Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was among the leaders of many big countries of the world in the G-20 summit held in Delhi this month.
In his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, he also stressed on increasing economic relations with India.
Erdogan had said that India is Turkey’s largest trading partner in South Asia.
Just 24 hours before the meeting between PM Modi and Erdogan, India had announced the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor or IMEC.
During this announcement, US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as well as top leaders of UAE and European Union were present.
During this, it was told that the west coast of India will be connected to UAE by sea route and then from there to Saudi and Jordan by rail route. After this, Israel will be connected to Europe by sea route.
Türkiye dissatisfied with IMEC
One of the countries that was most dissatisfied with the announcement of this corridor was Turkey.
During the meeting with the journalists who had accompanied President Erdoğan, Erdoğan made it clear that, “We will not accept any attempt to build such a corridor bypassing Turkey.”
On the same day, Ankara made the situation clear that if there is any ‘traffic’ (movement of goods) between East Asia and Western Europe, it will have to pass through Turkey.
A few days later, Turkish President Erdoğan went to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly session and like in the last few years, he once again attacked India on the Kashmir issue.
India, as usual, rejected his statement, saying that he was merely reiterating Pakistan’s statement on the Kashmir issue – which does not need to be given any importance.
Meanwhile, ‘The Indian Express’ newspaper reported that during his visit to Delhi, Turkish President Erdoğan wanted to visit the city’s famous Jama Masjid to meet the Shahi Imam, but the Indian government rejected his request.
The result was that the perception that was being created a few days ago that relations between Turkey and India were gradually improving, it did not take long for it to deteriorate again.
In fact, there is no doubt that at present the relations between the two countries have reached a low level.
Analysts also say India’s growing proximity to Turkey’s neighbors – Israel, Greece, Cyprus and Armenia – with whom Turkey has poor relations has exacerbated the crisis.
Kashmir is also an issue between the two countries
Many analysts in Delhi believe that Kashmir is the biggest obstacle in the development of relations between Turkey and India.
In fact, no one has handled the Kashmir issue the way Erdoğan has done recently to increase Turkey’s influence and prestige in the Islamic world.
For the last seven-eight years he has been regularly raising the issue of India’s alleged human rights violations in Kashmir in the UN General Assembly, his government has repeatedly raised the issue in the UN Human Rights Council.
Kabir Taneja, West Asia expert at the Observer Research Foundation, says, “It should be remembered that when India took the step of abrogating Article 370 in Kashmir, Turkey was a Muslim country that joined Pakistan in condemning it.”
Earlier in the year 2019, Erdoğan also held the international world responsible for forgetting the ‘Kashmir conflict’ for seven decades.
Kabir Taneja also points out, “Erdoan has not hesitated to criticize OIC and Saudi Arabia for ignoring the Kashmir issue.”
At the same time, Turkey’s ‘friendly’ relationship with Pakistan is also historical.
In fact, Erdogan is the only world leader who has addressed the joint session of Parliament in Pakistan four times. In this, twice as Prime Minister and twice as President.
Analysts say that Erdogan has been glorifying the Ottoman rule and he wants to establish this heritage of Turkey on the world stage and Pakistan is an important partner in his efforts.
On the question of Kashmir, it is not difficult to guess why Erdogan is repeating Pakistan’s point.
On the other hand, a Hindutva political force led by Narendra Modi has been in power in India for the past decade, seeking to usher in the rise of a ‘New India’ on the international stage.
The international world is giving great importance to this ‘New India’ – and the leadership of New India has always claimed that being able to ‘bring the situation in Kashmir under control’ is a major reason for that success.
That is, the same Kashmir which India and Turkey want to use on the world stage for two completely contradictory reasons. This is also a major reason for bitterness between the two countries.
Türkiye’s relations with its neighbors are improving
It is noteworthy that India has recently taken steps to strengthen relations with neighboring countries with which Turkey has bad relations.
Among these, India’s close ties with Israel go back a long way, but India has recently taken several initiatives to develop relations with Greece, Cyprus and Armenia.
Last month, Narendra Modi visited Greece on a state visit while returning from the BRICS summit in South Africa.
This visit was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Greece in 40 years.
A few days after that visit, the IMEC project was announced in Delhi, making Greece an important center on the European end of the project.
Turkey and its arch rival Greece have been included in this corridor. Erdogan has already made it clear that he cannot accept this.
On the other hand, just as Greece is supporting India on the Kashmir issue, India is also supporting Greece on the Cyprus issue.
India has recently taken steps to export arms to Armenia under G-to-G or government level agreements. Armenia does not have relations with Turkey after the 1915 genocide.
Istanbul-based senior journalist Bekir Sitki Sirin believes that Turkey is not looking at these new ‘diplomatic efforts’ of India with all these reasons.
He told BBC Bangla, “Turkey suspects that India is trying to harass it by increasing its influence in its geographical area.”
Kabir Taneja says that like Turkey, there is almost the same feeling in Delhi too.
He said, “Maybe this is an attempt by India to send a message to Turkey that if you commit atrocities on Kashmir, we will go to your territory and compensate for it there.”
Meanwhile, India has also been invited to attend the summit of the ‘Three Plus One’ grouping of Greece-Israel-Cyprus along with the US early next year.
This is a step which shows that Turkey is not happy as usual.
Is it possible to normalize the relationship?
In the last nine years, during the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he has not gone to Turkey even once on a bilateral visit.
As Prime Minister of India, he visited Turkey only once in 2015 to attend the summit of the multilateral forum G-20.
On the other hand, Erdoğan has also come to India only once on a bilateral visit.
But in 2017, in an interview just before that visit, he had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, which in a way failed.
India’s stated position on the Kashmir issue is that it should be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan in accordance with the Shimla Agreement of 1972 – no third party can interfere.
Before the visit, Erdogan had angered India by offering to mediate in the Kashmir dispute. The relations between the two countries have not normalized till date, but bitterness is increasing on both sides.
But Turkish journalist Bekir Sitki Sirin says that even on a sensitive issue like Kashmir, there is scope for adopting a middle path and Erdogan still believes this.
“Turkey thinks that a middle solution on Kashmir is possible beyond what India and Pakistan are saying,” says Sirin.
He says, “Erdoan is confident that this is a path by which no Indian, Pakistani or Kashmiri will ‘suffer’.”
He said, “If he can convince India of this idea, the relationship between the two countries is sure to improve.”
However, India has not given any indication of softening its stand on the Kashmir issue.
The Indian government had abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir four years ago, after which it has reportedly tried to suppress the situation there more strongly.
There is no doubt that India will not accept a declared ally of Pakistan like Erdogan as a ‘mediator’.
Analysts believe that there are no signs that diplomatic relations between Turkey and India may normalize to some extent in the coming times.