Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay a two-day visit to India, beginning April 30. During this brief visit, he will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explore ways both countries can work together to strengthen anti-terror cooperation and deepen trade and investment ties.
Erdogan last visited India when he was the Prime minister in 2008 and this will be his first visit to India as President. An increase in high-level visits has been observed between the two countries from 2008 onwards. Turkey considers India as a potential market which is taking strides to become a global power with its growing economy, huge market, military power, outstanding knowledge in space technology and information, rich human resources and deep-rooted historical and cultural heritage. Erdogan’s visit will come after the referendum in Turkey on 16 April; to change the country from a parliamentary democracy to an executive structure where the power is closely held by the President.
The upcoming Turkish Referendum is expected to bring about the most significant political development since the declaration of Turkish Republic in 1923. Under this new system, President will have the power to appoint his cabinet and judges to the highest judicial board in the country. Most importantly it will allow Erdogan to participate in two more cycles of elections, 2019 and 2024. Meaning, he will have been in power close to 30 years if he wins the 2019 and 2024 polls.
Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to India has been put on hold after 2008 for one reason or the other. Last, in 2015, Erdogan had to delay his visit because of the protests going on in Turkey over the Gizri park. Turkish foreign office mentioned that President Erdogan and Prime Minister share a “good relationship”, having met twice already, including once in Turkey for the G-20 Summit.
Contested issues between the two countries
Nuclear Suppliers Group: Can Turkey help out India?
China has been opposing India’s membership to the NSG on the ground that it is not a signatory to the NPT.
Turkey is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and the issue of India’s membership bid to the elite group is likely to be discussed during these talks.
Turkey has not opposed to India’s NSG membership but supports a ‘criteria based’ entry and has said that the powerful bloc should come out with a system to consider entry of the countries which are not signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). New Delhi has generally viewed this as a tacit support for Pakistan’s application to the NSG and will be keen to explain to the Turks why they should support its bid for NSG membership.
Gulenist in India
Talks are also expected to cover terrorism faced by both countries and how they can cooperate. Turkey has always supported the Kashmir issue and is not likely to change its position on this front. However, Mr. Modi is expected to discuss Pakistan ‘based’ terrorist groups. In this context, Erdogan will also discuss with Modi the ‘infiltration’ of the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) in India.
In 2016, after the attempted coup in July, Turkish officials had spoken to Indian official about the presence of Gulenists in the country and the need for Indians to take action against them. However, New Delhi desisted the pressure asking for concrete evidence against them.
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Issues relating to regional security, the situation in the Middle East, particularly Syria, are likely to figure during talks between Modi and Erdogan. India in August 2016, set up a consulate in Erbil, Kurdistan area of Iraq, which did not please the Turks, who are extremely sensitive on any talk of independent Kurdistan. Turkey views independent Kurds in Iraq and Syria as a greater long-term threat to its own interests than ISIS.
On the other hand, India’s mission to isolate Pakistan internationally will not cut much ice with the Turks, who have historically good relations with Pakistan, which are particularly strong under PM Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, supported Erdogan’s regime, after the failed coup attempt, “Turkey’s enemies are Pakistan’s enemies as well. We support Turkey’s fight against terror” and that it is a “second home.”