Is an alliance growing from Greece to India against Turkey?

A new system of alliances may be shaking shape that stretches from India to Greece that threatens to leave Turkey out in the diplomatic cold.

Mohammed Soliman, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute (MEI) in Washington D.C., says that Turkey’s aggression has pushed these countries into a closer alignment.

“Erdoğan’s Turkey in terms of foreign policy moved from a zero enemies foreign policy to a zero friends over the last few years,” Soliman told Ahval News in a podcast.

“There is a feeling that Turkey’s foreign policy is more about dominance, not co-existence with regional and other foreign powers,” he said.

Soliman, who authored an article with MEI in July detailing what he termed an “Indo-Abrahamic alliance”, says that Turkish foreign policy on its own is not the sole agent driving this convergence but a significant factor. These partnerships between nations as varied as Greece, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and India are developing from individual initiatives based on a wide set of interests that include a rejection of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s assertiveness of Turkish might regionally.

The August 2020 Abraham Accords that normalised relations between Israel and the UAE took place in part because of shared fears related to Turkey, he said. Greece, a fellow member of NATO and Ankara’s chief rival next door, has cultivated closer ties with Israel and the UAE on defence and trade to counteract Turkish influence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. 

Concerns about Turkey resemble in part similar regional fears about Iran, particularly in the Middle East. However, Soliman added that worries about Iran are not equally felt across the band of countries he is examining compared to at least a shared disagreement with Turkey’s policies. He said that Turkey is in many senses a more capable strategic player than Iran, and its ability to project its power has left many worried about its intentions.

“There is a feeling that Turkey’s foreign policy is more about dominance, not co-existence with regional and other foreign powers,” Soliman said.

The inclusion of India in Soliman’s analysis had much to do with Turkey’s closer relations with Pakistan. Under Erdoğan, Ankara has backed Islamabad in its dispute over the Jammu-Kashmir region that is ruled by New Delhi, and has gone as far as to reject any Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group on Pakistan’s behalf.

In a recent interview with ThePrint, Turkey’s ambassador to India said that he saw any political problems as something to compartmentalise without wider damage to diplomatic ties. But Soliman believes that the two states are strategically opposite in ways that will manifest even after leaders like Erdoğan or India’s Nahrenda Modi depart the political scene.

This may be apparent particularly in the aftermath of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul on August 15. Soliman says that the end of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will sharply reduce any importance Washington has assigned to Pakistan in favour of closer ties to India. For the U.S., India represents a critical partner in its growing competition with China as opposed to the staunchly pro-Beijing Pakistan.

With the loss of U.S. interest, Pakistan may in turn draw closer to Turkey, which until the Taliban’s victory in Kabul had a desire for greater involvement in Afghanistan.

The fact that powerful rivals are now speaking to each other and concocting new partnerships has not been lost on Ankara. In the last year, Turkey has made attempts to mend relations with several of them, which has produced some inways towards reducing its isolation.

That being said, Soliman explains that these same regional capitals view this Turkish charm offensive as tactical than any genuine strategic shift away from confrontation. They are keenly aware of Turkey’s need to improve its flagging economy, but they also have seen how these de-escalations have run into a wall with those like Greece and Israel.

To the members of this Indo-Abrahamic bloc, Soliman says that their view is that Turkey will not be changing in the long-run, and that any attempt to convince them otherwise is seen as a temporary adjustment.

 

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