By Fateh Najeeb Bhatti
Old cronies Turkey and the US have recently come to the cross roads owing to the distrust arising out of the detention of the US pastor Andrew Brunson who has been accused of anti-Turkish state activities. This has resulted in harboring counter measures against Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey. In response, the US authorities detained Turkish employees working in US embassy. The situation further worsened with the imposition of economic sanctions on Turkey by the US. Adding fuel to fire, the US president Donald Trump took a disastrous step of increasing tariffs on steel and aluminum trade with Turkey. Consequently, Turkish economy has come under turmoil. Turkish Lira has dropped down to a considerable level in comparison to the American dollar thus disturbing the balance of payments, increased exchange rates and mounting debts. According to the fact sheet the American pastor was involved in failed coup of 2016 against Erdogan’s government. So far, there are no signs of improvement in bi-lateral relations.
Historically, Turkey and the US have relished a longer period of friendship starting from being the Cold-War associates to the NATO allies. Both nations have also been in harmony on numerous international issues. Whether it is the ‘War on Terror’ or situation in the Middle East, there has been mutual understanding on both sides. But, the sudden rift in their relations has astonished many analysts across the globe. Few link it to the unpredictable ‘Trumpian’ philosophy while others consider it as the deterioration of the U.S. and Turkey’s earlier alliance significance in each other’s eyes. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain, that this indicates the shifting of the US focus from NATO allies. One example of this kind of trend in the US policies can be seen from Trump’s statements about EU in which he said that the EU members have to lift their own burden. Another reason behind this changed behavior towards Turkey is the US hawkish perception about Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity within the Muslim world and in the international affairs, raising alarms for the US as it might be losing influence on Turkey. Resultantly, Turkey is being made to suffer heavy economic losses, inflation, and trade barriers caused by the U.S.
For Pakistan it is a high time to show solidarity and stand with Turkey. In the past, Turkey has always supported Pakistan in regional and global affairs. Whether it is the Kashmir issue or Afghanistan crisis, there has been a shared confidence on both sides. Both states share deep rooted cultural and religious bonds. Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) is an exemplary manifestation of economic ties. Militarily, both states have collaborated with each other in critical times. Also, Turkey and Pakistan are enduringly engaged in joint exercises, sharing of advance technology, equipment and training of their troops to combat enemy forces. It won’t be beyond exaggeration to say that Turkey is the only Muslim country which supports Pakistan without pre-conditions.
Newly elected premier of Pakistan Imran Khan has openly assured Turkey its support through thick and thin in this contemporary unrealistic pressure of the US, which only aims at proving its hegemonic intent. Pakistan’s foreign office has officially condemned the US policy of undermining Turkey and interfering in its internal affairs. To what extant Pakistan would be able to consistently support Turkey morally, diplomatically and if possible economically is the point to consider. Currently, Pakistan is not on good terms with the super power US because of the unfound suspicions about Pakistan’s role in ‘war against terror’ and efforts for stability in Afghanistan. This ongoing trend of relations between the US and Pakistan doesn’t present a hopeful picture as Pakistan cannot completely break off with the US Considering the geo-strategic environment of South Asia, it wouldn’t be a wise move by Pakistan to isolate itself from the US. But, the earlier “carrot and stick policy” adopted by the US cannot be tolerated by Pakistan anymore which Pakistan condemns in the context of Turkish-US dispute. Pakistan stands with the every state’s intrinsic right to preserve its sovereignty and national prestige along with securing its interests. Even though there is a hope that Russia and China come forward in support of Turkey, Pakistan is yet to take any concrete steps in this rattle.
Although the US on one side and Turkey on the other present Pakistan with a tricky situation, nevertheless, it has to pick one as being neutral is not a choice anymore. It is in Pakistan’s national interest to support Turkey which is setting an example for developing states denying unjust oppression in regional and global affairs. Pakistan’s foreign policy formulation and principles resonate with the golden rule of helping Turkey like trustworthy friends in tough times. Although, the fears arising out of the international pressure under U.S. provocation may concern Pakistan in case of strongly supporting Turkey against the U.S., but this is the tangible test of Pakistani policy circles to follow the nation’s aspirations.
The US under Trump administration is pursuing pragmatic tactic based on Republicans age old dogmatic policy of being hardliners in ascertaining its dominance via ‘real politik’. But this time, it’s not an easy task to bend Turkey by causing it economic suffering and holding its national interests at stake. Strong Turkish leadership has shown commitment to face this encounter and Turkish nation is right behind their headship. Friendly countries like Pakistan are supposed to aid it during this threatening period to strengthen Turkey and augment their relationship. Pakistan should also make diplomatic efforts to mediate between belligerents according to its capability. UNO, OIC and other international platforms can prove helpful in lessening the heat. Much counts on the novel leadership of Pakistan along with military establishment to disseminate one point agenda on this issue.
Fateh Najeeb Bhatti, M.Phil IR from SPIR Quaid e Azam Universiy Islamabad, is currently a Research Associate At Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad.