Turkey provides Pakistan emotional, ideological, and political support, while China is providing both material and political support. With China’s support, the Kashmir issue has thrice been discussed in the UN Security Council since August 5, 2019.
While we remain focused on the India-China confrontation and on the Sino-Iran deal, another alliance is in the making which India should be watching closely — the Sino-Turkish alliance.
Over the years China and Turkey have been cementing ties that have often been constrained by the United States and by Turkey’s membership in NATO. However, the bilateral ties got a fillip since China launched its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clutched at the opportunity as he struggles to consolidate his AKP Party and reclaim for himself the glory of Turkey’s Ottoman past. Another reason was that Erdogan’s ambitions to anoint himself as the leader of the Muslim world saw Turkey embroil itself in wars in foreign lands, thus putting Ankara in financial straits. Here also, China has not disappointed. Bilateral trade, which was at $1 billion in 2000, stood at $23 billion in 2018, with Chinese investments of around $2 billion.
Straddling two continents, Turkey is strategically important for China’s BRI, as a trade and transport hub, significantly cutting down freight transportation time from China to Europe and Africa. Turkey had also launched its own connectivity project to access the Caucasus and Central Asia through the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway, known as the Middle Corridor.
In November 2016, Beijing and Ankara signed a memorandum of understanding on harmonizing their BRI and Middle Corridor Initiatives. As investments from the EU and West Asia shrink, Turkey is increasingly turning to China for investments in infrastructure development, which is one of the promises to countries signing on to the BRI.