Developing a nuclear bomb has become a difficult task, thanks to the strong non-proliferation norms and international control measures. A case in point is Iran’s nuclear program. Despite this, news and commentaries on Turkey getting nuclear technology and bomb have increased in recent years.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments on nuclear weapons during his meeting with his party members in September 2019 have fueled the discussion. “Several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us that] we cannot have them. This I cannot accept,” the President remarked.
But several other factors have attracted a renewed scrutiny of Turkey’s nuclear ambitions in the press. These include a fallout of Turkey’s relations with the US and NATO, developing relations with China and Pakistan, and defense deals with Russia.
Turkey’s President’s comments on the possession of nuclear weapons and bombs by the Western countries and restrictions on others to develop them may only indicate his anger and discomfort on the ineffectiveness of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The nuclear-weapon states promised under the treaty to disarm themselves against the pledge by non-weapons states to not develop them. It had also signed the NPT in 1980. Turkey had also signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996 which bans nuclear testing in all forms.
Developing a bomb in secrecy is not easy and any public move in this regard will get Turkey involved in a crisis with the world community especially the US and Israel. Of course, Turkey does host 50 nuclear weapons under the US-NATO nuclear umbrella.
Accusations by India
A recent opinion article in Times of India by SD Pradhan goes to even greater lengths to propagate a Sino-Pak-North Korea-Turkey nexus for nuclear proliferation. He claims that China, Pakistan, and North Korea are helping Turkey build nuclear bombs and missiles by providing them with material and technology.
Referring to the Pakistan-Turkey High-Level Military Dialogue Group meeting in December 2020, the op-ed author SD Pradhan claimed that nuclear delivery technology was one of the main agenda items. The fact of the matter is that the military dialogue group has been held regularly for several past years and the latest was its 15th meeting.
Matters relating to mutual defense cooperation, military training and education, and counterterrorism are discussed in the group meetings. Ascribing nuclear matters to the meeting without any fact is a self-made assumption by the Indian author.
The author has also claimed about the Pakistan-bound Chinese ship being detained at the Deendayal port in February 2020 which was carrying an industrial dryer. India had alleged that it was carrying an autoclave to be used in ballistic missile manufacturing and was wrongly declared as an industrial dryer.
Both Pakistan and China had rejected the Indian claim and termed it as an Indian move to assert itself in the Indian Ocean Region. After almost a year of detention of the ship, the author of the said article has linked Turkey with it without any proof or sources. The author claims that the alleged autoclave was meant for Turkey from Pakistan’s Port Qasim in Karachi.
The commentary is coming mainly from countries having a strained relationship with Turkey like the US, India, and other like-minded countries. Such views and opinions are mostly baseless and misleading consisting of mere accusations and producing no fact and proof.
The hurling of these accusations by India is also due to Turkey’s open criticism of India’s illegal action and policies in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K). Turkish President Erdogan has openly criticized the unilateral ending of the special status of IOJ&K by India by scrapping Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution.
Suspicions of Sino-Pak-North Korea-Turkey nexus?
Turkey has also strengthened its ties with Pakistan over the years and the partnership is developing in the defense sector along with other areas such as economy, tourism, and culture.
The fall of Turkey’s relations with NATO and the increase in ties with Pakistan has not sat well with many countries. Commentators have also expressed their suspicion of nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey without any basis and merely due to their growing partnership.
India is also at loggerheads with China over the 2017 Standoff in Doklam and the crisis in the Ladakh region of IOJ&K during 2020. India is also part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” comprised of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to counter Chinese presence in the region. Therefore, reporting and commentary on China in the Indian media are mostly negative.
In addition to China and Pakistan, the North Korean connection is made by the author to Turkey’s nuclear program to add to the sensationalism. He, however, simply ignores the reports of India having close ties with North Korea.
According to a report, India has provided training to several North Korean scientists in its research centers even after the UN sanctions against North Korea. In another report, India has violated UN resolutions several times by conducting trade with North Korea.
Junior Indian Foreign Minister, Vijay Kumar Singh, who has also served as Indian Chief of Army Staff from 2010-2012, had visited North Korea in May 2018. Based on these reports, it can also be argued that India is supporting North Korean nuclear ambitions.
The politics of nuclear proliferation
To sum it up, the Turkish President’s remarks may only show his discomfort over the nuclear weapons politics rather than any serious approach to acquire them.
But his comments have given a point to alarmists to make false assumptions about Turkey getting a nuclear bomb. India and several other countries are not comfortable with the growing partnership between Pakistan and Turkey.
They are, therefore, going to any extent to undermine this relationship, and using the non-proliferation card is a mala fide attempt in this regard. Pakistan and Turkey can limit these malign efforts by exposing and countering them with the truth.
The author is a Research Assistant at the Center for International Strategic Studies Islamabad. He tweets at @Samranali6. The article was first published on Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) Islamabad, and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.