ANKARA: As part of their tripartite military cooperation, Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan began eight-day joint military drills on Sept. 12.
The “Three Brothers — 2021” exercises are being held in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku with the aim of “further strengthening the existing ties” between the three armies and helping them find new ways to fight terrorism in the region, according to an official readout.
Lt. Gen. Hikmat Mirzayev, Azerbaijan’s special forces commander, said during the opening ceremony that cooperation between the three countries was at “the highest level” and that important measures were being taken to further strengthen relations to ensure the security of the region and its people.
Experts say this new format for military cooperation adds a new layer to the political ties that date back to 2017, when Azerbaijan’s then-Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov held the first trilateral meeting with his Turkish and Pakistani counterparts in Baku.
Pakistan and Turkey provided support to Azerbaijan during the 44-day-long Second Karabakh War last September in which Azerbaijan fought against Armenian armed forces until the conclusion of a Russia-brokered truce in November.
Following Turkey, Pakistan was the second country to recognize Azerbaijan as an independent state on Dec. 12, 1991.
“The regional trio is important in the sense that they will add a military component to the political ties,” Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute, told Arab News.
“It is interesting to gather Pakistan as a nuclear power, Turkey as one of the largest and most powerful militaries within NATO, and Azerbaijan as a rising regional military power largely thanks to Turkish and Israeli contributions to the defense industry,” he added.
The joint exercises also aim to increase military experiences and share professional know-how between the military staff of the three countries.
According to Cagaptay, Turkey’s national security experts consider Pakistan as being among Turkey’s closest allies traditionally.
“Turkey is now deepening its defense ties with two of the five countries — US, Korea, Israel, Azerbaijan, Pakistan — that are considered its traditional allies. Pakistan brings strategic depth to this alliance,” he said.
Cagaptay also underlined that this move is part of Ankara’s attempts to seek strategic autonomy and look for allies beyond NATO through comprehensive strategic alliances that can provide flexible and timely reactions vis-à-vis geopolitical and military developments.
The cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey gained more importance amid the ongoing developments in Afghanistan and the potential refugee influx after the Taliban’s takeover.
In July, Turkish, Azerbaijani and Pakistani parliament speakers signed the Baku Declaration to boost trilateral cooperation.
In the declaration, the parties supported each other’s territorial integrity and underlined their respective priorities, with overt support to Azerbaijan in its moves on Karabakh, to Pakistan in its conflict over Jammu and Kashmir, and to Turkey in the settlement of Cyprus, Aegean and East Mediterranean disputes.
In August, Turkish Aerospace Industries signed a contract with Pakistan’s National Engineering and Science Commission to jointly produce Anka military drones and transfer technology between the two companies.
Erol Bural, head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Defense Against Terrorism and Radicalization, said that joint drilling by the special forces units of three countries is of utmost importance because it is a sign that they may conduct joint operations in the future.
“The choice of the venue for the joint military drills is also significant and can be considered as a message of solidarity between these three countries — that they see each other as brothers — directed at Armenia following the Second Karabakh War,” he told Arab News.
Bural also added that using real weaponry during the joint exercises is also essential.
“It helps the military exercise to generate outcomes that are close to real war conditions and to test the newly developed ammunition on the ground,” he said.
Military analysts underline that the exercises can also lead to cooperation in producing military technology.
The August visit of Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi to Turkey to attend the launching ceremony of the MILGEM project’s first corvette ship built in Turkey for the Pakistan Navy also boosted military cooperation, which would help Pakistan’s defense capabilities increase the country’s role in South Asia.
MILGEM corvettes, fitted with modern weaponry and sensors, can be hidden from radar. They are 99 meters long with a displacement capacity of about 24,00 tons and can move at a speed of 29 nautical miles.
The delivery of the corvettes dates back to a bilateral deal that was signed in 2018. Delivery of all ships that will be among Pakistan’s most modern vessels is due to be completed by 2025.