India and Turkey made quiet but definitive progress in the recent past to upgrade their partnership with two back to back meetings at the senior official level. Turkey is aiming to de-hyphenate its ties between emerging ally India and traditional ally Pakistan. Ankara sent its Presidential Adviser Dr. Ibrahim Kalin to New Delhi who sought wide-ranging counter-terror-de-radicalisation cooperation besides steps to add to the economic quotient of the partnership.
India sought Turkey’s partnership to address the menace of cross-border terror being its long-standing victim. The issue of recent terror attacks in Sri Lanka was also part of discourse when Ibrahim Kalin met India’s National Security Adisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.
The two sides exchanged views on global and regional issues, including those relating to South Asia and West Asia. Both sides underlined the importance for all States to cooperate with each other to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and to bring the perpetrators and sponsors of terrorist attacks to justice. The officials from the two countries further emphasised on civilizational and cultural links.
A key element of Dr Kalin’s visit was his meeting with senior Islamic scholars and intellectuals as New Delhi and Ankara wish to cooperate in the field of de-radicalisation. This meeting was aimed at better understanding of Indian cultural and pluralistic mosaic and Islamic tradition.
Days after Dr Kalin’s visit India, Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Sedat Onal was on a three-day visit to India. He met Gitesh A Sarma, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, and held discussions on various aspects of bilateral ties including examining opportunities for enhancing trade and investment relations. The two sides reviewed current situation in their respective regions and also exchanged views on several multilateral issues.
Turkey’s support is critical to counter challenge from Pakistan as Ankara has been traditional ally of Islamabad. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to steadily broad-base Turkish outreach to South Asia. Mr. Erdogan’s visit to India in 2017 signalled de-hyphenation as he sought to develop personal chemistry with India’s Prime Minister. President Erdogan was particularly impressed with the fact that India, the world’s biggest democracy reached out to his government hours after a coup was launched to oust him few years back.
India is actively engaging with the three poles of West Asia—Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey–in dealing with Pakistan’s use of cross-border terror as an instrument of its’ state policy.
Investment opportunities in specific sectors such as tourism, smart cities, construction, infrastructure and IT were also explored by both countries. Ever since Turkish President’s to India in 2017, bilateral trade has grown steadily and currently stands at $8.6 billion. The target is to touch $ 10 billion by 2020. Turkish Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) products are seeking entry into the Indian market.
India-Turkey trade has increased significantly in the last decade and a half. The major Indian exports to Turkey include: medium oils and fuels, man-made filaments and staple fibres, automotive spare parts and accessories, organic chemicals etc. Turkey’s exports to India include: broken/unbroken poppy seeds; machinery and mechanical appliances, iron and steel articles, inorganic chemicals, pearls and precious/semi-precious stones and metals (including imitation jewellery), marble, etc.
There are historical connections between India and Turkey. The first exchange of diplomatic missions between the Ottoman Sultans and the rulers of the subcontinent dates back to the years 1481-82. The Sufi philosophy of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi found resonance in the Indian sub-continent with its own traditions of Sufism and the Bhakti movement. More recent historical contacts between India and Turkey were reflected in the medical mission led by renowned Indian freedom fighter, Dr. M.A. Ansari, to Turkey in 1912 during the Balkan Wars and the Khilafat movement (1919-1924). India also extended support in the 1920’s to Turkey’s War of Independence and the formation of the Turkish Republic. Mahatma Gandhi himself took a stand against the injustices inflicted on Turkey at the end of World War-I.
Script: Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, Diplomatic Correspondent