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The Situation Before And After All Parties Conference (APC)

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Ever since  the  PML (N) Led  Coalition  Government  of Veteran Senior Leader and  Two times  Premier   Mian  Mohammad Shareef  came  to  Power  after  May 11 Elections  in which  they  got  heavy  mandate  from  the  Punjab  Province  where  as  PPPP  was  limited  to Sindh  after  losing the  grip  over  Punjab  Provincial  as well  as  Federal  Seats  during much  echoed  Elections  2013 which  brought  about  many upsets  and   people  started  to wonder  that  How  the  heavy weights  were  defeated  by  youth Leaders  of  PTI  in  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  where  PTI enjoys  simple  Majority  and running the  government  in coalition with the  Moderate  Religious  Party   Jamaat –e-Islami  .

Whereas Baluchistan saw  a  mix response  since  no party has been able to get any clear  majority and  the same Coalition government is  to decide  the  conflict ridden Baluchistan and face the challenging situation of law and order .As for as   the State of Baluchistan  Assembly  is  concerned ,after  assumption of  the Office of Chief Minister  of   Dr Abdul Malik  , A Nationalist Leader , the  situation  is very ambiguous as  the  cabinet is  yet  to be  inducted. So far , he  has  been  sole Leader  to  lead  the  Conflict ridden  and  now  the  Quake  Ridden  Baluchistan government  where  separatists  have  crippled  the  very roots  of  the  peace  and  people  have  been  living a  appalling life. Even the  Passengers  moving in and  from the  parts  of  the  country are  assailed   on the  National Highways as well as  inter Provincial Routes. As many as 300 innocent passengers have lost their life on ethnic backgrounds during their traveling to Quetta and other Balouch dominated routes. Most of the Killings are claimed balouch separatist Groups. This is a dreadful security and Law and Order situation in Baluchistan But the irony is that still the Malik’s Government going without the cabinet.

Sindh  is  the  same  as  it was  five years  ago  in PPP led Coalition government since  the  same  old  faces  except some  new  faces  made  their  way to the  Assemblies  . The PPP’s long time Coalition  party MQM ,  has  been  keeping  itself  away from the  state  of  Government affairs due  to  their inclination towards  PML  (N)  They have also made their participation in the Government  on conditional basis and their under trial Boss Altaf Hussain went further and  held Referendum on the  basis  that whether  they should join the  Government or  not in coalition with  PPP. Despite being offered  to Join the  Sindh Government on Multiple  Occasion by  PPP representation ,MQM is  deliberately  keep  itself  away  from the state of Affairs of PPP but their Governor is  holding the  key Position and many analysts are  of  the  view  that they will retain the position till  the  end  of  PML (N) government tenure .

ors ,rushing to Dubai ,meeting  Party chief at London , PML (N) Government  has not replaced Governor but rather  retained  the  Governor  of  Sindh  Dr  Isharatul Ibad  . Even he has  been tasked  to monitor  the  Targeted  Operation   led   by  CM  Sindh  Syed  Qaim Ali Shah and  initiated  on the  Federal Government  directives  after  they held  the  Cabinet meeting  at  Governor  House  of  Sindh at after  the  strong  demand  of  Traders and Karachi citizens .

It was  decided  that the  targeted  Operation will  be  initiated  and  turned down the  demand of  MQM  to Deploy  Army for Operation  in Karachi as law and  order Situation was  Abysmal and alarming. after  considering   the  Loc  tension  and  massive deployment of  Army in  Pak-Afghan  border  to  control  the  infiltration, It  was  decided unanimously that  the  Operation will be  carried  out by  Rangers  supported  by  Police  on the lines  of  impartiality  as  no  Office  of  any  Political  party  will be  assailed  on the grounds  of  partiality . So far , MQM has  been  frequently  complaining  against  victimization of  the  MQM  and  arrests of  its workers through Press Conferences   but on the  other  hand  the  rangers  and  Police  spokes persons  reject  such claims  and  add  that   the  action  is being taken  on the  strong intelligence  reports  and  criminal  records  .

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Coming  to  KPK  , we  have  experienced  the  worst  state  of  law and  order  situation  since  the  provincial  capital Peshawar  has  become  the  prime target  for  militant  activities  and series  of  Bomb Blasts  herald  the  clear  messages  that   the  terrorists are  running amok  and  the  Federal Interior  Minister  has  been  doing the  job of  just  a  viewer to watch what is  happening in KPK  and  they  do not  seem to be serious regarding security matters concerning the  safety of  precious  lives  of their  fellow  Pakistanis  .

Some  analysts  also  disclose  that  this  may be a  conspiracy  to  fail  the  PTI  Government in KPK  since  it is  very  first time  that  PTI  which is  very  new  in comparison to  the  Professional Political  players    such  as  Jamiat  Ulama –e Islam  , PML N  ,PPP  , ANP  and PKMAP  in respect  of  holding the  important  Government of  KPK may collapse due to challenging law and order situation and prevent them from establishing government in the centre due to long  standing problems  of  Talibanization and Suicide  Bombings   specially tribal belts.

The massive casualties have  already crossed thousands   and  PTI led  government is  between the  devil and deep  see  in controlling  heightened  law  and  order situation which  shows  no improvement  ever since  the  honeymoon period  is  over  as  in Pakistan  it is  rare  to enjoy the   honeymoons  .

If you enjoy the honeymoons, you will be assailed by the powerful goons. The  Most disturbing  is the  Drones  issue  since  drone strikes  are  counterproductive  and  inflict multiple  implications on the  country’s  sovereignty  , Economy  , law and  Order situation and  ignite  a  wave of  hatred  among the  tribal people  specially north Wazirstan . Pakistan has  protested  in United Nations  against  the  drone  strikes  since  they are considered  an attack on the sovereignty of  the Nations  but the  Pakistani pleas  have  not been given due  weightage  by  Obama Administration so far.

As  regards  the  APC  , It was  held  on 9th   September 2013  and  all the  main stream parties  , Chief Ministers and  Governors  of  all fours  provinces  , Chief Army Staff  General  Pervez  Kayani  and  ISI Chief  also  participated  in the  APC  . It  was  decided  after briefing from the  Members and Specially Armed forces Chief and  Intelligence Agency Chief  that  Dialogue  will be  initiated  with the  Taliban since  Pakistan is very peaceful country and  It will prefer  Dialogue  than  initiating iron hand  with the support of  ISI and  Pakistan Army  . But the APC kept the option of military action open in case the talks with Taliban Leaders fail.

All  the  Representatives  of  Main Stream  parties  appreciated the Efforts  and sacrifices  of  Pakistan Army   for the  Sake  of  bringing  Peace in the  region as well as  suppressing militancy  for  the defense  of  the  country  since  Militancy , Terrorism , Religious  Extremism  and  ethnic  Conflicts  have played havoc with the law and order situation and  rocked  the  very roots of  the  country . The  Rising  inflation  and  rapid  devaluation  of  Rupee  has  heralded   serious  repercussions for the  Pakistan having already  fragile  Economy  .  The  fading investments  in the Country  and  growing security concern  on  internal  as well as  External fronts  have  demanded  to  frame  Strict laws  for  the  extermination of  the  anti state elements  who are  mercenaries  and their only role  is  to destabilize  the  country by creating deteriorating law and order situation .

The Most Important  point which  revolves  in  every Pakistani’s  mind  that will  the  dialogue  breed  positive  results  and  who  will  guarantee that  TTP’s multiple  factions will come to terms with the  Government  and accept  the  writ  of   Government since  they do not accept the  accept  even  the  constitution of  Pakistan .  Even the Punjabi faction of Talibans enjoys their unique identity contrasting other Taliban entities.

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But  Before  the  dialogue  , there  should  be  a  ceasefire  and  there  should not be  any  attack  on Army convoy  , religious  Places  such as  Mosques  , Imam Bargahs , Temples and  Churches  . There should not be forced Disappearances or kidnappings by TTP Factions.

The above questions are  very  difficult  to be answered  keeping  in view  the  post  APC  scenario as many as  ten  Attacks  have made  including  attack  on Church  in which  innocent  Christians  were  killed . The  Peshawar has  become the  centre of  TTP  activities and  even  Legislators  have  lost their  precious lives  . The most alarming  message  was  the four bomb blasts  in the Provincial headquarters  of four provinces  at the same day by Suicide bombers raising concerns  for  the  success of  talks  with Taliban as was decided  during APC .

The  APC  success  lies  on the  above  questions  and  if  above  questions  go unanswered  then  such APC’s  will  have  the  same  tragic  end  as  was  of  earlier  one’s  on the  same  issues of  terrorism and  Militancy.  Even some  circles  in  Federal Government  specially  Interior  Ministry  are thinking of  revisiting their  Policy on  Security and  Dialogue  .

They have also  drafted  the national Security Policy which is  yet to get  the momentum  along with  strategy  of  Developing  Rapid Response  Force  to cope  with  Situation occurring  time to time  like  the  Sikandar  Solo drama who made  the Capital Police of  Islamabad  on Hold  for  Hours  and  posted  the message for the Security Policy makers  that he  has  displayed  live  show  , watched by millions  of  the  people around the world through live coverage of news channels  that  how a single  armed  person like Sikandar  with help  of  Sincere  wife  and  injured  kids  leaked  the  inefficiency of  Islamabad  Police  that  failed  to put hold  on single superman .

The Demoralized  Police  have  become  a laughing stalk for  the public  and  the concerns of  public  have to   a  level that  they have  lost their  belief on the  Police  completely and consider  taking their  own initiatives  for  self  security  . The Same  is the  situation in Karachi  , Peshawar , Quetta  , Punjab and  other parts of  the  Country.

Finally , the Government has  to rethink ,review  ,revisit and redraft the  policies  and  come  up with  renewed  , innovative  and  lasting solutions  specially the security  to restore  peace  in the country since  peace  is the  first step towards  the  development since  peace  has  multi dimensional  effects  on the country and  it makes the country a  friendly  place  to live  and  let  live  and  invest  the  funds and  contribute  in the  development of  their beloved country.

The PML (N) will  have  to take  bitter  decisions in  national interest to  bring peace  in the  region as Pakistan has  already  paid  heavy  price  for  being one of  the biggest  and important ally of  US  in war against  Terrorism emerging  after  9/11 Strikes  on  WTC . Pakistan has been facing multi faceted threats in the region including internal threats of militancy, Religious Extremism and Ethnic issues.

To cope with the long standing issues, PML (N) Government should take everyone on board, be it dialogue with TTP leaders or initiating operation against the Problem makers. The Security Personnel  should  be  trained  on modern lines and equipped  with sophisticated  weapons and  equipments  to tackle  with emerging  law and  order situation.

 

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Analysis

Imran Khan’s graceless exit

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Leaders come and go, but the manner in which Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from power through a parliamentary vote of no confidence has no precedent in Pakistani history.

After the opposition had mustered the necessary support of the members of the National Assembly, Khan could have resigned and exited from power with grace. Instead, he chose to cling to power until the last moment by sabotaging the vote of no confidence proceedings, despite a clear verdict from the Supreme Court to complete the voting process on Saturday. A cricket legend who played politics like a T-20 match; he kept the nation on its toes until midnight. His ego seemed bigger than the country he led.

Khan promised to build a new ‘Naya’ Pakistan, a thriving nation free from corruption beyond the dynastic politics of the past. But his nearly four years of narcissistic rule have been so nightmarish that ultimately public representatives opted to vote for Old Pakistan.

Khan leaves behind a nation with deeply polarised politics, an economy nearing collapse, and a foreign policy that has ruptured relations with major powers and trusted allies. Challenges that will be difficult to surmount by his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Pakistan has a chequered political history. In the past half century, long military rules have been followed by unstable civilian eras. This instability is often the result of the military’s intrusion into politics. The current impasse is no different, except that the alternative leader the generals tried to cultivate eventually became a Frankenstein.

To be sure, the post-Musharraf transition to democracy is different from the previous two such transitions of the 70’s and 90’s in the sense that rapid urbanization in the past couple of decades has produced a middle class that is no longer apolitical. Khan’s personal charm galvanised this class, especially its youth segment, leading to the emergence of PTI as a potent challenge to mainstream political parties, including the PMLN and Pakistan People’s Party.

Instead of focusing on the economy, Khan pursued a vengeful accountability drive against the leaders of PMLN and PPP. Their character assassination by trolls on social media, with unfounded accusations of corruption and treason, has introduced a level of toxicity in politics never seen before.

Ishtiaq Ahmad

In the PTI’s rise, the military saw an opportunity to discredit both parties. Thus began the unique experiment of a regime built on the premise that civilian and military leaders would remain on the ‘same page.’ The bargain was that Khan would receive unwavering support from the military leadership and his government would, in return, deliver tangible economic outcomes through better governance. Keeping the opposition at bay was a shared interest.

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But this bargain took no time to flicker due to the bad economic start of the Khan regime. It wasted almost a year in negotiating a bailout package with the IMF worth $6 billion, which devaluated the rupee. The subsequent period has seen further economic mismanagement amid the global pandemic, curtailing the GDP growth rate from 5.9% in 2018 to 3.4% this year. IMF conditionalities have led to double digit inflation. Foreign borrowing has raised the debt burden significantly. The economic corridor project with China is derailed. Unemployment has also skyrocketed. There is deep public disillusionment as a result.

Instead of focusing on the economy, Khan pursued a vengeful accountability drive against the leaders of PMLN and PPP, who were hounded and jailed on alleged corruption charges that remain unproven in any court of law. Their character assassination by trolls on social media, with unfounded accusations of corruption and treason, has introduced a level of toxicity in politics never seen before.

Islam has been a convenient tool for both military and civilian leaders to divert public attention from real socio-economic issues. But the way Khan has used his religious narrative to cultivate support among the population has no parallel.

Under no circumstances does the military allow civilian leaders to play with its chain of command, but Khan crossed this red line. He also played the American conspiracy card, using a diplomatic cable from the ex-envoy in Washington to claim the no confidence motion was a US ploy to change his regime. All his opponents, he dubbed traitors.

Without the military’s support, Khan could not have made it to the premiership. Its top brassindeed bet on the wrong horse and may have learned a hard lesson. His reckless subversion of the constitution to keep himself in power has also annoyed the judiciary and, perhaps, a significant chunk of his urban middle class supporters who have already borne the brunt of indirect taxes under PTI rule.

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Despite his disgraceful exit from power, Khan retains a cult following among the youth. But with key PTI financiers drifting away and his own accountability about to begin, Khan’s political fate now hangs in the balance. The emergence of PTI as an alternative political force to cater to the rightful aspirations of the middle class was a good thing in the patronage-driven politics of Pakistan. Its demise – at the hands of its own leader – will be quite unfortunate.

Courtesy ARABNEWS

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Opinion

Russia Turns to Africa for Trade Amid US, EU Sanctions

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As United States and European sanctions broaden due to special military operation, largely directed at demilitarization and denazification in Ukraine, Russians are now diversifying both exports and imports in Africa’s direction. After the first summit held 2019 in Sochi where a mountain of pledges incorporated in a joint declaration, but have not been given serious attention as expected.

Russia and Ukraine share common border, both are former Soviet republics struggling to move unto the global stage. Russia was angered because Ukraine’s ambition to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. With the conflict that began February 24, and amid Western and European sanctions, Russia plans to expand its network of trade missions in Africa, according to Vladimir Padalko, Vice President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The meeting held March 4 at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry building was really to re-examine how import-export trade be intensified and map out possible support for Russian enterprises and organizations in entering the African market, in practical terms, for mutually beneficial support and benefits in the light of Russia-Ukraine crisis. State support and business facilitation have been on the agenda these several years, and was exhaustively discussed during a panel session in Sochi.

“During the meeting, the participants voiced a proposal to expand the network of trade missions in Africa in the countries, which are priority for trade. It was agreed that the Industry and Trade Ministry would work on this issue together with the Foreign Ministry and the Economic Development Ministry,” Padalko said.

According to official reports, the popular Russian perception is that Africa is a promising market for Russia and information data obtained from the Industry and Trade Ministry, Russia has only four trade missions in Africa – in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and South Africa. In addition, several interviews and research indicated that the Russian expert community advocates for strengthening business relations with Africa, and for example sees fruits, tea, coffee from the EU countries can be replaced with products from African countries.

Deputy Director of the Department of Asia, Africa and Latin America of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Alexander Dianov, spoke about the non-financial support measures for Russian companies operating within the department.

On the other hand, he said: “There are trade missions only in four African countries, and if you take sub-Saharan African countries, the trade mission operates effectively only in South Africa. It is obvious that there is something to work on in terms of developing the infrastructure to support Russian businesses. If there is a serious request from the business community, we are ready to expand the geography of our presence.”

Senator Igor Morozov, Head of the Coordinating Committee on Economic Cooperation with Africa (AfroCom), business lobbying group established back in 2009, expressed his views posted to the website: “It is impossible to grow the national economy without developing new markets. Only more than 20 companies are working on raw materials projects in different parts of the continent, there are traditional deliveries through the military-technical cooperation, export of grain, mineral fertilizers, oil products with a total turnover of US$17 billion (2020)!”

Morozov argued that “it is necessary to involve large-scale involvement of small and medium-sized businesses from the Russian regions in the African direction. It is necessary to reconsider the entire range of the export potential of the regional economy: the transport industry, agricultural machinery and units, mechanical engineering and navigation equipment, the mining sector, water treatment, and information technology.”

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According to his interpretation, the geopolitical situation is rapidly changing and especially in such desperate condition of sanctions pressure, the outlook for new markets, new partners and allies are important for Russia. “This predetermines the return of Russia to Africa, makes this direction a priority both from the point of view of geopolitical influence, and in the trade and economic context. It is important for us to expand and improve competitive government support instruments for business. It is obvious that over the thirty years Russia left Africa. There are foreign players such as China, India, the United States and the European Union that have significantly increased their investment opportunities,” Morozov stressed.

Africa is one of the most promising and fastest-growing regions of the world, with leading powers actively competing with one another, the Senator further frankly acknowledged, and added that there is nothing surprising in the fact that the European Union is increasing its trade turnover with African countries, and it amounts to more than US$300 billion a year. For instance, the United States, implementing the Prosper Africa Programme, continues to push American investments and high-tech products to priority African markets.

In this regard, in order to promote Russian goods, it is necessary to create conditions that would be competitive for exporters. It is obvious that the Russian Export Center (REC) does not have a direct investment fund in the system of financing African projects. Successful practice in Africa clearly demonstrates the widespread use of such funds by China, India, France and many other players.

Russian Export Center says despite the emerging challenges the market is potentially the largest, Africa – is the continent of the future, but currently, the demand is generally limited. Speaking about Africa, there is the need to distinguish the countries of the continent into two groups: the northern and southern parts.

“We note an increase in the number of requests to find a Russian supplier from sub-Saharan Africa. Companies from such countries as South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Benin are most interested in increasing imports. We frequently receive requests to search for suppliers in such industries as mineral fertilizers, food products and the rest,” explains an official from Russian Export Center.

In such Russia-Ukraine paradigm, Russian enterprises and importers still need to understand a set of priority problems and barriers, especially now when showing searching for alternatives for European suppliers, and interested in establishing stable long-term with African partners.

Polina Slyusarchuk, Head of Intexpertise (St. Petersburg-based African focused Consultancy Group), has questioned whether Russia has a long-term strategy in there. “Today, Russia wants to deepen its understanding of the business climate and explore trade and partnership opportunities in Africa. Now at this critical time, Russians have to decide what they can offer that foreign players haven’t yet been made available in the African market in exchange for needed importable consumables,” she underscored.

The Maghreb region is an important gateway to Europe and to sub-Saharan Africa. In the past few years, Russian companies have taken active steps to increase both imports and exports of agricultural products. South Africa, Kenya, Morocco and a few others have been delivering fruits, described as marginal quality though, in the Russian market.

In an interview discussion for this article, Dr. Chtatou Mohamed, a senior professor of Middle Eastern politics at the International University of Rabat, emphasized that, on the geo-economic level, the five Arab countries present themselves as an unavoidable interface to enter the African continent, these are rich in raw materials and present as the great consumer market.

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“While the context between Russia and Western countries is highly troubled, and characterized in particular by a regime of sanctions and counter-sanctions, it is to better serve the interests of their peoples and find solutions by exploiting the opportunities. Moscow has more room for turn round export-import business with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa,” he pointed out.

Currently the geopolitical relations of most Mediterranean Arab countries with Russia are good, even for those who were allies of the United States during the period of world bipolarity along the years of the Cold War (the case of Egypt and from Morocco).

Members of African diplomatic missions informed the greatly unrealized potential of cooperation between Russia and African countries, and interest in attracting investments in agro-industry infrastructure, education and many other sectors, and unreservedly called for a wider interaction between African business circles and Russian businesses.

During the early March discussion, the participants mentioned high import duties, complicated certification procedures, high cost of products, expensive logistics, security and guarantee issues, and information vacuum as some of the barriers to Russian-African trade and economic cooperation. As always, the participants agreed on the need to develop a comprehensive strategy for Russia to work with Africa.

Indeed, Russia is already one of the ten largest food suppliers to Africa. Removing barriers could help export-import collaboration reach an entirely new level. Russian and African business communities lack of awareness regarding the current state of markets, along with trade and investment opportunities. There is an insufficient level of trust towards potential partners. These issues swiftly have to be resolved through establishing an effective system of communication to guarantee their reliability and integrity between public business associations in Russia and Africa.

In the meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered to restrict or prohibit import and export of certain products and raw materials from Russia in 2022, according to the decree on special foreign economic measures aimed to ensure Russia’s security.

“Ensure implementation of the following special economic measures until December 31, 2022: export and import ban of products and/or raw materials in accordance with lists to be defined by the government of the Russian Federation,” the document says, adding that a separate list will define goods, whose export and import will be restricted. The decree becomes necessary in order to ensure Russia’s security and uninterrupted operation of agriculture and industry.

On March 9, Putin and his Senegalese counterpart, Chair of the African Union, President Macky Sall held a telephone conversation to discuss the situation covering Russia’s special military operation to protect Donbass and the development of ties between Moscow and Africa.

“At the request of President Sall, Vladimir Putin informed him on the main aspects of the special military operation to protect the breakaway republics with an emphasis on the humanitarian element. In particular, it was stressed that Russian military personnel take every possible measure to safely evacuate foreign citizens,” the Kremlin press service said in a statement circulated after the conversation.

The Kremlin further stressed that the leaders confirmed the importance of the consistent implementation of the agreements reached at the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in 2019 and the further development of diverse ties in various economic spheres between Russia and African countries.

According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the preparations for the Russia-Africa summit are in the active stage. The dates of the summit have not been determined yet. The first Russia-Africa summit took place in October 2019, and it was co-chaired by Russian and Egyptian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The next summit scheduled for autumn 2022.

Via ModernDiplomacy

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Turkey in the Black Sea Region: Risks for Russia?

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On February 3, 2022, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official visit to Ukraine, during which he managed to put his signature to a Turkey–Ukraine free trade agreement following more than ten years of negotiations on the provisions of the document. But this was not the only achievement of the President’s visit: Ankara and Kiev also signed a framework document on the construction of a facility that will produce Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles in Ukraine.

The dynamically developing relations between Ankara and Kiev bring into focus such issues as Turkey’s vigorous penetration into the post-Soviet space, its willingness to act as a military and political patron of a number of former Soviet countries and aid them in strengthening their relations with NATO despite their non-NATO member status. Do these developments make conflict in the Black Sea more likely? What risks would this create for Russia and its interests?

The Caucasus and Ukraine: Two Links in the Same Chain

After the Second Karabakh War, the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict was no longer a predominantly regional ethnopolitical confrontation rooted in the consequences of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The strategic link between Ankara and Baku formed in the early 1990s has gone from strength to strength. Opportunities for Turkey and Azerbaijan to collectively exert pressure on Armenia (military, political and diplomatic) and Georgia (in terms of economic cooperation) have expanded. Russia’s hegemony in the South Caucasus has been challenged. At the same time, the Turkish strategy of strengthening its positions in Eurasia has created additional tensions in Ankara’s relations with its NATO allies and with Iran.

However, the events of 2020 did not lead to changes in just one region of the post-Soviet space. Turkey’s growing presence in the South Caucasus has opened up opportunities for it to build up political and economic influence in the Black Sea. And the expansion of multifaceted cooperation with Ukraine is one of the most obvious consequences of Turkey’s encroachment into the former Soviet Union.

Today, President Erdogan consistently promotes the idea of Turkey being a mediator between Russia and Ukraine. Yet, he is just as consistent in promoting ideas and practices that are unacceptable to Moscow. Erdogan has made no secret of the fact that he does not recognize Russian jurisdiction over Crimea, while the Russian authorities have declared that the issue of the status of the peninsula is “closed.”

Military-technical cooperation between Ankara and Kiev has long ceased to be merely a part of the foreign policy activity of the two states. On September 29, 2021, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine and the Bayraktar Savunma signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on the construction of a joint training and testing centre for the maintenance, repair and modernization of UAVs and training of personnel. In late October 2021, Ukraine used a Bayraktar strike drone for the first time in the armed conflict in the southeast of the country, in violation of the peace agreement between the parties. Following the strike, a group of reconnaissance officers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine infiltrated and captured the village of Staromaryevka located in the so-called “grey zone” between the DPR (the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic) and Ukraine. Such operations are very much to the liking of Ukraine’s partner countries in Eastern Europe. In the autumn of 2021, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Latvia Artis Pabriks suggested that EU and NATO countries follow Ankara’s example and learn from its experience in developing relations with Kiev without taking the position of Moscow into consideration.

In this context, it is worth noting a certain incongruence between the approaches of the United States and Turkey’s other NATO allies to its actions in the Caucasus and Ukraine. France could not (and cannot) tolerate Ankara’s unequivocal support for Baku, while the United States has adopted a position of cautious restraint. Washington and Paris are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, and they are concerned about Turkey’s “revisionism” in the Caucasus. This explains why both the French and the American sides are prepared to put up with Russia being the only major player in Nagorno-Karabakh as an inevitability or a lesser evil.

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There is an Armenian lobby in the United States and France. Without exaggerating the role that it plays in the politics of both countries, we can say that the issues of Karabakh independence and the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire are present in the American and French narratives. Yet there is no scenario in which one could possibly imagine a discussion of the self-determination of the Donbass republics taking place in Congress or the National Assembly of France. It is unlikely that influential groups (not individual members of parliaments) calling for the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia will appear in either country any time soon.

Thus, the collective West sees Turkey’s advances in Ukraine as being far less nuanced than the strengthening of the strategic alliance between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Some countries of the “New Europe” even believe that Ankara is acting as any NATO member can (and should) act in its relations with Ukraine—without any kind of political correctness or reservations, something that representatives of Germany, France, Italy, Hungary and other EU countries resort to from time to time. All this cannot but embolden Turkey to take new steps to build allied relations with Kiev. In turn, Ukraine, tired of sitting on its hands waiting for NATO to make up its mind about the country’s membership in the organization, is ready to welcome Turkey with open arms.

But does Turkey’s growing activity in the Black Sea necessarily mean that its relations with Russia will suffer greatly? Well, the answer to this question is not as clear-cut as it may seem at first. To understand why this is the case, it is vital to examine the foundations on which the bilateral partnership between Ukraine and Turkey was built.

Ukraine and Turkey: It is more than just about Crimea

For Ukraine, President Erdogan and the Turkish establishment are a sympathetic audience, especially when it comes to the loss of Kiev’s sovereignty over Crimea. Turkish officials miss no opportunity to stress that they do not recognize Russian authority over the peninsula.

But the Crimean Tatar community is an important domestic factor for Turkey. According to various estimates, approximately 4–5 million descendants of Crimean Tatars live in the country. Russian expert in Turkic languages and civilization Pavel Shlykov has noted that, “there are forces in Turkey that are ready to exploit the romantic moods of a part of the Turkish elite who dream of expanding more actively into the Caucasus, Crimea, the Volga Region and Central Asia, and who view Russia not as a partner, but as a geopolitical rival.” In this regard, it is no coincidence that Erdogan, justifying his initiative to act as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev, has pointed out just how important it is for the Black Sea region as a whole to see a positive resolution to the Crimean Tatar issue. During his visit to Ukraine in February, Erdogan met with a delegation from the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (an organization banned in the Russian Federation).

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But Turkey does not focus on Crimea only. The Turkish elite, realizing the complexity of relations between Moscow and Kiev, uses Ukrainian channels to express its dissatisfaction with Russian stance on other foreign policy issues. This was the case during Erdogan’s visit to Kiev on February 3, 2020, which was timed to coincide with the 28th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Turkey and post-Soviet Ukraine. It also took place against the backdrop of a sharp military escalation in Syria. The Turkish President lambasted the Russian leadership for deliberately turning a blind eye to the actions of the “Syrian regime.”

We should keep in mind that contacts with Bartholomew I of Constantinople are extremely important for the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky (as they were for his predecessor Petro Poroshenko), as he wants to use the Archbishop’s influence to fuel the “nationalization” of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. And there are no two ways about it—he needs Erdogan to do this. Arguably, Ukraine is willing to showcase its privileged relations with Azerbaijan, while it also seems poised to affirm the policy of non-recognition towards the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Following the Second Karabakh War, Kiev has noted a change in the behaviour of the Azerbaijani leadership, deeming it more relevant to today than the example of the 1995 “pacification” of the Republic of Serbian Krajina it relied on before.

However, despite the commonality of interests and growing cooperation between the sides, Ankara will most likely try to compensate for its emotions with regard to Ukraine by being pragmatic in its relations with Russia. No matter how intensively cooperation between Ankara and Kiev may develop, Erdogan is not trying to give up its role as an “intermediary” between Ukraine and Russia. He is under no illusion that the West would be satisfied if it were Turkey pulling the chestnuts out of the fire and not the “Euro-Atlantic brotherhood.” But the Turkish leadership is trying to raise its profile in the dialogue with the United States and the European Union by appealing to its “special relations” with Moscow. For all intents and purposes, this looks similar to how Ankara is conducting the dialogue with the European Union around the problem of refugees and migrants from the Middle East. For Turkey, getting caught up in an open confrontation with Russia would mean losing its status as a “special member” of NATO that needs to be coaxed and coddled.

Over recent years, Erdogan has thrown down the gauntlet to a number of countries, such as when putting Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and New Delhi, among others, on notice. However, by embracing his image as a major troublemaker, the President of Turkey has repeatedly shown that he is able to rationalize confrontation. This was the case in 2016 when Turkey and Russia disagreed over Syria, and in 2021 when Joe Biden called the tragedy of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a genocide.

However, no matter how the Turkish President and his inner circle maneuver, Turkey is becoming more and more militarily and politically involved in post-Soviet affairs with each passing day. And we are no longer talking exclusively about the Caucasus region. It appears as if Erdogan wants to become one of the key actors in the Ukrainian game—a player without whom any reconfiguration in the Black Sea region would be, if not impossible, then extremely unlikely.

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