Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pledged on Friday to provide all support needed to strengthen Pakistan’s military infrastructure, adding that the South Asian country’s security is “equal” to that of Turkey’s.
In a video message sent to the launching ceremony of the third vessel of the MILGEM Ada class corvette – a joint venture of Turkey and Pakistan, Erdoğan said: “The production process of all these ships, which are equipped with the most modern weapons and sensor systems developed by our country, continues as planned.”
The third vessel, named Badr, was launched at Karachi Dockyard in the Pakistani port city with a ceremony attended by Turkish National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistani Defense Minister Muhammad Israr Tareen, and other officials.
In July 2018, the Pakistan Navy signed a contract for the acquisition of four MILGEM-class ships with Turkey’s state-run defence firm ASFAT. According to the plan, two corvettes are to be built in Turkey and the next two are to be built in Pakistan, which also involves technology transfer.
The Turkish leader said the deliveries of the ships, which will be able to perform all kinds of military duties from air defence to submarine defense, will be made at six-month intervals starting from August 2023.
With an emphasis on the deep-rooted historical ties between Turkey and Pakistan, Erdoğan said the project is one of the most concrete and recent examples of it, voicing hope for the project to be “a harbinger of greater cooperation.”
He said Pakistan is the country with the most strategic location in South Asia, and said: “Throughout history, this region has been the apple of the world’s eye with its ancient culture and wealth. Pakistan and its people have a special place for us.”
Erdoğan also emphasised the necessity of providing all means of support to strengthen the military infrastructure of Pakistan, “whose security, stability and prosperity we consider equal to ours.”
The other vessel of the project, named Kaibar, is to be launched in September in Istanbul, he said.
MILGEM vessels are 99 meters (325 feet) long with a displacement capacity of 24,00 tons and can move at a speed of 29 nautical miles. The anti-submarine combat frigates can be hidden from radar.
In October 2019, Erdoğan, along with then-Chief of Pakistan Navy Adm. Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, had cut the metal plate of the first MILGEM Ada class corvette during a ceremony in Istanbul.
In January 2021, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan issued a joint declaration to support each country’s respective ambitions in Nagorno-Karabakh, Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, and Jammu and Kashmir.
The three countries have deeply integrated their intelligence and military structures, and jointly pursue common foreign policy goals that directly challenge the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus.
This ultimately culminated in September 2021 with the “Three Brothers – 2021” joint military exercises.
Speaking at the exercises, the heads of Turkish and Pakistani delegations, Lt. Col. Kursat Konuk and Lt. Col. Aamir Shahzad, said the existing bond of friendship between their nations and armies “would stand the test of time” in a rapidly changing global environment.
They added that the “three brothers will grow closer” as reliable regional partners and collaborators despite international political changes.
However, even before the “Three Brothers” exercise, the Chief of the Pakistani General Staff, General Nadeem Raza, said in the spring of 2021 that: “When I come to Turkey, the Cyprus issue is on the agenda, while when you come, Kashmir is on the agenda.”
“Long live the Pakistan-Turkey friendship,” he added.
Islamabad was the first after Ankara to recognise the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” an illegal entity attempting to legitimise Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus.
Islamabad only withdrew its recognition after significant pressure from the international community, but this does not mean that it does not continue to cooperate with the illegal entity through other means.