Response to Regional Challenges: Why Strategic Partnership of Azerbaijan and Pakistan is Important?

Caucasus International Journal (Winter issue, 2017)
Caucasus International Journal (Winter issue, 2017)

Caucasus International Journal; Volume 7 • No: 2 • Winter 2017

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This article examines the degree of awareness at the grassroots level in Azerbaijan and Pakistan regarding the growing bilateral strategic cooperation. During the last several years, relations between Baku and Islamabad have expanded rapidly to the level of a strategic partnership encompassing various fields such as military, humanitarian issues, diplomatic, and cultural issues. Building strategic partnerships with countries in the region and beyond has always been a guiding principle of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy strategy. The common religious background of both countries also plays a significant role in strengthening bilateral ties. Pakistan’s explicit support of Azerbaijan in the international diplomatic arena, in particular in regard to the resolution process of the most complex and dangerous conflict in the South Caucasus – the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is among those significant factors. The article traces the key moments in Azerbaijani – Pakistan relations, and outlines the achievements, prospects, and potential for strengthening economic and security ties.

Introduction 

Introduction Pakistan and Azerbaijan share common historic, cultural, and religious values. The relationship between the two countries has encompassed economic, defence, political and diplomatic cooperation since Azerbaijan regained independence from the USSR. However, despite a historically cordial political and strategic relationship between the two countries, economic relations remain underdeveloped. Economic cooperation began in 1995 with the signing of an Agreement under the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) on Trade and Economic Cooperation1 . Although more than twenty years have passed since this Agreement, the volume of trade between the two countries was only $18.735 million in 2014-20152 . The two countries can substantially increase the volume of bilateral trade by offering expertise to each other in various sectors, per their respective economic strengths.

On the strategic front, certain strategic complementarities have been identified. Common diplomatic targets, exchange of industrial and natural resources, as well as strong religious ties can play an essential role in bringing both societies and countries together, and in strengthening bilateral cooperation. Successful bilateral cooperation depends on successful leadership and clear-headed domestic policies. In the case of modern Pakistan, “Islamic elements” seem to dominate the public sphere, while Azerbaijan – a predominantly Muslim country with a clearly secular institutional system – has avoided adopting an Islamist political agenda. Although the functionaries of the Pakistani state remained largely secular until the 1980s, the state helped to create a Pakistani identity as the citadel of Islam, which, in turn, enabled Islamists greater freedom of organization and movement than in other countries3 . Islamabad’s reliance on Islamist ideology as a political tool has led to the proliferation of Islamic political groups of all kinds inside the country.

Despite obvious differences in ruling methods and ideologies, the leaders of both countries have always been committed to increasing bilateral cooperation, in particular in the economic and defence fields. In this respect, the longrunning Nagorno-Karabakh and Kashmir conflicts have been key factors in bringing Baku and Islamabad closer together, in order to increase capacity to take adequate measures against regional threats. The strong defence cooperation, as well as historical ties, common religious, and cultural values therefore allow Pakistan and Azerbaijan to mutually benefit from this strategic alliance.

In international relations, cultural and religious values may shape bilateral state preferences in a cooperative direction, as both dimensions have special role in deepening the understanding between communities. The article traces the key moments in Azerbaijani – Pakistani relations, and outlines achievements, prospects, and potential for strengthening economic and security ties between the two countries. The article is divided into two chapters. The first chapter focuses on the military cooperation between Pakistan and Azerbaijan, seeking to illuminate the significance of military cooperation with Pakistan in Azerbaijan’s foreign policy agenda. The second section examines economic cooperation between Baku and Islamabad and evaluates the prospects for deepening cooperation in this field in the future.