All three Muslim countries continue to back each other on matters of national interest.

When a country fights a war for its territorial integrity, it counts on every form of support it can get - especially military and diplomatic. 

Last year’s conflict in the South Caucasus between Armenia and Azerbaijan put a spotlight on Baku’s close relations with Pakistan and Turkey. 

Turkish-made drones helped Azerbaijan push out Armenian forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which was at the center of the military escalation. 

Simultaneously, Pakistan openly backed Azerbaijan’s position to defend a region recognised internationally as part its territory. 

“Lending a voice of support in a regional conflict in normal times is one thing. But when a country is actually at war then who stands with it attains a much greater importance - even if it's just diplomatic backing,” said Khalid Rahman, the head of Institute of Policy Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank. 

Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Turkey have continuously backed each other on various international forums on national interest matters such as Kashmir, Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh, he said.

This was evident in this week’s meeting between their foreign ministers in Islamabad. A joint declaration expressed concern over Indian attempts to “change the demographic structure of Jammu and Kashmir” and called for resolving the “Cyprus issue.”

Since the 1970s, the island of Cyprus has been divided into Greek Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Successive Pakistani governments have backed Anakra’s position on the issue. 

Azerbaijan, a Shia Muslim and Turkic-speaking country, has had close ties with Pakistan and Turkey since it became an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Pakistan was second after Turkey to recognise Azerbaijan as an independent country in the early 1990s. At the same time, Pakistan is the only country which does not recognise Armenia - a step it has taken in solidarity with Baku. 

Armenia on its part, has pushed back against Pakistan in the past.  In 2016 it blocked Islamabad’s attempt to become an observer at the  Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a post-Soviet military bloc. 

“One thing that binds Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan is that all of them are Muslim-majority countries. This was something that the three sides stressed upon in their joint declaration as they assured each other support on their core interests,” said Rahman. 

While Ankara has already backed Baku with military gear, Islamabad is also looking to strengthen military ties. 

Just earlier this month, the air chiefs of Azerbaijan and Pakistan met and discussed joint pilot training and military exercises. 

Pakistan and Turkey already have substantive defence cooperation. Turkey is building MILGEM-class war ships for the Pakistan Navy, and Ankara has bought 52 Mashahk training aircraft from Pakistan.

For Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, Baku’s support on the Kashmir issue is a much-needed public relations boost. 

In May last year, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev expressed concern at India’s human rights violations in the disputed Kashmir region. 

“India has continuously tried to present Kashmir as a non-issue at international forums. But Azerbaijan is one country which has all along stood with Pakistan,” said Rahman. 

In 2019, New Delhi unilaterally rolled back the nominal autonomy of Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in the country. A part of Kashmir is also controlled by Pakistan. 

“Even if Azerbaijan does not have a major say in global politics, its stance on Kashmir is a matter of concern for New Delhi,” said Rahman. 

Source: TRT World