-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Turkey, the only Muslim European power, is an important NATO member and a close ally of USA. Turkey-US relations bloomed and blossomed thanks to what the Americans perceived as a permanent Russian threat to the world on ideological grounds.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited India on an official two-day trip from April 30 to May 1. President Erdogan embarked upon his India visit soon after he won the referendum to strengthen his presidency with more powers and he met Indian PM Narendra Modi on a variety of bilateral and multilateral issues. Both signed important bilateral agreements.
Turkey is an important world power, no matter howsoever close it may be with India’s arch-rival Pakistan, and India and Turkey have to build on their many convergences and build mutual trust soon. This is possible at a time when both countries have very strong leaders and stable governments.
President Erdogan is the most important popular Muslim leader advancing Islamic system that is opposed by all anti-Islamic forces globally. When Erdogan took up the Palestine issue, Israel, its close military ally, got wild as it does not allow any nation to breach the Zionist terror blockades meant to torture the Hamas Palestinians, and thus the “historic” bilateral ties have been strained badly.
PM Modi is in the mold of President Erdogan regarding popularity and power. He has been Turkey’s prime minister for 12 years and now president for the last two-and-a-half years. This is his first foreign visit after scoring a comprehensive victory in a controversial referendum recently which gave him overwhelming powers and further cemented his place in the country’s power structure.
Besides economic aspects, the Turkish president and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also held lengthy discussions on terrorism this week during Erdogan’s two-day visit to India. Both parties agreed that there was no justification for terrorism, and urged all countries to disrupt terrorist networks and financing and “stop cross-border movements of terrorists.”
The Turkish president, during his trip, also raised concerns about the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (Feto). Ankara has demanded schools in India administered by a foundation linked to Fethullah Gulen ─ a US-based preacher who Erdogan accuses of instigating a failed coup in Turkey last year ─ be shut down. “As far as the Turkish concerns about Feto are concerned, they were mentioned to us. Any organization in India, whether it is Indian or foreign, obviously has to work within the parameters of our laws and our norms and regulations,” Gopal Baglay of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said.
After talks with Modi, Erdogan assured India of Turkey’s full support in the fight against terrorism in general. Modi on his part said that “no intent or goal or reason or rationale can validate terrorism.” President Erdogan has a different view on “cross-border terrorism” that India blames Pakistan for. On the question of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Erdogan of plotting the 16 July coup against his government, the Turkish president described organizations associated with him as “terrorist” and hoped India would take necessary steps to rein in their activities. Both condemn terrorism.
Anti-Islamism had been a top pastime theme of global media lords who seek to discredit Islam as a terrorist region and Muslims as pure terrorists. These media news and reports make the anti-Islamic elements extremely happy.
Global anti-Islamic media continues to harp on anti-Islam themes and Turkey, the only Muslim nation in Europe spearheading for Islamization of the society, has been the target of all anti-Islamic media globally. They shamelessly supported and hailed the coup efforts of enemies of Turkey but President Erdogan, his AKP, and people at large, successfully faced their challenge to Islam in Turkey.
Global state terrorism has been targeting Turkey, among top Muslim nations, to help the enemies of Islam destabilize the nation with the help of anti-Islamic elements operating within and from the Western nations.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his day-long visit to India extended “full solidarity” with India in battling terrorism. After extensive talks with Erdogan, in which the fight against terrorism formed a major part, prime minister Narendra Modi said both the countries have agreed that “no intent or goal, no reason or rationale can validate terrorism.”
PM Modi said that he and Erdogan “agreed to work together to strengthen our cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to effectively counter this menace.” During the talks, which extended by nearly two hours beyond the scheduled 60 minutes, India and Turkey agreed to boost bilateral trade from the current level of just over $6 billion and expressed the resolve to fight the global menace of terrorism together. “(The) president and I are clear that the strength of our economies presents an enormous opportunity to expand and deepen commercial linkages between our countries,” Modi said while addressing the media.
PM Modi said that at the level of the two governments, “we need to approach the entire landscape of business opportunities in a strategic and long-term manner.” India and Turkey are two large economies,” he stated. “Our bilateral trade turnover of around $6 billion does not do full justice to convergences in our economies. Clearly, the business and industry on both sides can do much more.
For this reason, Turkey’s relations with the West are not optimal but Turkey’s relationship with Russia, China and India is qualitatively improving Turkey’s earlier ‘West-centric’ foreign policy towards a ‘multidimensional foreign policy.’
Turkey a source of stability for Mideast
The meeting between Modi and Erdogan was widely reported in Turkish Daily Sabah, and commentary and opinion touched upon the future of India-Turkey relations, the kind of stability it would bring to West Asia. The paper also brought out the Israel angle which most media in India failed or refused to touch upon. India as a new strategic partner of USA is automatically a military ally of Israel as well, and their bilateral military tie-ups are going up with a lot of agreements for latest Israeli terror goods meant to kill Kashmiris are being signed in New Delhi.
Israel seems to use India to push for reactivation of Turkish-Zionist military ties. Turkish-Indian relations and the Israeli angle’ noted that Israel is a key aspect of the India-Turkey relations as Turkey’s move towards India has come after Turkey signing a reconciliation deal on 27 June 2016 with Israel. Israeli sources say that there is a visible move towards “openness and comfort” between India and Israel in discussing all facets of bilateral relations and India should take advantage of the warming relations between Turkey and Israel and enhance cooperation among its West Asian partners.
However, neither American, neither British nor Russian newspapers like Sputnik News, Russia Today, and The Moscow Times had lent much coverage to President Erdogan’s India visit. In West Asia, The Khaleej Times, Gulf News also had minimal coverage and did not generate any commentary as such. The reason for this important media omission has obvious reasons.
President Erdogan is a wily politician and is a past master in the art of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. Recently he had a dinner meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even as he has been aiding and abetting Salafi jihadis against him. Indian strategic communist says President Erdogan has been trying to mollycoddle New Delhi with sweet nothings while having a very close relationship with Pakistan.
India wants Turkey, like the USA and Russia do now, to ignore Pakistan and support its occupational crimes in Kashmir valley. Erdogan does not oblige New Delhi, however.
India stresses cooperation with India in the field of counter-terrorism should be a major area of interest for Erdogan as Turkey is in the grip of a spate of New Delhi asks as to what kind of value can he impart to this exercise when his government is closely involved with a country like Pakistan?
Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who should be credited for redefining India-Turkey relations, now waiting for a breakthrough to qualify for another qualitative step forward. In 2001, then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani was the first high-level dignitary of the NDA government to have visited Turkey which concluded with an important agreement on an extradition treaty. Later, in 2003, prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had gone on his landmark visit to Turkey — no Indian prime minister since then had gone to Turkey until prime minister Narendra Modi, in 2015, went to Antalya to meet the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the margins of the G20 summit which was followed by another meeting on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China in 2016.
There was a much more visible convergence between India and Turkey on trade and commercial ties. The political and religious differences between them didn’t prevent the two sides from pledging to increase bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2020 from $6.5 billion now.
Turkey has largely been seen as a moderate Islamic democracy with a population of about 80 million, strategically situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Indian leader PM Narendra Modi noted that India and Turkey were two large economies which present an enormous opportunity to expand and deepen commercial linkages. He urged Turkish construction companies to participate in India’s efforts to bolster infrastructure.
At the outset, it should be appreciated that the top Islamist ruler from Turkey shared the dais with the top Hindutva leader in New Delhi and both struck harmonious cord and signaled friendly rapport. Different religions do not necessarily come in the way of friendly relations between and among nations. But Turkey’s ties with India have been rather indifferent, according to New Delhi, thanks to Turkey’s closeness to India’s arch nuclear rival Pakistan on key issues.
While Turkey’s close ties with Pakistan and Ankara’s ever-deepening involvement in several urban development projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has riled India no end, Turkey too has its concerns with India, right or wrong.
The Turkish side expressed supported for India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Indian media reported. President Erdogan batted for India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, something which has been stridently opposed by China. But Erdogan hyphenated his ‘gesture’ with a similar status for Pakistan, a country with which Turkey has extremely close political and strategic relations, and supporting Pakistan’s case for NSG membership. This is what he said in an interview to an Indian TV news channel: “Both India and Pakistan have the right to aspire for NSG membership. I think India should not assume such an attitude. If Turkey was fair enough to support Pakistan, it was fair enough to support India. We are very objective and positive to the NSG process.”
Trade and regional cooperation potentials notwithstanding, India and Turkey have some problems that keep overwhelming the perception of their bilateral relations. Three issues will always be asked when it comes to deepening India-Turkey relations. First, how much Pakistan determines Turkey’s India perception, second, Turkey’s perception of Kashmir, and third, what is Turkey’s view of reforms in international institutions, which should ideally result in including India in the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member.
India-Turkey cooperation in fields related to science, technology, education, culture, and development areas have massive potential, and both countries need each other to achieve their national interests and development goals.
President Erdogan has been honest in telling the world about his intent on supporting global Islam and helping Muslim nations in whatever way it can. Turkey’s Islamist ideology is seen above politics and does not compromise on the religious ideas. This explains why Istanbul supports Palestine and Kashmir sovereignty demands overtly as part of its ideology.
Diplomatic pleasantries, signing of agreements aside, Erdogan remarked that India should ideally be taking a ‘multilateral’ approach to hot-button issue of Kashmir, however, India politely, but firmly said that Kashmir was a bilateral issue to be sorted out by India and Pakistan only. Neither of the press representatives mentioned any of this in the official press briefings. However, press in Pakistan reported favorably about Erdogan’s comments. Pakistan has always welcomed the statements and endeavors aimed at addressing the human rights issues in IoK (the so-called India-occupied Kashmir) and the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the statement concluded.”
President Erdogan, the founder of an Islamist government in Turkey, supports Islamic governments against the will and wishes of anti-Islamic forces, nations, including Pakistan and supports the struggle of Palestinians and Kashmiris for sovereignty and human dignity. Turkey’s concern for Palestinians and Kashmiris is beside the rapport it maintains with India and, to some extent, Israel. In fact, ties between the two countries have been difficult because of their divergent positions on the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir.
For quite some time, the Erdogan government has been asking India tough questions about Gulen and believes that Gulen’s movement, which Ankara dubs as FETO or Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation, has “infiltrated” India, a charge which about New Delhi has neither evidence nor any credible information. Turkey wants India to take action against FETO but has thus far failed to give any concrete information to India by which action can be taken.
Erdogan had last visited India in 2008 but that time as the prime minister. The Gulen issue was not an irritant in India-Turkey bilateral relations then because Gulen was a major ally of Erdogan. The two fell apart only in 2013 when major corruption scandals against the Erdogan government broke out. This time Erdogan’s stakes in India are much higher.
Turkey is not much impressed by Indian way of getting the endorsement of its veto membership from every visiting dignitary and President Erdogan, therefore, did not sign the endorsement sheet extended to him.
Multidimensional foreign policy
Once a reluctant Muslim partner, Turkey has become a close ally of the Gulf countries, thanks to Iran’s growing hegemonic ambitions and Egypt’s preoccupation with its domestic crisis and absence of American leadership from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security architecture. Iran’s regional role has become deeply dependent on its military cooperation with Russia and other non-state actors like Hezbollah — something that Iran’s Arab neighbors are apprehensive about.
Turkey’s normalized relations with Russia have a stabilizing role in the region — where it can assume a balancing role among various competitive powers. Despite many serious differences over Syria, Turkey remains in good terms with Iran, however, allowing Turkey to use its leverage to mediate between Iran and its Gulf neighbors.
On Syria, Russia needs Turkey more than any other country to find a lasting political settlement; Russia has been advocating for a political outcome. Since the fall of Aleppo, Turkey has also refocused its Syria policy from regime change to counter-terrorism, narrowing its differences with Russia and Iran. Turkey’s counter-terrorism response is defined by threats: Islamic State’s presence in many urban areas of Syria and Iraq; and expansion of Kurdish separatist forces closely linked with internationally recognized terrorist group PKK. In 2016, Turkey adopted a go-alone military operation against Islamic State in north Syria starting from Jerablus and stopping at Al-Bab, effectively converting the Euphrates as a buffer zone between the two sides of Kurds-held areas. However, the 15 July failed military coup attempt caught Turkey unaware of another terror threat, the Gulen network many Turks perceived only as a threat by “spiritual cult.”
In an extremely complicated Syrian crisis, the Assad government has successfully used the threats tactically against the Syrian rebels, by softening its view on Syrian Kurdish groups and using “Islamic terrorism” card interchangeably with Islamic State, the opposition forces and Al-Qaeda groups. As terrorist attacks increased against Turkish targets in 2015 and 2016, Turkey’s frustration against its Western allies’ support to the Kurdish groups deepened.
Turkey’s relations with its Western allies have gone berserk on Western indifference to what Turkey considers most serious threat to its national security. European leaders have been delaying Turkey’s EU accession. The trust deficit between Turkey and the West is widening. In this context, Turkey’s relation with Russia, China and India is qualitatively improving Turkey’s earlier ‘West-centric’ foreign policy towards a ‘multidimensional foreign policy.’
Turkey’s South Asia engagement is likely to deepen after India has renewed its interest in the Southern Corridor of Asia-Europe Rail (SCAER) project which will connect Istanbul with Kolkata, extendable further to Myanmar and Thailand. Officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, and Turkey have already concluded their first meeting in New Delhi on 16 March 2017. Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) was originally proposed by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in the 1980s and endorsed by concerned countries in 1992. The rail link, if started, can revolutionize India’s trade connectivity to Central Asia, Europe, and West Asia.
India has murdered over 1000,000 Muslims in occupied Jammu Kashmir. Many Muslims, especially the youth, have disappeared without nay traces. And many secret graveyards have been discovered in Kashmir region.
Kashmir remains the flashpoint of tensions in South Asia where India and Pakistan obtained nukes to fight for entire Jammu Kashmir nation now being occupied by Pakistan and India- India does it brutally and seeks the endorsement of veto powers, particularly the superpower USA.
Brutal occupation of Kashmir enabled India to enhance its military prowess and nuke manufacturing efforts. India is not ready to address the Kashmir issue bilaterally through peaceful means as has been stipulated in the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration. India and Pakistan keep fighting each other, engaged in cross-border fires to terrorize Kashmiris.
Like Israel which has managed to delay the establishment of a sovereign Palestine but still says it would resolve the conflict by direct negotiations with Palestinians, India also says it is always ready to talk about Kashmir and all other issues with Pakistan so that “peaceful solutions can be found bilaterally.” That is a bogus statement to fool the world.
Turkey views Kashmir issue as a composite one involving both India and Pakistan. India on the contrary, wants Turkey to ignore Pakistani claims and support Indian case in Kashmir. Istanbul is eager to help Kashmiris regain their lost sovereignty.
On the question of Kashmir—the Himalayan region that India says is part of its territory, something disputed by Pakistan—”India put forth its views that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Erdogan had stirred a hornet’s nest by saying that there should a “multilateral dialogue” on Kashmir—something India has been opposed to; India seeks to resolve all its disputes with Pakistan bilaterally. India has always said it would never brook any third party involvement on the Kashmir issue which is essentially a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Erdogan had, in an interview before his arrival in India, suggested that the two countries needed to ‘strengthen multilateral dialogue’ in an attempt to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.
Always opposing any outside interest in Indian criminal operations in Kashmir to kill and terrorize Kashmir Muslims, India quickly dismissed Turkish President Erdogan’s suggestion of multilateral talks on the Kashmir dispute, insisting the matter must be resolved bilaterally through talks between Islamabad and New Delhi. India says this knowing fully well that both India and Pakistan, the shared illegal occupiers of Jammu Kashmir, would never want to solve the problem because any credible solution means surrendering of Jammu Kashmir to Kashmiris.
India believes that terrorism issue helps its case for Kashmir and is eager not to lose out Kashmir. India is happy about cross-border terrorism and state-sponsored terror because that made India a strong nation now having established “strategic partnership” with the USA and many western powers that sell terror goods to both India and Pakistan.
It is true that Pakistan-Turkey relations are more emotional than Turkey-India relations. Pakistan is projected as a country of Islamic leadership in the third word despite the fact that India remains the second largest Muslim country in the world, without OIC membership though. The question many Muslim countries do not ask is: who is more important Pakistan or Kashmir, Pakistan or Indian Muslims? Weak faith could be a major reason for that.
India asks USA, Russia and other major powers not to take up the Kashmir issue for any international debates and as per its demand, USA also says that India and Pakistan would finalize the issue, even as Indian forces mercilessly kill Kashmiris by missing the extra military laws.
India says it wants to end terrorism and also directly control Pakistan and its policies and politics, but never wants to solve the Kashmir issue. Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, in a veiled reference to Pakistan that the Kashmir issue has a “prominent dimension of cross-border terrorism” that needs to be stopped by “those who are perpetuating it.
Pakistan’s ‘pro-Muslim’ and ‘pro-Kashmir’ credentials are often received uncritically. Turkey’s strong secular and democratic credentials bring great respect and regard for Turkey in India in stark opposition to the fragility of Pakistan’s democracy.
Turkish president’s offer of mediating between India and Pakistani was welcomed by Hurriyet leaders in India-held Kashmir. Hurriyet Forum Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq observed that the Turkish president “is well aware of how the Kashmir dispute is the main source of tension between the two nations -India and Pakistan. Turkey being an important Islamic country, and having cordial relations with both India and Pakistan, will hopefully make efforts to end the political uncertainty prevalent in the region since decades,” Farooq said. “Being an active member of Kashmir Contact Group at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Turkey has always advocated the solution of Kashmir issue in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir, and Ankara can play a vital role in the resolution of this issue to end the tension in this region,” he maintained.
It is not surprising to observe that Turkish media has been mostly fair and objective in its coverage of India-Pakistan affairs, rather, many Turks have a clear understanding that Turkey should not come into Indo-Pakistan’s trap or support internationalizing the Kashmir issue.
India and Turkey seem to converge on the need to build a stronger economic relationship, committing themselves to a vast increase in trade over the next few years, but seemed to disagree on political issues such as Kashmir. India says Kashmir has been made an integral part of Indian constitution, but Turkey wants a sovereign Kashmir.
India and Turkey waited fourteen years to see this moment once again. Turkey wants to play a vital role in bringing India and Pakistan together and resolve the Kashmir issue as well.
There are many good reasons to believe that the leaders of the two nations will find Vajpayee’s legacy as a common point to advance India-Turkey relations. The regional contexts in which the two countries are working support their role as well. Turkey, for example, notwithstanding setbacks in Syria, remains an influential and a key regional power to define the future outcomes of the crisis in Syria and Iraq. Indian strategists want Erdogan and Modi to come to an understanding on India’s NSG bid, as this can expedite India entry to NSG.
For Turkey, India’s increasing economic and security profile is vital. India comes off as strong and powerful with its huge young and skilled population, a rich cultural base, and most importantly democratic institutions. India’s research and development profile: space program, especially micro-satellite and nano-satellites program, research in generic drugs, scientific research institutions have all given India a confident industrial and development scenario. This is what has been the main force behind redefining India’s strengthening relations with some major Muslim countries, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Egypt, almost unbound from any regional rivalry perceptions.
If New Delhi realizes and give up its faulty policies being pursued since it occupied Jammu Kashmir without the will and wishes of Kashmiris, towards Kashmiris and Pakistan, and think constructively about regaining peace by allowing Kashmiris regain their lost sovereignty, that would genuinely build up its relations with not only Turkey and Pakistan and Kashmiris, but entire Islamic world and even the entire world.
Peaceful regional cannot be guaranteed by genocides of Kashmir Muslims and silencing their rights to protest against occupational crimes perpetrated by brutal forces.
Erdogan’s visit should start a new era of bilateral engagement where both sides should invest efforts to understand each other. But keep your fingers crossed as India would not change its petrified mindset towards Kashmiris or Pakistanis, so don’t expect an overnight transformation of India-Turkey relations following Erdogan’s visit.