Azerbaijan and Pakistan: Historical relations and perspectives

Ayaz Haider Bangash

Having located most of its area in Asian Continent makes Azerbaijan as a half-brother of Pakistan by region. Owing to linkage of border with the neighboring states of Pakistan, aroma of delicious food and culture can also be experienced in Pakistan. Cherry on top, majority of people in both countries practices the same religion. Previously, Azerbaijan was under the USSR regime but after its defeat in Afghanistan, in which Pakistan played a major role. Azerbaijan got its independence from the USSR, after 80 years of struggle, in 1991. Pakistan was the first country to recognize Azerbaijan as an independent state that made our bond much stronger. The relationship of Pakistan with Azerbaijan has myriad of reasons, previously before the independence of Pakistan, Pakistan’s people going there for business purposes and its wareabouts can still be witnessed in the latter. They are strategic allies. The former is one of the few countries to recognize the Khojaly Massacre, carried out by Armenia against Azerbaijan’s people, a carnage in which according to local news more the six hundred people lost their lives and hundreds of people lost their beloved ones. Moreover, Pakistan also supports Azerbaijan’s side of Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Therefore, it has not established ties with Armenia over the issue. Love and affection have always been flourishing from both sides and in pursuant, Azerbaijan is on Pakistan’s side on the Kashmir Issue. They have also increased their bilateral businesses with each other. Azerbaijan would love to join CPEC as well, as it is a leading route of trade to the Central Asia.

Both of the countries can acquire a bigger volume of trade in the upcoming future. They both had hitherto good relationship and it will grow even more in the future. If we consider that we have a very close people-to-people relationship than it won’t be true, the main reason behind this social gap is education and awareness.

Many of the new generation don’t know the close ties between them-the past history of both and how they helped each other in time of need. Both of the countries share the same ethnicity. Sharing common borders with Iran has brought drastic effects on culture commonality in both countries.

However, with the passage of time, the social media has brought   awareness amongst the two nations and their close ties and traveling to Azerbaijan has become a norm in the youth of Pakistan. The more it is appreciated on governmental level, the more it will coalesce. Pakistan-Azerbaijan Alumni have also one of the prestigious role in bringing the two nations close together. Recently, Azerbaijan Dastarkhwan for the fasting the people of Pakistan was streaming on social media that gives an immense pleasure of brotherhood to the people of Pakistan.

Before the USSR collapse, Azerbaijan was under its regime. From 1920s Azerbaijan was dominated by the USSR and there were a lot of sanctions on it. It got its independent in 1991 from the former and became an independent country. Pakistan played a major role in its independence. Pakistan indirectly weaken the USSR in Afghanistan War which broke the back of the USSR and made it economically isolated.

Pakistan was the first country to recognize Azerbaijan as an independent state on December 12,1991. Just after 4 years of its independence Farooq Leghari- the than president of Pakistan- became the first person from Pakistan to visit Azerbaijan in 1995.Recently, the attendance of acting Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Upper House of the Parliament of Pakistan visit to Azerbaijan on its 100th anniversary of its parliament will bloom the future relationship with Azerbaijan.  

Similarly, the Khojaly Massacre, which was committed by Armenians in the Azerbaijan’s town of Khojaly on the night of 25-26th February, 1992, is considered one of the gravest crime against humanity in the late 20th century.

This merciless, cruel and heart trenching slaughtering was the most dreadful mass terror act in the history of humankind. Pakistan didn’t forget Khojaly Massacre. More than 613 people, including 63 children, 106 women and 70 old people were killed in the massacre.

Eight families were totally vanished. 130 children lost single parent and 25 children lost both. Some 1275 innocent resident were taken hostage, while the fate of 150 people is still unknown at large. Armenian armed forces slaughtered innocent people in Khojaly, so as to cover their tracks, they resorted to extreme brutality, destroying Khojaly Monuments, which had been a unique importance to the people of Azerbaijan and entire humanity as well, owing to this very reason Pakistan stood with Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh Issue and has given its clear stance on Khojaly Massacre. The former has not extended de-facto-recognition of the newly independent state of Armenia in order to express solidarity with the people of Azerbaijan. At the same, Azerbaijan fully support Pakistan on the Kashmir stance which is no different than Khojaly massacre, in Kashmir people are killed on daily basis through different manners. Azeri ambassador called for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on Kashmir. In addition to this Azerbaijan is also a member of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir.

Furthermore, the bilateral strategic cooperation between these two states embraces the economic, cultural, political, and especially defense fields. Taking into account their close ties, the current level of military cooperation between them needs to be emphasized. While Azerbaijan’s defense industry has strategic relations with various countries, Baku has been seeking ways of expanding military cooperation with Pakistan in particular over the last years.

Giving Pakistan the status of a nuclear power, combined with its dynamic military muscle, military cooperation can be seen as another fundamental building block of the bilateral relationship. The two countries have signed a defense agreement in May of 2003, which allows Azerbaijani military personnel, in particular special force units, to take part in annual military drills along with Pakistan Armed Forces.

As a part of the agreement, Azerbaijan’s naval personnel have participated in the biggest Pakistan-led multinational exercise, AMAN-2013, held in March 2013 in the Arabian Sea. In addition to this, they will hold bilateral military exercises, according to comments from Ex-Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his official visit to Azerbaijan in October 2016.

Beyond joint exercises, military and defense cooperation between Azerbaijan-Pakistan have taken form of continuous dialogue in high-level meetings, as well as military agreements such as the military cooperation agreement that was signed in February 2014 in Islamabad. The same document was updated in 2015 and 2016, during the Working Group Meetings in Baku and Islamabad, respectively.

 Likewise, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the future of trade from China to the whole world. Azerbaijan can take advantage by investing in the corridor. Also, the Azerbaijan is eyeing the JF-17 Thunder (also known as the FC-1 Xiaolong), a multi-functional aircraft that was jointly developed by Pakistan and China.

Although Azerbaijan has expressed interests in importing the JF-17, no formal deal has been reached yet. Nevertheless, the Pakistan Ministry of Defense was invited to demonstrate the JF-17 at the 2016 Azerbaijan International Defense Exhibition (ADEX-2016) for the first time. During the exhibition, Minister of Defense Industry Yavar Jamalov repeatedly showed interest in importing new fighter jets. In the same year, Azerbaijan’s First Deputy Prime Minister Yaqub Eyyubov attended the International Defense Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), where he reiterated his government’s interest in buying new aircraft. Currently, the Azerbaijan Air Forces operate mainly MiG-29, Su-25, and MiG-21 aircraft. JF-17 is highly economic, efficient and effective that could be witnessed from recent Indian attack where it has accepted defeat of its defense at the hands of JF-17.

The foreign policies of Azerbaijan have made plausible achievements in the past few years and relationship with Pakistan was always on their priority list.

If only the previous year is being examined we can find that both the countries have achieved milestones together in political, military, military-technical defense industry, security, cultural, media, science education, energy and humanitarian-social field. The trade turn over between the two countries have enormously increased by 25 percent in 2018. In the past one year around 40 mutual visits of ministers, government and military officials from both sides have occurred.

The number of tourists from both countries increased more than 10 times in past two years. To this Azerbaijan have brought a proposal of direct flight to Pakistan which will decrease the fare of traveling and will increase the social interaction of people in both countries. Azerbaijan have always taken two steps forward in friendship, State oil company of Azerbaijan(SOCAR) offered oil and oil products on deferred payment when Pakistan is in dire need of it due to de-escalation of economy. There are many such areas which will increase the bond of brotherhood of both countries.

All the above discussion brings us to conclusion that Azerbaijan and Pakistan have always been in good relationship with each other and it can be further enhanced by mutual cooperation at political, economic, social, technological and legal levels.

Azerbaijan has recently eased the visa process for Pakistanis which was a huge step for tourism industry and people-to-people interaction. Like in the past both countries have always stands by each other side on different issues i.e. Khojaly genocide, Kashmir issue etc. In the future, the bond will get much stronger as both the countries have great potential of bilateral business.

Moreover, Unity by faith integrates countries much stronger .Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan are Islamic countries and share the same faith. Pakistan and Azerbaijan’s governments can introduce students exchange program that can further make the two nations imbue of each other.

Bilateral business of buying arms, textile, and other minerals which is the major export area of Azerbaijan. Introducing each other product in their respective states can bring economic growth to them. It cannot only bring job opportunities for the new generation but can also introduce new ways of industrialization in both countries.

The attendance of paratroopers from Azerbaijan in 23rd March Parade-Pakistan’s day-made the event more mesmerizing and gave a gesture of brotherhood. 

Both the countries had good relationship in the past and it will grow with each day passing in the future.