Pakistan’s relationship with the US, since 1947, has followed a tortuous and unpredictable route. The relationship had all along been a transactional one – focusing on the immediate goals dictated by how each side perceived the ground realities during a particular period. While dealing with the US, did Pakistan play its cards prudently?
Pakistan and Turkey possess strategic assets of the same importance. Both of them control or sit astride important land corridors and sea lanes of communication linking the regional crossroads in the Eurasian landmass. Turkey controls the Dardanelles- the strait that links the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the land corridor linking Pakistan’s Gwadar port with China and Central Asia can be likened to an overland Suez Canal. Gwadar is located close to the Strait of Hormuz which controls around 35% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments and 20% of oil traded worldwide.
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Pakistan and Turkey
Pakistan and Turkey also possess almost the same challenges: During the Cold War, Pakistan was promoted by the US as the “Most Allied Ally”. With a backward industrial base and, according to Chester Bowles, “split into two halves and divided by 1,000 miles of Indian territory”, entering into US-sponsored military alliances was a good stop-gap measure for Pakistan, a breathing space till the country became self-reliant.
Whereas Pakistan joined the US-sponsored military pacts to achieve a balance of power with India, the US perceived it as Pakistan’s willingness to fight against communism. Thus, from the very beginning, it was a marriage of convenience for both sides. In the past, the United States provided economic and military assistance to Pakistan despite the latter’s refusal to join the American war effort in Korea and Vietnam. This could be attributed to Pakistan’s willingness to allow American bases on its soil.
In October 1917, six years before the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia toppled the Tsar and declared the formation of the Soviet Union. Fearful of the expansionist policies of the Soviet Union, Turkey, in1956, joined the US-sponsored NATO alliance and became a bulwark against the perceived threat from communist expansionism.
Turkey is the anchor of NATO’s southeastern flank and home to its second-largest army. It has stood, until recently, as a bulwark against the rising threats to western interests. Located just 60 miles from the Syrian border, the Incirlik airbase in southern turkey was the crucial staging ground for American-led strikes during the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Throughout the Cold War, Turkey remained a staunch ally of the US. During the Korean War, it sent a brigade to the Korean Peninsula which fought alongside the US forces and was almost wiped out by the communists. During all the upheavals that characterized the tension between the two superpowers, Turkey aligned itself completely with the US interests. As a result of the bitterness which engulfed its relations with the Arab states, Turkey was the only Muslim country that, in March 1949, established full diplomatic relations with Israel. The Israeli airspace, owing to the minuscule size of this country, is very small. Turkey even allowed Israel to use its airspace for conducting exercises by the Israeli airforce.
Like its relationship with Pakistan, the US has redrawn the parameters of its relationship with Turkey. Bristled by Erdogan’s independent posturing, particularly in not following the American bandwagon in Syria and Iraq, the strategic interests now call for clipping Turkey’s wings by encouraging the long-drawn-out Kurd insurgency which aims at carving a Kurd state out of the Kurdpopulated areas in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
However, due to its intrinsic strength, Turkey will not be browbeaten like Pakistan
In 1973, Turkey invaded Cyprus over the Cyprus issue with Greece and proved that it had the military muscle and political will to seek resolution of its territorial disputes with its neighbors. At present, Turkey deploys an armored brigade in Qatar to protect this postage stamp size state against Saudi ambitions. Turkey has also established security zones inside Iraq and Syria and its forces are fighting ISIS in these two countries. Here, the readers are reminded of Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan PM, when he said that the US had airlifted ISIS elements in Iraq and Syria and planted them on Afghan soil. By fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Turkey is directly confronting the US.
While comparing Turkey with Pakistan, the latter has the further advantage of being a nuclear power. Pakistan and Turkey possess almost the same geostrategic advantages. Why, then, Pakistan has failed to project its power and safeguard its national interests the way Turkey has done?
Unlike Pakistan, whose rulers deliberately kept the country woefully dependent ontheUScharity(most of which lined their own pockets), Turkey developed three out of the four pivots of its national power – 1) Economy;2) Military Strength, and; 3)Scientific Research. However, Turkey has not been able to have sustained internal security – the fourth pivot of national power. It is because of the festering Kurd insurgency. Despite its internal weaknesses, Turkey is presently Middle East’s most powerful state, followed by Israel.
Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.