Azerbaijan and Pakistan have maintained friendly ties and share common views on key global and regional issues. Both countries consider their diplomatic relationship to be friendly and fraternal. Today, Baku and Islamabad successfully cooperate on many issues – as evidenced by numerous contacts and interactions between government representatives from both countries, including visits by high-ranking military personnel.
In recent years, the number of bilateral visits by representatives of both countries has increased. Just recently, a delegation of the National Defense University, led by Brigadier General Anjum Riaz, visited Baku on April 16. During the visit, the delegation held meetings at a number of ministries, state services, agencies and universities of Azerbaijan. The guests were informed about the history, culture, economics, domestic and foreign policies of Azerbaijan.
On April 11 – a few days before the delegation’s visit – Ali Alizade, the ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan, held a meeting with Admiral Zafar Mahmoud Abbasi, the commander of the Pakistan Navy. “The Pakistani Navy is ready to provide any assistance and support to Azerbaijan,” Zafar Mahmoud Abbasi assured the ambassador during the meeting. Indeed, high-ranking officials of Pakistan have always expressed their willingness to render military and diplomatic support to Azerbaijan. The people of Azerbaijan and the state have appreciated this support ever since diplomatic relations between both countries were established.
Pakistan is the only country in the world that does not recognise Armenia. Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali, who served as Pakistan’s foreign minister between 1993 and 1996 when Benazir Bhutto was in power, played an instrumental role in denying diplomatic recognition to Armenia. He sought to establish and strengthen economic, social and political ties between Baku and Islamabad. He also set up flight operations from Pakistan to Azerbaijan.
As foreign minister, he was able to achieve Pakistan’s unconditional support for Azerbaijan’s case in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Moreover, he personally brought a large number of essential goods as humanitarian aid for refugees in Baku.
It is no secret that Pakistan provides military-technical assistance to Azerbaijan. Last year, Azerbaijan bought 10 Super Mushshak aircrafts for its air force from Pakistan. This important agreement further strengthened bilateral relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan. The aircraft is widely recognised in the international market and is in service in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran, and South Africa. Turkey, Nigeria and Qatar have already signed the agreement on the acquisition of training aircrafts.
If news reports are to be believed, Azerbaijan and Pakistan may sign an agreement in 2019 for the purchase of JF-17 Block 3 fighter jets. A representative of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) told the media that “the configuration of JF-17 Block 3, which is of interest to Azerbaijan, is already at hand”. According to the representative, “the radar of the AESA system has been selected and in the near future, it will be tested”. The PAC representative said that the contract for this purchase can be signed in 2019. After this deal, relations between Baku and Islamabad are likely to reach new pinnacles.
Military and technical cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan has troubled Armenia. This can be evidenced from the fact that panic spread in Armenia soon after information on the possible purchase of JF-17 bombers by Azerbaijan in 2019 was disclosed. Yerevan believes that if Baku takes advantage of Islamabad’s technologies, then Armenians will have to consider the option of acquiring Indian anti-missile systems. But it is difficult to believe that Armenia has the funds to buy Indian arms at this stage since Yerevan acquires Rus`sian weapons on the basis of a loan from the Kremlin.
There is a strong likelihood that Azerbaijan will continue to build military cooperation with Pakistan since Islamabad has achieved great successes in the defence industry. In Pakistan, a vast number of large companies produce the most modern defence products under licences from foreign states. Several research and production establishments are developing new models of weapons and military equipment. Given the sufficiently high level of combat and moral-psychological training of personnel, the armed forces of Pakistan can be considered the strongest in the Muslim world.
The writer is the director of Eurasia-
Azerbaijan, an international expert club, and editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani news agency Vzglyad.az