A breakthrough in Turkish-Indian friendship


Meryem İlayda Atlas

India, with a population well above 1 billion, is one of the most crowded countries, most established civilizations and largest economies in the world. It naturally dominates the Indian Ocean, a transition sphere between the Arab and Malay worlds. Muslims are a considerable minority among the heterogeneous population.

My first visit to India came about as a result of an invitation from the country’s External Affairs Ministry. I must admit being regretful over having failed to visit the country earlier.

The External Affairs Ministry welcomed 2018 with the Raisina Dialogue held in cooperation with the Observer Research Foundation. This year’s main theme was “Managing Disruptive Transitions.” The Raisina Dialogue gathered leaders, bureaucrats, military officers and intellectuals from around the world for three straight days. Among the issues discussed were growth, technology, security geo-political maneuvers, gender issues, terrorism and emerging threats.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, speaking at the event this year, signaled the disruptions underway by saying that the world is facing a rage of disruptions that impact societies internally as well as the relationship between countries.

Swaraj is known as the “digital minister” for the innovations she introduced in digital organization structures as well as her active use of social media. She has 11.2 million followers on her Twitter account, which she personally maintains, responding to messages sent by embassies and high commissions.

During my visit, I had the chance to make a speech at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and meet with experts on Turkish foreign policy at the Indian Council of World Affairs. There was incredible interest about Turkey and what it was doing.

Turkey is a rising economy and a regional power that is engaged in active foreign policy. Turkey, which emerged from the Cold War as a more self-confident actor, has been following a more independent policy as of late, repeatedly angering both the U.S. and EU. World interest in Turkey has never been greater. While it began a mainly antagonistic campaign against Turkey and its government, its positive impact cannot be ignored. It made Turkey a topic of interest. In this respect, I can say that India’s interest in Turkey is greater than Turkey’s interest in India.

In a closed meeting at the Indian Council of World Affairs and JNU, questions were direct, to the point, deep and up to date. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to India last year obviously played an important part in generating this interest.

His joint call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to businesses in both countries for economic investment has yet to generate a spark. At the time, Modi had said that India wanted to build 50 million housing units by 2022, and that his country wanted closer collaboration with Turkey’s giant construction industry, which is among the top five in the world.

Construction continues to undertake immense projects, but there is not a single official contract signed with India yet. There is not even a single proposal.

Bilateral trade between Turkey and India is $6.4 billion. When considering the population and the sizes of their economies, it is easy to say that these two G20 members are capable of much more.

Any step in the direction of developing closer ties with India will also allow Turkey greater access to the Asia-Pacific economy – the biggest in the world.

However, both countries need to surmount certain mental barriers before tapping into their immense potential and undertaking the necessary steps.

Source: Daily Sabah