; only states which gain more and states which gain less.