Turkey-India relationship could be headed to ruin - analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's foreign policy directions concerning India might become costly for Turkey as his repeated calls for the "Kashmir dispute" to be settled within the UN raises New Delhi's ire, Amalendu Misra, a professor of international politics, Lancaster University, wrote for the National Interest on Friday.

Misra maintained that the worsening relationship between Turkey and India was caused by Turkish President Erdoğan's interference in India's domestic affairs. Erdoğan has repeatedly criticized India's treatment of its Muslim minority population and New Delhi's control over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Turkey's relationship with India has remained mired in significant disagreements, particularly over the disputed regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Rightful ownership over the two territories is disputed between India and Pakistan since the partition of the two countries following the end of British rule in 1947. 

In August 2019, incumbent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped Article 370, stripping Jammu and Kashmir of their hitherto status as autonomous regions. Pakistan was joined in its condemnation of this move by Erdoğan.

Misra recalled that Erdoğan claimed in the past that: "India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By whom? Hindus."

"Erdoğan has raised the issue of Indian-administered Kashmir in the UN General Assembly for three years in a row while knowing full well that the permanent five members of the UN Security Council and the world at large do not wish to interfere in a matter that they believe falls squarely within India's domestic affairs," Misra wrote. 

Furthermore, Turkey has recently developed deep military ties with Pakistan, much to India's consternation.

"Thanks to all these factors, India is taking a tough position on Turkey," Misra wrote. 

When Erdoğan said that the "Kashmir dispute" should be settled within the UN, Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded by holding meetings with the president of Cyprus and the prime ministers of Armenia and Greece on the side-lines of the world body's annual meeting. These countries have various disputes with Turkey.

Because Erdoğan insists on criticizing India's internal affairs in various global forums, "New Delhi appears to have finally decided to abandon all diplomatic niceties toward Ankara", Misra said.

"New Delhi is now pursuing what may be described as aggressive diplomacy," Misra said, adding that "while New Delhi maintained that 'Turkey should learn to respect the sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its policies more deeply' in 2020, it is now openly nurturing Turkey's enemies with the intention of undermining Ankara's interests in the region."

India also significantly reduced its imports from Turkey and even made a defence agreement with Turkey's rival Armenia. 

Under a $40 million deal, India even supplied Armenia with four SWATHI weapon locating radars. New Delhi also condemned Turkey's cross-border offensive against Kurdish-led forces in Syria. 

"What we ought to remember is that both Ankara and New Delhi are under the control of two right-wing governments—one Islamist and the other Hindu," Misra wrote.

"Erdoğan's tough stance on India's internal affairs is borne out of Turkey's own attempt to establish its credentials as a modern-day, borderless Islamic imperium among the Muslim states."

"The mid-tier ruling establishment and the general public in these two countries are intimately conscious of the fact that the fallout in their bilateral relations is largely a product of Erdoğan's dubious foreign policy adventures," he concluded.

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