By Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey are strategic partners. Diplomatic relations among Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey are based on mutual respect, sharing unique commonalities of historical, religious and political nature. After the establishment of the formal diplomatic relations, there was no looking back and ties grew at a steady pace and the sky is the limit for their socio-economic integration, better political understanding and greater regional connectivity.
Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey have cultural, social, religious and civilizational ties. Right from the beginning, the governments and the political leaderships of these countries have been keen to further develop and consolidate the bond of friendship and brotherhood. These countries share commonality of opinion on different regional and international issues and supported each other on challenges faced. Turkish current presidency of the OIC has revolutionized its aims, utility and objectives. Azerbaijan and Turkish support on the issue of Kashmir create “strategic balance” in the region.
Bilateral relations among these countries are constantly on the move, trade and economic ties have already been given new dimensions. Exchange of visits of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistani leaders as well as the other high level delegations have played a pivotal role in cementing their socio-economic integration, greater regional cooperation and the last but not the least energy cooperation.
These countries have meaningful MOUs and agreements in political, economic, strategic, social, humanitarian, cultural and other sectors that were signed during these visits formed a solid legislative base. Further increasing of military cooperation among these countries has developed a new “strategic dimension” to their relationships which would be game changer in the days to come.
Being regional expert on Azerbaijan and Central Asia, I personally witnessed an article published in daily English newspaper “Daily Times” on December 25, 2017 entitled Can Harissa act as an ice-breaker between Armenia and Pakistan? written by Sarmad Iqbal.
It lacked even basic knowledge about Azerbaijan’s national history, political struggle, and geography. It had some serious factual errors which need to be rectified in order to showcase the true picture of Azerbaijan and its principal policies towards Armenian and South Caucasus. Writer of this article seemed to be ill informed, biased and slanted towards Armenia. Sarmad Iqbal categorically tried to tarnish the bilateral relations of both the countries. So called pseudo-intellectual of this article had a blind inclination towards Armenia, the aggressor and “cultivation of genocide”.
The Republic of Azerbaijan is a civilized country whereas Armenia has already been labeled as conspirator. Azerbaijan is a decent country whereas Armenia has been categorized as destructor of humanity and enemy of economic development too. It has been notorious for its ethnic cleansing, prejudice, bigotry and state terrorism.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the bleeding wound for the Republic of Azerbaijan which is also a looming security threat to the whole region of South Caucasus. Azerbaijan’s successive leaders and people have been striving hard to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia which shows its firm belief in diplomacy and dialogue.
For the last 26 years the Republic of Azerbaijan has had been trying its best to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh within the “frame of possibilities” under true spirits of international law, rule of sovereignty, respect of human rights and the last but not the least, mutual respect.
Right from the beginning, the government of Azerbaijan’s took a principled stance that “Nagorno-Karabakh is an “integral part” of it. It has been using all diplomatic means to achieve the desired goal of de-occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts under illegal occupation of Armenia. Armenia has had been maintained aggressive policy towards people of Azerbaijan people living in territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other regions of the country.
Armenia occupied more than 20 percent of Azerbaijan whereas Nagorno-Karabakh remained an ancient and historical part of Azerbaijan. Now the continued occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenian armed forces is a threat to peace and stability in the South Caucasus, as well as a source of destabilization for the region in the future. More than one million of Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons.
Armenia conducted the policy of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other regions of Azerbaijan. According to Azerbaijan’s official figures over 3,800 people went missing due to Armenian aggression. Moreover, 872 out of 3,868 missing people were captured or became hostages of Armenian soldiers during intense combat action, and are currently kept in caption by them. “They are 591 military personnel and 291 civilians. The civilians include 29 children, 98 women and 111 elderly people.
The Republic of Azerbaijan is not an aggressor as claimed by Sarmad Iqbal. Right of Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh territories is even recognized by the United Nations Security Council which adopted four resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 condemning the use of force against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territories in 1993. It reaffirmed respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, reconfirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is an integral part of Azerbaijan and demanded the immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all the occupied territories.
Moreover, it demanded, including in the first place the withdrawal of the occupying forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, have still not been implemented, and the mediation efforts conducted for the last 20 years within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have also yet to yield desired results.
Azerbaijan never used violence against Armenia as depicted by Sarmad Iqbal in his disorganized, disarrayed and misinformed article whereas Khojaly genocide was an ethnic cleansing of Armenia forces against helpless Azerbaijanis. It was an act of barbarism and naked use of military power but it could not produce any dint to the spirits of Azerbaijanis and Kashmiris who are still trying to liberate their occupied areas from Armenia and India.
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a potential “security threat” to South Caucasus and the European Union as well. Moreover, Armenia’s outdated Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), one of the most dangerous industrial facilities in the world, continues to threaten South Caucasus and the EU. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.S. and other western states have already objected to the reopening of the Metsamor NPP. Washington believes the design of the 407-megawatt Metsamor reactor is one of the world’s most dangerous.
The EU has also branded the Metsamor NPP as a “serious danger” to the entire region. To protect their people the regional countries, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia have repeatedly urged Armenia to close the outdated Metsamor NPP immediately. However, Armenia still does not attach any particular importance to nuclear safety, which is a gross violation of the protocols of IAEA too.
Besides, the findings show that the Metsamor NPP was built in a nine-point seismic zone, while its reactor’s seismic resistance is designed for earthquakes with eight-point magnitude. Therefore, the NPP will not survive in case of an earthquake forcing nine points.
Given high seismic activity in the region, if a serious accident happens at the Metsamor NPP, not only Armenia, but also all the countries of the South Caucasus and Middle East regions would be badly affected in terms of severe health issues, drastic decrease in human fertility, lessening of agricultural productivity, polluted waters and seas and other problems.
Due to irresponsible attitude of Armenia today, all the countries in the region, including Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Azerbaijan are exposed to the threat of suffering the same fate of the Chernobyl and Fukushima NPPs. Rather than shutting down an old Metsamor nuclear power plant, which is located in a seismic zone, the Armenian government decided to extend its service life for a few more years. Thus, the reckless Armenian government puts the whole region at risk by its irresponsible attitude to the problem. The international community should join forces to make Armenia to reckon with the interests of its neighbors and to provide security of their population.