Pakistan and Turkey need to adopt Asia centric foreign policies

After US tariffs were imposed, the Turkish Lira tumbled more than 16 percent, to a new record low against the dollar

Pakistan and Turkey, being allies of the US and NATO in Afghanistan, Europe and the Syrian crises respectively, are being bullied by the US on various accounts. Moreover they are under US sanctions in different ways. The US is not giving both these countries due respect as its allies, which is compelling them to seek other major powers as their partners.

Since long Pakistan is being blamed for not doing enough in the War on Terror in Afghanistan. Not recognising, that Pakistan has destroyed all hideouts of terrorists and has eliminated terrorism in its tribal areas adjacent to Afghanistan. In this war, Pakistan has sacrificed more than 70,000 human lives, and suffered colossal economic losses of above $107 billion. Instead of acknowledging Pakistan’s contributions; the US is pressuring Pakistan through punitive measures to compel it to ‘do more’.

In January 2018, the US suspended about $500 million, a part of the coalition support fund to Pakistan. Lately the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo warned that any potential International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout for Pakistan’s new government should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders. The Trump administration has also stopped Pakistani military officers from training in the US, a practice that had been prevalent for decades. Very recently, Ambassador Alice Wells said that, “Pakistan is on notice; that we expect its unequivocal cooperation, ending the alleged sanctuaries that the Afghani Taliban are enjoying in Pakistan”. Recently the US has also suspended $300 million, a part of the Coalition Support Fund, just before the US Secretary of State visited Pakistan on September 5, 2018.

The above mentioned US policies clearly indicate that the US is not ready to recognise Pakistan’s contributions made in the War on Terror. It is also not bothered about taking action against Pakistani terrorists, enjoying sanctuaries in Afghanistan and being sponsored by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) operatives to carry out terrorist attacks in Balochistan, Pakistan, to destabilize the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).This indicates that the US is pursuing its geopolitical objectives in this region, where it is giving priority to its newest allies like India and Afghanistan, to contain China.

These punitive policies of the Trump administration indicate that it is bothered only to advance US interests and wants that its longtime allies; Pakistan and Turkey should forget about their own national interest, while acting as US allies

The US has already declared India as its close defence ally and on September 6, 2018, another agreement was signed to provide sensitive technology, like armed drones to India. Such US policies are indicative that in view of its strategic partnership with India, the US will ignore Pakistan.

Turkey is also facing severe US economic sanctions, on a diplomatic standoff over the imprisonment of Andrew Mr. Brunson, an American minister who led a Protestant church in the city of Izmir, whom Turkey blames for collaborating with the American-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party bring about a military coup in Turkey in 2016.

In response, in July 2018, the Trump Administration had imposed financial sanctions on Turkey’s two Ministers, whom the U.S. claims have played leading parts in the detention of Brunson. This had spooked financial markets, and caused a drop in the value of the Lira by about 1.3 percent.

In August 2018, President Trump unexpectedly doubled metal tariffs against Turkey, sending the country’s currency spiralling downwards. The US president has also tweeted, “I have just authorised a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and aluminium with respect to Turkey as the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against the Dollar! Aluminium will now be 20 percent and Steel 50 percent!” This action was taken after talks broke down over the release of US pastor Andrew Brunson.

After US tariffs were imposed, the Turkish Lira tumbled more than 16 percent, to a new record low against the dollar. In response, Mr. Erdogan told the Turkish citizens, to exchange their dollars, euros or gold for Turkish Lira, as a national fight against this economic war. The Turkish President further said that his country will boycott US electronic goods. He also spoke with Vladimir Putin via phone, to discuss “trade and economic cooperation”. In this situation, it is being speculated that Turkey would most likely seek to shift its center of gravity, away from the West and towards Russia and Eurasia.

The above discussed punitive policies of the Trump administration indicate that it is bothered only to advance US interests and wants that its longtime allies; Pakistan and Turkey should forget about their own national interest, while acting as US allies. This self-centered politics of the Trump administration is suggesting that while Pakistan and Turkey should cooperate with each other regarding economics and strategy, their trade and defence policies should also tile towards Eurasia, especially towards China and Russia.

The writer is an ex-Army Colonel, and a former Research Fellow of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad and Senior Research Fellow, Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad

Published in Daily Times, September 12th 2018.