Turkey-Iran-Pakistan axis trying to gain traction again amid ‘regional challenges’

Iran's ambassador to Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, recently stated that "countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and China have the potential to form a new alliance for the better future of the region."

Tehran: The proposal that Iran, Pakistan and Turkey should band together to address regional security challenges is once again gaining traction. However, there are inherent limitations for such a framework to consolidate and evolve into a formidable framework.

The recent 25-year strategic agreement between China and Iran seeks to deepen economic and military cooperation.
Sanjay Pulipaka, writing in Asia Times said that the deal is bilateral in its content, but it will have broader implications. The most obvious ramification is that the agreement counters the US attempts to curtail Iran’s international economic interactions.

Meanwhile, in the immediate neighbourhood, there is a perception that the deal will pave the way for the westward expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to include Iran and Turkey, reported Asia Times.

Regional geopolitical ambitions also guide these connectivity/economic approaches. Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, recently stated that “countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and China have the potential to form a new alliance for the better future of the region.”

From Iran’s perspective, a relationship with Turkey and Pakistan could be an important bulwark against the oil-rich Arab states. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is currently involved in the Syrian civil war, Iraq, Libya and the South Caucasus and has been contesting Greece’s exclusive economic zones.

This ambitious regional posture suggests that Erdogan wants to emerge as the leader of the Islamic world, wrote Pulipaka.

For Ankara and Tehran, containing the influence of Arab states in the Middle East is an important objective. Simultaneously, there is an undercurrent of geopolitical competition between Iran and Turkey as both seek enhanced presence in the Middle East. On the other hand, Turkey-Pakistan relations are proceeding along three dimensions.

First, Erdogan has declared that military, economic and diplomatic cooperation with Pakistan is not a choice but an “obligation.”

Second, there are concerns about possible nuclear cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan. Third, there have been reports that Ankara and Islamabad are coordinating in the realm of propaganda/information warfare on a host of regional issues.

Frameworks involving Iran, Turkey and other countries in the region have historical precedence. In fact, in 1934, the Saadabad Pact was agreed upon among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan to counteract a possible Soviet penetration into the Middle East.

Through the 1955 Baghdad Pact, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Britain sought to promote their mutual interests in the region; subsequently, it evolved into the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO).]

The spirit of the Baghdad Pact dissipated after Iraq withdrew from the framework a year after the 1958 revolution.
While, CENTO, declassified US document of 1958 notes stated that Pakistan approached such frameworks as an instrument to promote its interests vis-a-vis India as Iran was keen on building a non-Arab alliance, reported Asia Times.

Given their diverse geopolitical interests, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey sought to find common ground in the economic sphere by establishing the Regional Cooperation for Development in 1964.

However, the three countries did not have enough resources of their own and depended on technical assistance from the US and the UK.

Moreover, Iranian Revolution in 1979 ensured the demise of CENTO.

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