However, Turkish interests also play a key role in the effort

Turkey's attempts to maintain diplomatic ties with Pakistan stemmed from concerns that the latter was becoming increasingly “isolated” on a global scale, but the efforts benefited Turkey as well, according to a January, 26, 2004 cable, classified by Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Ankara Robert Deutsch (13493: confidential).

A January 19-22 visit to Turkey by Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf is described as “heavy on ceremony and warm rhetoric,” but lacking in substance. Instead, it appeared “designed to cement ties, which had become testy in 2002, and to avoid controversy,” according to the cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

“The Musharraf visit was another step in cementing relations that became testy in 2002,” when Turkish Prime Minister Mustafa Bulent Ecevit, upon “visiting India in April, said it would be impossible for Turkey to support a military regime (in Pakistan).” And, “citing health reasons, Ecevit…canceled a scheduled May visit” to Pakistan, the cable says.

However, upon succeeding Mr. Ecevit, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan “visited Pakistan in June 2003,” according to the cable.

According to an unnamed Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, the Government of Turkey “sees the Musharraf government as relatively good, considering Pakistan's internal situation, and does not want to see Pakistan further ‘isolated' internationally,” the cable says.

However, Turkey benefited from maintaining the diplomatic ties. “The Musharraf visit appealed to two very different currents in Turkish foreign policy,” according to the cable. “For the secular establishment, Musharraf gives the image of a secular authority figure who, at least rhetorically, has taken on religious extremism. For PM Erdogan's [conservative Justice and Development (AK) Party] government, cementing ties with Pakistan gives AK's more pious supporters a greater sense of Islamic solidarity.”

Though “public rhetoric from Musharraf and his Turkish interlocutors during the visit repeatedly condemned terrorism and religious extremism,” and “Turkey and Pakistan signed an anti-terror cooperation agreement,” it may have been more symbolic than anything else, according to the cable.

“If we squeeze Pakistan too much we're afraid we may lose them,” the cable quotes Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs South Asia Head Ergin Soner as saying.

This attitude may have led to Mr. Deutsch's assertion, according to the cable, that Turkish and Pakistani officials “apparently skipped over key issues.”

Nuclear “non-proliferation was a non-issue in the visit,” the cable says, and “public statements during the visit avoided any mention of the subject.”

Despite “historically close mil-mil [military-military] ties,” according to the cable, “interlocutors gave no sign that the two sides discussed further enhancement.”

Instead, the cable says, “economic aspects were the most important,” at least according to Pakistani Third Secretary Janbaz Khan, “who did the advance work on the visit.”

“Pakistan and Turkey signed three economic agreements during Musharraf's visit,” which Mr. Soner hoped would “help pave the way for Turkish construction firms to win major contracts in Pakistan.” Mr. Soner complained “that Turkish companies have been shut out and Chinese firms have won contracts instead,” according to the cable.

Mr. Khan “said Pakistan is interested in Turkish construction firms, but has been reluctant to hire Turkish firms since an incident in which a Turkish construction firm defaulted on its contracted performance and the Turkish bank guaranteeing the project refused to pay damages,” the cable says.

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)