What India must keep in mind when it comes to Turkey

Source: The Indian Express

Relevance: India – Turkey relations are important for India’s engagement in West Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Synopsis:

Turkey, Qatar, and China have become critical players in post-America Afghanistan. So, India needs to improve its relations with Turkey.

How Turkey is engaging in Afghanistan?
  • Afghanistan and Turkey have recently celebrated the centennial of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Through this century, Turkey has engaged purposefully with Afghanistan over a wide domain.
  • While it joined the NATO military mission in Afghanistan after the ouster of the Taliban at the end of 2001, Turkey avoided any combat role and differentiated itself from the Western powers.
  • Turkey has contributed to the training of the Afghan military and police forces. It has also undertaken much independent humanitarian and developmental work.
  • Turkey’s “Heart of Asia” conference or the Istanbul Process has been a major diplomatic vehicle for attempted Afghan reconciliation in the last few years.
  • Turkey has been running Kabul airport security for a while. Further, Turkey is in negotiations with the US on taking charge of the Kabul airport, which is critical for an international presence in Afghanistan.
Challenges in improving India – Turkey relations
  • Turkey’s growing role in Afghanistan opens a more difficult phase in relations between India and Turkey.
  • Turkey’s deepening bilateral military-security cooperation with Pakistan made it even harder for Delhi to take a positive view of Ankara.
    • Pakistan and Turkey were part of the Central Treaty Organisation that was set up in 1955 by the British. Although CENTO eventually wound up in 1979, Turkey and Pakistan remained close partners in a number of regional organisations and international forums like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
    • Turkey’s Islamist internationalism has inevitably led to its deeper alliance with Pakistan, greater meddling in South Asia, and a sharper contraction with India.
    • Turkey has become the most active international supporter of Pakistan on the Kashmir question. Apart from that, Turkey even condemned the Bangladesh government’s hanging of a senior Jamat e Islami leader in 2016.
  • The shared secular values between Delhi and Ankara in the pre-Erdogan era were not enough to overcome the strategic differences between the two in the Cold War.
    • Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation since the early 1950s.
How India can engage with Turkey?
  • Turkey has carefully modulated its confrontation with major powers by avoiding a breakdown in relations. This shows that Turkey has learnt to take advantage of the alliance without sacrificing its “strategic autonomy”. So, India needs to engage in Turkey’s strategic sectors.
    • Turkey has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation since the early 1950s. But recently, Turkey bought S-400 missiles from Russia in defiance of NATO.
    • Further, Turkey was the first Muslim-majority nation that established full diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • 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.
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