Turkey – India relations demand more attention

Turkey – India Relations Demand More Attention by Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM
Turkey – India Relations Demand More Attention by Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM

By Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM

After his victory in constitutional referendum, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is traveling to India as part of his tour of global powers.

India and Turkey are among the 20 largest economies in the world. Economies of these democratic countries have shown remarkable stability. India and Turkey are eager to boost bilateral trade, increase reciprocal investments and to develop cooperation between two countries.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was established by the then victorious powers of the World War II. Circumstances, however, have changed since then and both India and Turkey are among strong potential powers eligible to be equally represented in UNSC. President Erdoğan has been criticizing the UNSC and he has been summarizing his criticism as “The World is bigger than five”. Both leaders expressed their support for changing the status-quo in UNSC and they underlined that the UNSC must reflect the world of 21th century.

Turkey and India have suffered from terrorism. So they share a common interest in developing counterterrorism strategies. Both countries support fight against terrorism. Turkey especially wants India to take more decisive stand against Gulenist Movement across India.

India and Turkey have exhibited impressive performance under Erdoğan and Modi leadership. President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Modi are both leaders of rising economies and they are governing vast multicultural democracies. Effective orators as they are, both leaders share progressive visions for the future of their respective nations. In addition, both leaders are committed to take the fight to the established elites and deliver welfare and a more prosperous future for the common citizens.

India has the second-largest Muslim population in the world. The country is a member of the G-20. Alongside Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa; India is also among five major emerging global economies (so-called BRICS countries).

Relationship between Turkey and India has been far from being as successful as it could be. It will not be a mistake to say that both countries have not been allocating the necessary attention to one another. India is Turkey’s second-largest trading partner in the Asia-Pacific region. However, mutual trade between two nations is approximately 6,5 billion USD, rather small compared to the mutual potential of two countries. President Erdoğan’s two-day visit is the first trip at the presidential level from Turkey to India in seven years.

In order to compensate this long time gap, President Erdoğan is also scheduled to hold talks senior Indian officials, including his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee as well as Indian businessmen. Relatively, Mr. Erdoğan has included a 150-member strong business delegation in his entourage for enhancing and deepening trade and investment ties between India and Turkey. A free trade pact between the two countries is another proposed subject for leaders of both countries.

Current bilateral trade between Turkey and India is not in favor of Turkey: Turkey’s exports to India were $652 million while its imports from India were $5.75 billion, in 2016. Mr. Erdoğan said it was not sustainable.

India has been striving for admission into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Turkey is a member of NSG. As NSG controls the export of technology and materials used to produce nuclear power and make atomic weapons; becoming a member of NSG will grant India easier access to technologies and materials that it needs to support its nuclear program. In order to meet the increasing electricity demand of its rapidly-growing economy, India intends to further expand nuclear power. Exclusion from NSG is a damage for the international image of India.

Turkey has so far been following the strategy that the applications of both Pakistan and India to become a NSG member should be treated equally.

Since the foundation of modern Pakistan in 1947, the country’s relationship with India is mostly based on a hostile ground, whereas Turkey has traditionally been in good relations with Pakistan. Does Turkey’s good relationship with India necessarily mean an alternative to Pakistan? Turkey should find a way to balance its relations with Pakistan and India.

Can India and Turkey establish friendly relations regardless of tensions and between India and Pakistan? India must also find a balance between Turkey and Cyprus, both NSG members, as India is also hosting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades soon. Indians want Cyprus and Turkey to back the country in NSG meeting, planned this year in June.

President Erdoğan was warmly welcomed in India. President Eroğan laid a wreath at a monument to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, the main figure in Indian independence from the then British Empire.

Turkish government expects more Indian tourists to visit the country.

Turkey and India are also expected to sign a cultural exchange program between the two countries.

Turkey also intends to further develop cooperation with India on the fields of IT, high-tech, software, aerospace and renewable energy sectors.

India is the first stop in Erodğan’s world powers tour, which includes visits to Russia, China and the US. This tour is especially important as it comes after Mr. Erodğan declared victory in crucial constitutional referendum that is believed to pave the way for an ever rising Turkey and further consolidate Turkish democracy.

By Ahmed Necip YILDIRIM
(Originally pubhlished in Turkey Tribune)