India-Turkey relations – Explained, pointwise

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Jawaharlal Nehru had signed the friendship treaty with Turkey in 1951. It underlined India’s hopes for building lasting India-Turkey relations. But, India has struggled to develop good relations with Turkey over the decades due to various reasons.

Recently, in the 8th Istanbul summit, the Council of Turkic States has been elevated to “Organisation of Turkic States”. With this, Turkey might vigorously promote pan-Turkism along the Eurasian landmass. This is a cause of concern for many countries having relations with Turkey and in the Eurasian region.

What is Pan-Turkism?

The ideology of pan-Turkism dates back to the mid-19th century when campaigns for uniting Turkic people in Russia gained traction. Its geographic scope would eventually become much wider, covering the huge spread of Turkic people from the “Balkans to the Great Wall of China”. A defining slogan of pan-Turkism is: “Where there are Turks, there is Turkey.”

But, the decline of Turkey and the integration of Turkic people into other states diminished the idea in the 20th century.

About the formation of the Organisation of Turkic States
Read here: What the rise of pan-Turkism means for India
Why does India need to pay attention to Pan-Turkism?

Consequences in India’s Eurasian neighbourhood: The rise of pan-Turkism is bound to have important consequences for Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and the Central Asian regions.

Adds another layer of complexity in Central Asia: The rise of Turkey and the formation of the Organisation of Turkic States adds more complexity to the Eurasian geopolitics. This opens a range of new opportunities for Indian foreign and security policy in Eurasia.

What is the significance of Turkey for India?

The strategic location of Turkey to provide connectivity with Central Asia through the Caucasus has many advantages for India.

1. Increase in Turkey’s profile in the region: Over the past few decades, various initiatives of Turkey have increased Turkey’s profile in Central Asia and generated new bonds with other countries in the region.

2. The military power of Turkey: Turkey’s increasing military power projection is taking the whole world by surprise. In the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier this year, Turkish military intervention decisively tilted the war in favour of the latter. Many in the region are beginning to purchase Turkish drones. So, India can procure weapons from Turkey.

3. Potential Commerce in the region: Turkish annual trade with the Central Asian region is around $10 billion with the potential to grow much larger. By engaging with Turkey, India can also improve its economic presence in the region.

4. Turkey is also building transportation corridors to Central Asia and beyond, to China, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The so-called Lapis Lazuli Corridor now connects Turkey to Afghanistan via Turkmenistan. By engaging with Turkey, India can get access to these infrastructure corridors.

So India should engage with Turkey to improve India-Turkey relations and also India’s relations with other countries in the region

Read more: “Sea Snot” outbreak in Turkey and its effect on the marine ecosystem
What are the current areas of cooperation in India-Turkey relations?

Both countries are cooperating in the following domains.

1. Trade: The major Indian exports to Turkey include medium oils and fuels, man-made filaments and staple fibres, automotive spare parts and organic chemicals. Turkey’s exports include poppy seeds, iron and steel products, machinery and mechanical appliances, inorganic chemicals, pearls and precious stones and metals and marble.

2. Determined to combat terrorism in any form and agreed to strengthen cooperation effectively,

3. Agreed on United Nations reforms and work towards the expansion of UN Security Council.

What are the concerns associated with India-Turkey relations?

Turkey’s stand on Kashmir: Turkey has become the most active international supporter of Pakistan on the Kashmir question. Turkey, while pitching for self-determination in Kashmir; actively tramples on the rights of its Kurdish minority at home and confronts them across Turkey’s border in Syria and Iraq.

Support to Pakistan and Afghanistan: Turkey has closer ties with Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a real and serious issue for India.

For instance, Pakistan remained close partners in a number of regional organizations and international forums like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Turkey’s departure from Secularism: While India remains a secular country from the beginning, Turkey, on the other hand, departed from secularism and now focuses more on Islamist internationalism. This act as a pulling factor for traditional Islamist nations such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and others in the region.

Read more: What India must keep in mind when it comes to Turkey
What should India do to improve India-Turkey relations?

Reinforce the sustained dialogue: Dealing with Turkey is now a most significant part of India’s foreign and security policy.

Signing a free trade deal with Turkey: Turkey had shown interest in a free trade pact with India. So, India should sign a free trade pact to boost India-Turkey relations.

Engage in Turkey’s strategic sectors: Turkey is a NATO member, but has also maintained its strategic interests. For instance, 1. Turkey has purchased advanced weapons like S-400 missiles from Russia but also has differences of opinion with Russia’s Central Asian backyard, 2. Turkey has the ambitious pursuit of the Islamic world’s leadership, but it is also the first Muslim-majority nation that established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

So, India should understand that Turkey’s economic and strategic relationship with Pakistan will not hamper Turkey’s business ties with India. So, India needs to engage in Turkey’s strategic sectors.

Utilise Turkey as a mediator: Turkey’s good relations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan have given space for Turkey to present itself as a mediator between the warring South Asian neighbours. India can utilise Turkey’s role.

Read more: What is CAATSA? Why U.S. imposes CAATSA sanctions on Turkey?

As a great civilisational state, Turkey will endure as a pivotal state in Eurasia. Independent India has been at the forefront of building a large movement of developing countries — or the “Global South” — against the rich “Global North”. The Pan-Turkism and the Organisation of Turkic States open new possibilities for India and in the Eurasian periphery.


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