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Report of Monday Morning Meeting on Pakistan Factor In India-Turkiye Relations

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  • January 29, 2024
    Monday Morning Meeting

    Mr. Abhishek Yadav, Research Analyst, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), made a presentation on “Pakistan Factor in India-Turkiye Relations” at the Monday Morning Meeting held on 29 January 2024. Dr. Prasanta Kumar Pradhan, Research Fellow and Coordinator of the West Asia Centre, MP-IDSA, moderated the session. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, and scholars of the Institute attended the meeting.

    Executive Summary

    India-Turkiye relations witnessed divergence during the Cold War but evolved with growing trade, reaching US$ 13.8 billion in 2022-23. While the bilateral trade and investment is growing in multiple sectors, the Kashmir issue remains a persistent political challenge. Turkiye has been supporting Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Additionally, defence collaboration is a key element in Pakistan-Turkiye relations, driven by factors like pan-Islamism and neo-Ottomanism, among others. There is a need for course correction from Turkiye to unlock bilateral potential between both G20 economies- India and Turkiye.

    Detailed Report

    Dr. Prasanta Kumar Pradhan introduced the Speaker and delivered introductory remarks. He then invited the Speaker to make his presentation.

    Providing a historical overview of India-Turkiye relations, Mr. Yadav highlighted that diplomatic relations between India and Turkiye were formally established in 1948, which got further strengthened through the signing of the Treaty of Friendship in December 1951, that explicitly articulated the principle of “perpetual peace and friendship” between the two nations. However, Cold War geopolitics led India and Turkiye to adopt different paths as India pursued a policy of non-alignment while Turkiye became a member of the West-led military alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO). Nevertheless, the relationship evolved over the decades, as evidenced by agreements signed between the two countries on areas like trade, taxation, tourism and customs cooperation.

    Citing relevant statistics, the Speaker underscored that bilateral trade between India and Turkiye has witnessed impressive growth in recent years, rising from US$ 7.2 billion in 2017-18 to over US$ 13.8 billion in 2022-23. Mr. Yadav provided concrete examples and highlighted that while Indian companies have invested in Turkish automobile, pharmaceutical and IT sectors, Turkish companies have invested in Indian infrastructure and engineering industries, illustrating deepening economic cooperation.

    The Speaker noted that high-level bilateral visits are an important indicator of the priority accorded by both nations to their relationship. In this context, he referred to Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to India in April-May 2017, when both countries signed key agreements on culture, training of diplomats, visa regulations, telecommunication and media tie-ups – underscoring the multi-sectoral focus. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Erdogan reviewed the relationship at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Samarkand in September 2022 and the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi in September 2023, and noted the increase in economic linkages and potential for further enhancement across sectors. Mr. Yadav also highlighted India’s prompt supply of humanitarian assistance under Operation Dost following Turkiye’s devastating earthquakes in February 2023 as a marker of bilateral cooperation and solidarity expressed by India.

    Mr. Yadav spoke at length about the issues on which the two countries have differing viewpoints. He pointed out that Turkiye has consistently echoed Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue. Turkish leaders’ remarks on Kashmir have also sparked diplomatic tensions especially after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, given India’s firm stand that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is an integral and inalienable part of India. Mr. Yadav highlighted that multilateral platforms like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had witnessed coordinated efforts by Turkiye and Pakistan to internationalise the Kashmir matter also through its OIC Contact Group on J&K. Trilateral partnerships between Pakistan, Turkiye and Azerbaijan have also emerged, which is demonstrated in joint military exercises and alignment on issues like Kashmir. The Speaker emphasised that Kashmir remains a principal point of divergence that has strained political relations.

    According to the Speaker, defence cooperation is a key element catalysing the Pakistan-Turkiye strategic relationship. He enumerated various facets of cooperation in defence, including the purchase of Turkish naval vessels, helicopters and armed drones by Pakistan, assistance by Turkiye to upgrade Pakistani submarines and fighter aircraft, and the conduct of joint exercises and training. Mr. Yadav highlighted that the expanding defence collaboration has introduced an additional variable in the triangular dynamic between India, Pakistan and Turkiye.

    Analysing the factors shaping Turkiye’s foreign policy orientation towards Pakistan, the Speaker identified elements like pan-Islamism, Neo-Ottoman ambitions to reclaim Turkiye’s historical glory and geopoliticalinfluence, and the strategic relevance of partnerships with countries like Pakistan on issues ranging from Kashmir to defence technology as key motivations. He pointed out that Islamic solidarity, historical legacy and contemporary policy priorities make Pakistan a coveted geopolitical partner for Turkiye. 

    In conclusion, the Speaker observed that while India and Turkiye, as prominent G20 economies, have promising potential for cooperation across diverse sectors, Turkiye’s alignment with Pakistan on India’s internal affairs like Jammu and Kashmir has introduced certain complexities in bilateral ties. Mr. Yadav opined that notwithstanding the volume of trade, Turkiye’s partnership with Pakistan is driven by a multifaceted interplay of factors encompassing history, religious affinities, realpolitik considerations and global ideological postures. A course correction by Turkiye on Kashmir would likely contribute to a more balanced and constructive environment, fostering stronger ties between India and Turkiye. In summation, the Speaker highlighted that pragmatic diplomacy focused on mutual understanding and identification of shared interests would be imperative for India and Turkiye to fully harness the potential of their bilateral relations given the geopolitical intricacies at play.

    Questions and Comments

    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy highlighted the historical and contemporary factors shaping bilateral relations between India and Turkiye. He mentioned the role of Indian troops, including Sikhs, Gurkhas, Muslims and Hindus, as part of the British force during the Gallipoli campaign. He outlined Indian support in the 1920s to Turkiye’s War of Independence, which led to the formation of the Turkish Republic. Mahatma Gandhi himself took a stand against the injustices inflicted on Turkiye at the end of World War I. Amb. Chinoy remarked that Turkiye has been raising the Kashmir issue and trying to seek a dominant leadership position in the OIC. He provided the Indian Government’s perspective on Cyprus and touched upon the dynamics of Turkish drones.

    Dr. Deepika Saraswat, Associate Fellow, West Asia Centre, highlighted the geo-economics and geopolitics of economic corridors and subsequent Indian and Turkish response. Dr. Ashok K. Behuria, Senior Fellow, South Asia Centre, emphasised the rise of Erdogan’s leadership in Turkiye and noted surge in business-to-business relations between India and Turkiye. He also touched upon the significance of Turkish drones, Turkiye’s position on J&K and Turkiye’s soft power outreach in Pakistan, as evidenced by Turkish TV drama Ertugrul. Dr. Rajiv Nayan, Senior Research Associate, Nuclear and Arms Control Centre, mentioned about Turkiye’s unique geographical and geopolitical position and its distinct way of leveraging gains from both the West and Russia. He suggested that India will have to shed its classical approach to engage with Turkiye.

    After the Q&A session, the Chair gave his closing remarks and ended the meeting.

    The Report was prepared by Ms. Gayathri Pramod Panamoottil, Intern, West Asia Centre.