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In news: The visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an was expected to open a new page in bilateral relations between India and Turkey. Traditionally the relations have not been so close mainly because on issues of mutual concern, both countries have displayed a lack of sensitivity.
The agenda of the visit was to focus on 3 things- improving trade; enhancing two-way flow of investments; and establishing closer counter-terrorism cooperation.
Turkey’s stand on Kashmir
Just before coming to India, President Erdogan said that ‘a multilateral role could be envisaged for mediation in the issue of J&K’. Before making this statement, Turkish President should have been advised upon India’s strong position on this issue which says that India would discuss and resolve the issue of Kashmir bilaterally and it doesn’t want any third party intervention.
But there can be another possibility to such statement- The Turkish President is trying to find an international role for himself and in that context he thought that this would be a good way to begin.
However, the president has to realise that his credibility in India is not at the top. He has always sided with Pakistan. So he cannot project himself as an honest broker.
Three issues will always be asked when it comes to deepen India-Turkey relations.
How much Pakistan determines Turkey’s India perception
Turkey’s perception of Kashmir
Turkey’s view of reforms in international institutions
The connection points
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.
Turkey has been afflicted with terrorism majorly over past few years. Thus counter-terrorism role has great possibilities for enhanced cooperation between two countries.
Trade and economy is another area for ties to grow. The bilateral trade is decent at 6.4 billion dollars, heavily weighted in favour of India. The exports from India consider of basic things which can be later upgraded to more technologically sound items.
Nuclear energy- Turkey has supported India for NSG membership, though it also supports Pakistan for the same. This depends on what Turkey’s plans are for nuclear power generation because India has its own capabilities in terms of pressurized heavy water reactors. A recent development has seen that Turkey supported the Chinese idea of a criteria-based approach for non-Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) member states, intended to accommodate Pakistan.
Renewable energy can be a major area where India and Turkey can collaborate.
Another potential is tourism as Turkey has done extremely well in different types of tourism- historical, cultural, entertainment, ocean etc.
Information and Technology sector has a higher chance of finding itself amongst the important sectors which gives the bilateral relations the required boost.
Other sectors with high potential are Pharmaceuticals, Textiles and fabrics, regional film making and automotive component.
In smart cities mission, turkey could help India to develop its own manufacturing capacity and capabilities.
Thus, there are number of fields in which both the countries can cooperate and can be joint ventures. Attempts are made to improve relations between two countries. Top leaders are visiting each other’s countries regularly.
Last time President Erdogan came to India in 2008 as PM. At that time, Turkey was viewed as middle power, growing economically and secular democracy. Turkey appeared a moderate and progressive Islamic state, and prospects for EU membership were bright. However, post Arab Spring, Turkish Policy adopted a blend of pan-Islamism and neo-Ottomanism. The April referendum on the ‘controversial’ constitutional amendment bill that proposes to change the existing parliamentary form of government to a presidential system has been passed. Turkish and international observers alike have argued that Erdo?an’s growing authoritarian behaviour, coupled with the clamp down on dissent and freedom of speech and suppression of media and civil society, are pushing Turkey towards autocracy.
In the end
Despite the major differences over the Turkish position on Kashmir, there are some common grounds for both the countries to take their relationship forward. The bonding between Modi and Erdo?an has played a role in advancing relations. Both sides had then expressed the desire to realize trade and business potentials. Turkey’s support for the UNSC reform as well as India’s bid for a UNSC seat reflects mutual concerns about global affairs. Thus both the countries can go forward to tap the possibilities for business, trade and investments along with counter-terrorism cooperation. However, it is difficult to anticipate the association taking off instantly, given the history of relationship between two countries and present stand on various critical issues.
Connecting the dots:
India has not been in a close relationship with Turkey for a long time despite having a decent economic relation and historical connect. Examine the thorny areas as well as common grounds to counter them between two nations to have an effective bilateral association.