Turkey has just fueled speculations about a possible superpower rectangle between Turkey, Pakistan, China and Russia. While indications that the Pakistan-China-Russia superpower triangle is becoming a reality keep piling up, other nations are expressing their interest in joining the new bloc, which could become a game-changer for Asia and the world as a whole.
Just days after his visit to Pakistan in mid-November, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan suggested that his country should pursue joining a bloc dominated by China and Russia. Erdogan said his country doesn’t need to be fixated on joining the European Union and should join forces with China, Russia and Pakistan instead. Although Turkey has had decades-long hopes of joining the EU, apparently there’s an alternative for Ankara if the EU keeps stalling talks about Turkey’s membership.
Turkey wants to be part of Pakistan-China-Russia triangle
If Turkey–which has just held talks with Pakistan about strengthening their economic and military ties–joins the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), it would be a clear indication that Pakistan, China and Russia are gaining a new-old friend on their team. If Turkey gives up its efforts to join the EU, we could see the rise of the Pakistan-China-Russia-Turkey rectangle, an even more powerful alternative to the Pak-China-Rus triangle.
In fact, Erdogan said he had already discussed the idea of his country joining the SCO, which is dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Erdogan’s comment that Turkey doesn’t need to join the EU “at all costs” is a breakthrough development in Turkey-EU relations, which have reached their lowest in the aftermath of the failed anti-government coup on July 15.
Is the SCO the new EU after the U.K.’s Brexit?
The EU is currently reeling from the loss of the United Kingdom, which voted in favor of leaving the European bloc this past summer. Turkey’s setting off on a course to joining the security bloc dominated by China and Russia is an indication that Ankara also doesn’t want to put up with Europe’s accusations that Turkey is losing its democratic freedoms.
“I hope that if there is a positive development there, I think if Turkey were to join the Shanghai Five, it will enable it to act with much greater ease,” Erdogan told reporters on his plane while traveling back from a visit to Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
The SCO, which was formed in 2001, is a regional security bloc that consists of China, Russia and four Central Asian nations: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Another indication that Turkey is seeing a prosperous future if it sides with Pakistan, China and Russia is the fact that Turkish investors have expressed an increased interest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). If Turkey becomes part of the CPEC, it would be a game-changer for Ankara as well as Beijing and Islamabad, co-founders of the project.
Pakistan and Turkey reaffirming their friendship
Turkey and Pakistan have recently seen a huge boost in their bilateral relations. During his visit to Pakistan nearly two weeks ago, Erodgan said Ankara and Islamabad should strengthen their strategic partnership and drive bilateral trade up. Turkey and Pakistan have enjoyed close cultural, historical and military ties for decades, and Ankara’s support of Islamabad in its decades-long conflict with India serves as the foundation of their growing strategic partnership.
China, Pakistan’s closest ally in the region, is also enjoying close economic and military ties with Turkey. Ankara is also one of Pakistan’s key weapons sellers, while it also purchases arms from it.
Turkey, China and Russia favor Pakistan over India
From a diplomatic point of view, China, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey are already manifesting signs of forming some kind of a bloc, or superpower rectangle, if you may. While Ankara supports Pakistan’s position on holding a plebiscite under the United Nations to decide if the disputed Kashmir region should be part of Pakistan or India, Erdogan’s country went far beyond that.
At a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in November, Turkey supported Pakistan’s membership in the group, which regulates international nuclear commerce, while rejecting India’s bid. China and Russia also sided with Ankara and rejected India’s bid to join the NSG.
Interestingly, neither India nor Pakistan has ever signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But Turkey, China and Russia apparently see that it’s safe to accept Pakistan while rejecting India’s bid to join the group that regulates trade in atomic material. If that’s not an indication of friendship and commitment to have each other’s back, then what is it?
Pakistan to buy super-fast vessels from Turkey and China
To further strengthen ties with both China and Turkey, Pakistan already has plans to purchase super-fast vessels from Beijing and Ankara to form a special squadron to be positioned at the Gwadar port in Balochistan, according to the Hindustan Times.
“A squadron may have four to six warships,” an unnamed Pakistan Navy official said during the IDEAS 2016 defense exhibition in Pakistan, according to the media outlet.
The official added that the super-fast ships would be purchased “soon” because Pakistan sees an urgent need to have a powerful fleet positioned at Gwadar to secure the deep sea port. The official also revealed that two warships have already been deployed at the seaport.
China has already agreed with the Pakistan Navy to send its naval vessels to safeguard Gwadar and trade under the CPEC.
Pakistan-China-Russia-Turkey rectangle: Is it happening?
Interestingly, Erdogan has previously expressed interest in joining forces with China and Russia in the SCO. But the Turkish president has always stopped short of formally requesting to join the bloc because it would disrupt Ankara’s long-standing EU membership bid.
In November 2015, Erdogan seemingly gave up his plans to join the SCO after his country’s air force downed a Russian warplane over Syria, which resulted in tensions between the two nations. But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and during their latest meeting in August, Erdogan and Putin expressed mutual interest in restoring their once-close ties.
While Russia and Turkey are still catching up and amending their relations, China and Pakistan are enjoying very close and prosperous ties with Ankara. But if the four nations decide to formally show the world their intentions to stand by each other – and form the Pakistan-China-Russia-Turkey rectangle – it would be a diplomatic, military and economic game-changer for the whole world.