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During a recent visit to Pakistan, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed concern over the prevailing situation in Kashmir by saying that Turkey is “gravely concerned that the situation in the region that has turned into a predicament despite all the steps taken recently”. Turkey favours the settlement of the Kashmir issue through dialogue between Pakistan and India on the basis of relevant UN resolutions and in accordance with the expectations of the Kashmiri people. He expressed Turkey’s “solidarity” with Kashmir and compared the “struggle” of Kashmiri people with that of the fight by Turkey against foreign domination during the World War I. This is preposterous to say the least.
India has reacted strongly to the Turkish President’s comment by issuing a demarche to the country’s Ambssador on Erdogan’s opinion. The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement, said that the Turkish President’s remarks reflected neither an understanding of history nor the conduct of diplomacy and that they will have strong implications on India’s ties with Turkey. The statement also conveyed the message that the recent episode is but one more example of a pattern of Turkey interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. India finds this completely unacceptable. New Delhi particularly rejects the repeated attempts by Turkey to justify cross border terrorism practiced so blatantly by Pakistan. India asserted that Kashmir is an integral and inalienable part of India; hence no outside interference would be appreciated.
Last year, Indian Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s visit to Turkey was cancelled after President Erdogan criticized India for its move on Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The bilateral relationship between India and Turkey has been through ups and downs recently, especially because of Ankara’s unstinting support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. This is not the first time that Mr. Erdogan has commented out of place on the Kashmir issue. His speech at the 2019, UN General Assembly speech also drew condemnation from India. He said that the Kashmir issue has not got enough international attention and should be resolved through dialogue on the basis of justice, equity, and not through collision. He has been trying to be a mediator between India and Pakistan in resolving the Kashmir issue ever since he has come to power. New Delhi has turned down his offers. Mr. Erdogan should remember his own record, back home. The Turkish people are being denied their basic rights. On the Kashmir issue, India has maintained its consistent position that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and India does not need any third party’s intervention. After the revocation of Article 370, Pakistan’s or any other third country’s interference on Kashmir will be interference on the internal matters of India which under the United Nation’s law is illegal.
Turkey’s support to Pakistan can be seen from two factors—the religious angle and the Cyprus angle. Turkey and Pakistan are strongly conjoined by religion. Recently, both the countries along with Malaysia agreed to launch a television channel dedicated to confronting ‘Islamophobia’ and removing ‘misperceptions’ about Islam. On the Cyprus issue, India does not recognize Northern-Cyprus as a separate and independent country. This has remained an issue between New Delhi and Ankara. India has always supported Greek-Cyprus’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Cyprus. It recognizes the Greek-Cyprus as the legitimate government of the island. Pakistan’s position is contrary to that of India’s. Moreover, New Delhi has good relations with Armenia and Greece, the two countries with whom Ankara has tense bilateral relationships because of historical problems.
Despite these problems, India has been trying to rejuvenate the bilateral relationship. In fact, in June 2019, Prime Minister Modi had tweeted that ‘India considers Turkey a valued friend, with whom our relations are time tested’. However, Ankara’s constant raking up the Kashmir issue is hampering the bilateral ties. India is clear on its stand on terrorism and does not practice double standards. Hence, New Delhi expects others also to follow diplomatic propriety even if there are strong religious affinities. It is humanity which is important and not religion.
Script: Dr.Indrani Talukdar , Strategic Analyst on CIS & Turkey