India-Turkey ties and Erdogan’s visit

K R Sudhaman

Turkey seen as a moderate and secular country among Islamic nations has embarked upon new strategies to take political and economic relations with India to a new high. The recent four day visit to India by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cemented further the traditional friendship between two liberal countries from time immemorial. Combating terrorism, of which both the countries are victims, and deepening economic ties including the possibility of a bilateral free trade agreement, dominated the talks between Presiden Erdogal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There were however some ruffling of feathers when the visiting Turkish President ahead of his visit to India advocated a multilateral dialogue to resolve Kashmir Issue in an interview. India was quick to reject this suggestion in unequivocal terms and Turkey understood India’s sensitivities, brushed the issue under the carpet and reaffirmed its commitment to fully cooperate in cooperating ending this menace, including cross border terrorism in India.
Kashmir was a Indo-Pak bilateral issue mainly due to cross-border terrorism and this assertion by Prime Minister Modi was heard with “care and attention” by the Turkish side. The joint statement at the conclusion of the bilateral visit clearly reflected it and the statement said that “no intent or goal or reason or rationale can validate terrorism” and both sides agreed to work together to combat this menace bilaterally as well as multilaterally.  Erdogan assured full support to fight terrorism which was a “shared worry”. This amounted to recognition of Pakistan state-sponsored terrorism from across the border, which had escalated lately in the Kashmir valley.
Erdogan was quick enough to realize that Turkey must cease to Hyphenate India Pakistan for better relationship with New Delhi. If Turkey favoured multilateral talks on Kashmir, India could suggest such talks to resolve Turkey’s Kurdish issue, which is a major headache form Erdogan there. It is in this backdrop the two sides decided to rightly focus on basic issues like countering terrorism, which has now become a global menace rather than trying to interfere in internal affairs of the two countries. The Turkish president had referred to the terrorist outfit FETO, which was active in Turkey. The outfit is active not only in Turkey but in 170 countries as well. Erdogan said the Turkish government has informed the countries about FETO's operations and hoped India too will take action against it.  After a failed coup in July last year to topple Erdogan, Turkey had blamed the FETO for it. 
The new Cultural Exchange Programmes envisaged under the new bilateral agreement would cement further cultural connections and institutional relations apart from strengthening people-to-people contact, which was critical in promoting bilateral relations.
Adopting pragmatic approach, the two countries decided to cooperate in areas of mutual interest. President Erdogan is an old friend of India and he had visited the country in 2008 as well as Prime Minister of Turkey. He enjoyed good rapport with both Congress and BJP leadership. While India invited Turkish companies to invest in Railways, airports, tourism and housing, Indian companies could collaborate in Information Technology and space research. Some of the Indian companies are already in Turkey.
The Turkish president had referred to the FETO, saying the outfit is active in 170 countries. He said the Turkish government has informed the countries about FETO's operations and hoped India will take action against it.  After a failed coup in July last year to topple Erdogan, Turkey had blamed the FETO for it. 
The two leaders, who addressed India-Turkey business forum, also decided to step up over $6 billion bilateral trade to $10 billion in a short period of time, preferably in the next couple of years, to realize their full potential. President Erdogan pitched for a free trade agreement with India too so as to expand bilateral economic ties. Turkey, which is a member country of European Union, could perhaps act as a gateway.  India is working on India-EU FTA, which is at present entangled due to some thorny issues like wines and automobiles. The two sides exchanged three pacts, including one between their telecom authorities.
Erdogan also supported to India's aspiration for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership as well as other export control regimes like Missile Technology Control Regime. There was also convergence on United Nations Security Council reforms during the meeting of the two leaders.
The fact that President Erdogan was accompanied by five Cabinet Ministers (Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci, Minister of Energy Berat Albayrak, Minister of Culture and Tourism Nabi Avcı, Minister of Transport, Communications and Maritime Affairs Ahmet Arslan) went to show that he meant business and believed and furthering cooperation in areas of mutual interests. Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar, parliamentarians, senior officials and a 150-member business delegation from Turkey also accompanying President Erdogan.
Both leaders agreed that India and Turkey, being among the top 20 economies in the world with sound economic fundamentals and increasing convergence of positions, could contribute to addressing international issues like new economic order, stability and security of the respective regions.
India is expected to get Turkish investments in manufacturing sector in the face of make in India campaign. There are already Turkey’s interests in India’s infra development and smart cities. Indian companies are keen on investments in Turkey’s telecom sector Information Technology and pharmaceuticals,  health, tourism, hydrocarbons, renewable energy (solar and wind) and energy efficiency are other areas where cooperation could be sought for mutual benefit. (IPA)

Tuesday, 9 May, 2017