No Turkish delight in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s India visit
Many people thought that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit had been botched up by his comments on Kashmir on the eve of his visit. He had called for multilateral dialogue on the Kashmir issue and even offered Turkey’s help in its resolution in an interview to an Indian TV channel.
Even as Turkey looks East towards the growing economies of China and India, perhaps a message needed to be sent that Ankara’s constant anti-India posturing on Kashmir, its promotion of Pakistan and its deliberate equation of Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group with that of Pakistan’s is not acceptable to New Delhi.
It would seem that Indian diplomacy managed to score over Erdogan’s pugnacious positions on issues of Indian interest by strategically contextualising his visit to send a signal of political differences that exist between the two countries.
International visits are planned months in advance. Erdogan’s visit took place back-to-back with that of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to India. Turkey had invaded Northern Cyprus in 1974 creating a separate Turkish enclave. India’s position has always been pro-Cyprus, against the Turkish invasion and the resulting division of Cyprus. During the Cyrpus President’s visit India talked of resolving the Cyprus issue thus making its position very clear. This could be seen as a strategic signal to Ankara.
As if this were not enough, Vice President Hamid Ansari visited Armenia to be present there on for the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide which was perpetrated by the Turks. Within Turkey no public discussion is allowed of the Armenian genocide and it has been excised from all text books.
Turkey’s position on Kashmir would not have been any different even if these visits had not taken place on the eve of Erdogan’s visit. Indeed, the visits would have been planned much in advance. But that they were not moved or rescheduled to accommodate Turkish sensitivities is significant. India needed to show its unhappiness over time and that seems to have been done quite effectively.
Watch this brief conversation with former Foreign Secretary and former Indian Ambassador to Turkey Kanwal Sibal for an expert assessment of the Turkish President’s visit to India.