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Turkey’s plan to rope in Pakistan for nuclear weapons shows aggressive intent

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey’s diabolic plan to rope in Pakistan in suspected development of atomic weapons shows aggressive intent as Ankara is already protected by a nuclear umbrella on account of its membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Suspicions about Pakistan’s covert support for Turkish nukes has been aroused by a recent meeting of the Turkey-Pakistan High-Level Military Dialogue Group (HLMDG). The assemblage took place on December 22-23. Pakistan's Defence Secretary Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Mian Muhammad Hilal Hussain led the delegation from Islamabad, while Deputy Chief of Turkish Army General Selcuk Bayraktaroglu headed the Turkish delegation, says an article published by the website zeenews.india.com.

There were other indications that the delegation held discussions about nuclear delivery systems. The visitors from Islamabad met top Turkish Army generals and bureaucrats dealing with missile production and aerial know-how. The host list included Prof. Ismail Demir head of Presidency of Turkish Defence Industries and Dr. Temil Kotil, CEO of Turkish Aerospace Limited (TAI). The Pakistani defence delegation also visited top Turkish defence companies including Bakyar (UAV OEM), TAI, HAVELSAN and ASELSAN.

Analysts say that the insider meetings in Turkey took place within a rapidly evolving geopolitical context. Islamabad and Ankara have become staunch strategic allies—a partnership sealed by personal bonds between the Turkish ambitious President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan’s military backed Prime Minister Imran Khan. Erdogan hopes to emerge as the pre-eminent Islamic leader, marginalising established heavyweights such as Mohamed bin Sultan, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, the trojan horse for the wealthy six nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Erdogan made his intent to pursue nukes clear during a September 2019 speech when he falsely argued that Turkey was a victim of nuclear discrimination.

“Several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us that] we can’t have them. This I cannot accept,” Erdogan said on the centennial of the Turkish independence movement. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them.” Erdogan’s argument is blatantly false and self-serving. Several developed countries do not have atomic weapons.

Only nine countries — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel — possess nuclear weapons, with Washington and Moscow owning 93 percent of them, says an article published by the prestigious Arms Control Association. Unsurprisingly a U.S. State Department official in a comment to The National Interest, reminded Turkey that it is a party to the 1968 nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Turkey signed the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state in 1980. This implied that that Ankara had formally agreed to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. Turkey has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions—the feedstock for developing atomic bombs. Apart from its treaty obligations, Turkey is already protected against nuclear attack because of its NATO membership since 1952.

Under NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements, five European countries—Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey—host U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. At Ankara’s Incirlik Air Base, Turkey stores around 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs – the most of any NATO state. The United States or NATO has given any indication that it wants to withdraw these powerful nukes from Turkey.

On the contrary the US State Department has made it plain that Turkey is “covered by NATO’s Article 5 collective defence clause, which bolsters Turkey’s defence and security.” Yet, driven by blind ambition, Turkey appears to be seeking atomic weapons with support from Pakistan. Evidence of Turkey-Pakistan nuclear collaboration is pouring in. On December 21, Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad of Pakistani Army also met Lt. Gen. Wali Turkchi of Turkish Army in Ankara for the Second Round of Turkish-Pakistani Military Talks.

Sources said that transfer of missile technology and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) were the focus of these discussions. Apart from ideological reasons, there is a clear quid pro quo in the Turkey-Pakistan alliance. The International Institute of Strategic Studies, points out that Turkish companies have backed Pakistan to covertly import materials from Europe, and export the finished products to players like Libya and North Korea.

There have been credible media reports that have spotlighted that Turkey might be possessing a considerable number of centrifuges—spinning machines that purify uranium to higher grades – made by Pakistan. It was therefore natural that Turkey, in its quest for atomic weapons, narrowed its focus on Pakistan, which has a well-established record of nuclear smuggling. For decades, Pakistan has been a kingpin of the ‘nuclear black market,” with the disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan helping numerous countries, especially in the production of centrifuges, through his infamous AQ Khan network.