Editor’s note: Muhammad Asif Noor, Founder, Friends of BRI Forum and Advisor to Pakistan Research Center, Hebei Normal University, China & Co-Founder, Alliance of China-Pakistan Research Centres.

The recent meeting in Astana between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Pakistan marks a significant step towards deeper political, economic, and military cooperation among the three nations. This trilateral relationship holds considerable promise for their future development.

The cooperation among these three countries is rooted in a shared history and common strategic interests. Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Pakistan have demonstrated a consistent alignment on key international issues, such as the situations in Gaza, Cyprus, and Kashmir, as well as the broader challenge of Islamophobia. The Nagorno-Karabakh and Kashmir disputes, along with the ongoing situations in Afghanistan and Gaza, pose threats to their respective regions. A cohesive approach to these issues might lead to more effective conflict resolution and stability.

Their united stance on these matters reflects a commitment to mutual support and advocacy on the global stage. This solidarity is likely to strengthen, fostering an environment where these countries can present a unified front in international forums, thereby enhancing their collective influence. The political cooperation is also intended to support each other in international forums such as the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, where their combined voices could advocate for mutual interests more effectively.

Azerbaijan, with its vast energy resources, Turkey, with its strategic location bridging Europe and Asia, and Pakistan, with its significant human and economic potential, form a complementary trio. Their collaboration could lead to the development of new trade corridors and investment opportunities, boosting economic growth across the region. Joint initiatives in infrastructure, energy, and technology could leverage each country’s strengths, creating synergies that benefit all three.

Currently, the trade volume between Turkey and Pakistan stands at around $1 billion, with ambitions to increase it to $5 billion in the coming years. Similarly, Azerbaijan’s energy resources, including its significant oil and gas reserves, can be a key area of cooperation. Turkey, which serves as a bridge between Europe and Asia, could facilitate the export of Azerbaijani energy to broader markets, while Pakistan’s growing energy needs could be met through these resources. Joint infrastructure projects, such as the development of transportation corridors, can further bolster economic integration. The planned Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and other connectivity projects could significantly enhance trade efficiency and economic interdependence.

Regular joint exercises and training programs can enhance the operational capabilities and interoperability of the three countries’ armed forces. Turkey’s advanced defense technology, coupled with Pakistan’s military expertise and Azerbaijan’s strategic needs, presents an opportunity for these countries to develop a formidable defense partnership.

Turkey and Pakistan already have a strong history of military collaboration, with numerous joint exercises conducted over the years. Extending such cooperation to include Azerbaijan can further solidify their collective defense capabilities. The defense budgets of Turkey and Pakistan, approximately $20 billion and $11 billion respectively, reflect their significant military investments, which could be complemented by Azerbaijan’s strategic location and resources. Collaborative defense technology development and procurement can lead to advancements in military capabilities, ensuring better preparedness against common security threats.

The trilateral alliance provides these nations with a platform to address regional conflicts and transnational threats more effectively and collectively. Their shared emphasis on sovereignty and territorial integrity underscores a commitment to resolving disputes through dialogue and cooperation. As these nations continue to collaborate and build on their shared goals, their collective influence and prosperity are likely to grow, making them key players on the international stage.

Pakistan’s participation in the Middle Corridor, also known as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), a trans-Eurasian trade route connecting China to Europe through Central Asia, the Caspian Sea, and Turkey, has the potential to significantly enhance economic and trade relations for Pakistan. The Middle Corridor begins in China, where it taps into the extensive Chinese rail network. From China, the corridor moves into Central Asia, passing through Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s rail network plays a crucial role in this segment, with significant logistics hubs in cities like Almaty and Aktau.

The goods then cross the Caspian Sea, typically via ferries that connect the Kazakh port of Aktau with Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. This sea crossing is a vital link in the Middle Corridor. Once in Azerbaijan, the cargo continues through the Caucasus region, utilizing Azerbaijan’s railways and heading towards Georgia. The route often includes the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, a key infrastructure project that links Baku with Tbilisi in Georgia and Kars in Turkey. From Kars, the goods move through Turkey’s extensive rail network, eventually reaching the ports and rail connections in Europe. Turkey acts as a critical bridge between Asia and Europe in this corridor. Finally, the cargo enters the European railway system, where it can be transported to various destinations across the continent.

Through the trilateral cooperation model between Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, Pakistan has a huge potential and opportunity to diversify its economic and trade relations not only with Turkey and Azerbaijan but also with broader markets through their support. This involvement can lead to diversified trade routes, increased connectivity, and substantial economic growth. Pakistan’s integration into the Middle Corridor is aimed to bolster its trade routes with Central Asia and Europe.

By leveraging the infrastructure and connectivity provided by this corridor, Pakistan can reduce transportation costs and transit times for its exports, making its goods more competitive in international markets. For instance, goods transported via the Middle Corridor can reach European markets in approximately 15 days, compared to the 45-60 days via traditional maritime routes. This efficiency can make Pakistani products more competitive in international markets. This improved connectivity will facilitate the flow of goods such as textiles, agricultural products, and manufactured items, thereby expanding Pakistan’s export base and opening up new markets.

Participation in the Middle Corridor can attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into Pakistan’s infrastructure and logistics sectors, especially through the connectivity options that Pakistan can provide to this entire corridor. The development of new transportation hubs, railways, and ports along the corridor can lead to job creation and economic development in these regions. For example, investments in the Gwadar port, part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), can be synergized with the Middle Corridor to create a more integrated trade network. This integration can position Pakistan as a pivotal trade hub in South Asia, potentially increasing its GDP by up to 2-3% annually through enhanced trade and investment flows.

Pakistan’s involvement in the Middle Corridor is expected to strengthen its economic ties with key regional players Turkey and Azerbaijan. As part of this trilateral cooperation, Pakistan can benefit from joint ventures, collaborative projects, and shared expertise in areas such as energy, construction, and technology. For example, the construction of infrastructure projects, such as railways and highways, can be undertaken with the support of Turkish and Azerbaijani companies, leveraging their experience and resources. This collaboration can enhance Pakistan’s infrastructure capabilities and accelerate its economic growth. Strengthened economic ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan can open up new markets for Pakistani goods, ranging from textiles to agricultural products.

Participation in the Middle Corridor can facilitate the diversification of Pakistan’s export destinations. Currently, Pakistan’s major trading partners are concentrated in a few regions, with significant exports to the United States, China, and the United Arab Emirates. The Middle Corridor opens up new markets in Central Asia and Europe, reducing dependency on a few trade partners and spreading economic risk. For instance, Central Asian countries, with a collective GDP of over $300 billion, represent untapped markets for Pakistani goods and services. Through effective strategies and encouragement for the Pakistani business enterprises, the country can benefit immensely from this grand “opportunity corridor,” as I must say.

In conclusion, the recent meeting in Astana symbolizes more than just a diplomatic gathering. It signifies a strategic realignment and an ambitious vision for a collaborative future. As Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Pakistan continue to build on their shared goals and interests, their combined efforts are set to reshape the geopolitical landscape, fostering stability, prosperity, and a new era of cooperation.

(If you possess specialized knowledge and wish to contribute, please reach out to us at opinions@news.az).

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NSN.Asia

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