THE recent visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to India could not produce any breakthrough in bilateral relations. The visit in retrospect shows that two countries agreed upon increasing trade and economic ties but had divergent views regarding political issues such as terrorism and Kashmir as well as expansion of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
India and Turkey enjoy enhanced economic and commercial relations. The two leaders pledged to further trade and commercial cooperation from $6.4 billion to $10 billion by 2020. President Erdogan recognized the energy and infrastructure as the two major areas where bilateral cooperation could be enhanced in future. Turkey has been a tourist destination and the number of Indian tourists who visit Turkey has been on the rise since past few years. In this regard, Turkish Airlines may increase its destinations and flights to India to further promote tourism. During the visit, an agreement for cultural exchange programme (2017-2020) between the two states was signed. An MoU was signed between Foreign Services Institute of India and Diplomacy Academy of Turkey. Another MoU was signed in the area of information and communication technologies.
As far divergences are concerned, regarding the issue of Kashmir, in an interview to Indian Channel ahead of his visit, Turkish President called for an end to casualties in the valley and stressed the need to resolve Kashmir issue for once and all by using multilateral diplomacy. He also offered Turkey’s mediation as part of multilateral dialogue process to resolve the issue of Kashmir. The reference to Kashmir has irked the Indian leaders who later on reiterated their previous stance of Kashmir being the integral part of India and an issue of terrorism.
The worsening humanitarian crisis in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) has not attracted the attention of the outside world and it is the courageous and the principled stand of the Turkish President on the issue of Kashmir that has been welcomed by Pakistan but rejected by India. The wave of violence and the brutal acts of Indian forces have not initiated any international response. The use of social media (though it has been banned for two months in IOK) has contributed in highlighting the atrocities of Indian forces but it has not awakened the conscious of international community. Kashmir is considered as a bilateral issue between two states but President Erdogan has rightly suggested a multilateral approach. Bilateral approach to resolve Kashmir has not been successful in resolving the issue of Kashmir.
Turkish President maintained a principled position regarding India’s membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). President Erdogan made it clear that Turkey being the member of NSG supports criteria based approach for the membership of non-signatories of NPT. He did not support an India specific exemption at NSG rather he preferred a broader approach in NSG expansion that could include Pakistan as well. Similarly regarding India’s UNSC membership, he conditioned Turkish support for Indian permanent membership to that of expansion of UNSC and called for reforms in Security Council to make it more representative.
Turkey is a traditional friend and strategic partner of Pakistan and Turkish President during his visit to India has reinforced Pakistan’s stance on some major issues. Their diplomatic and political relations converge in many areas but their economic relations need to develop more as trade volume is less than the potential of two states. In this regard, both states agreed to negotiate Preferential Trade Agreement in 2014 that was to lead to Free Trade Agreement (FTA). In this month, two states are going to hold seventh round of negotiations to finalize the details of FTA. Pakistan’s trade balance with Turkey has been started decreasing since 2011 when additional duties on various commodities were imposed by two states. After signing FTA, the balance of trade between the two countries will be improved. It is an imperative to enhance economic cooperation to those countries with which Pakistan has strategic relations because economic cooperation can further cement the strategic cooperation.
— The writer is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.