Erdogan is hell-bent on radicalising Turkey: India should expect little from him

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited India and has now returned to his own country. There was turbulence over his suggestion that the Kashmir issue should be resolved through multilateral dialogue, in which Turkey can get involved. He also said that Turkey would support India’s NSG bid as long as Pakistan also is hyphenated with the same honour. These are no surprises at all and should have been expected since Erdogan is leading Turkey into radicalisation down the same path as Pakistan. He hardly could be expected to know the background of the legal accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India, and that the UN Resolution on Kashmir had the categorical requirement for Pakistani security forces to vacate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. AP

But it is laughable for him to recommend dialogue saying, "We have no problem with Kurdish people. We have a problem with a terrorist organisation." But it so happens that while Erdogan may declare we have no problem with Kurdish people, Turkey has been using chemical weapons against the Kurds, as a report in The Jerusalem Post suggests. That explains Erdogan’s closeness to Pakistan and reference to Nawaz Sharif as "dear friend" because Pakistan too may say we have no problem with Balochis but has been using chemical weapons in Balochistan as part of the ongoing genocide.

It was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a Turkish army officer and revolutionary, who founded the Republic of Turkey serving as its first president from 1923 until his death. Turkey was a modern and secular state even though in subsequent years it yearned to be part of the European Union, while it was generally referred to as the "Sick Man of Europe". As late as the late 1990s and middle 2000s, the secular credentials of Turkey were impeccable.

Turkish officers in India and elsewhere abroad used to boast that Turkey was perhaps the only country in the world where the army was officially tasked to maintain the secular credentials of the nation. They narrated that whenever there was a report of radical congregations, the army would immediately appear on the scene, often even accompanied by tanks, to round up the radical clerics-preachers and disperse the crowd. But, all that appears to have been consigned to the past.

Turkey, with the connivance of its politicians, got caught up in machinations of the Great Game being played in the West Asia, even as it witnessed the installation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, an organisation now banned in the same country. General Michael Flynn, former head of US Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Adviser in the Donald Trump administration for a brief period, had gone public two years back to say that the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al Nusra was "willful decision" of the US. The CIA later admitted the IS were trained in Turkey by British mercenary officers, which may be the half truth since such training could not be without the active involvement of MI-6. But then former US president Barack Obama himself admitted that the US had trained the IS. This besides other indications made it amply clear that that US-Nato were fuelling the war in Syria by channeling thousand of radicals through Turkey. But more significantly, Baghdadi and his boys were being trained and armed in Turkey that resulted in the swift capture of Mosul in 2014 routing two Iraqi divisions.

With Turkey a longtime US ally, a member of Nato since 1952 and a country where important US military assets are located, Erdogan capitalised on Turkey’s significance to US-Nato for consolidating his own political gains. Not only were the IS trained and armed in Turkey, Turkey became the conduit for export of some $3 million worth of oil of the IS on daily basis. It is only after Russia bombed hundreds of tankers travelling between Turkey and IS-held territory and Putin released the photo footage to the world that things started becoming clearer. As part of Nato, Turkey shooting down a Russian fighter jet was expected. However, after Putin put a few cruise missiles into the rebel-held Syria, Erdogan went about making amends with Russia. However, in a bid consolidate power, Erdogan is actively radicalising the Turkish society. Even the 'Hizmet', a modern Islamic movement that believes in good relations with the minority Christians and Jews is being systematically purged. The failed military coup of 15 July, 2016, against Erdoğan has been ruthlessly crushed, the coup itself being a weak attempt to re-establish the secular credentials of Turkey. The coup facilitated Erdogan mass military and civilian arrests, declaring a state of emergency, and assuming total authoritarian power. Turkey’s pluralistic credentials are being flattened; still widely described as a model of modernisation and economic success before Erdogan became president.

Should the West be worried – not likely with just 0.2 percent population of Christians and Jews, and the West knows when and how to extract its price, as being done in Iraq and Syria. Erdogan appears to be the exact opposite of Abdel Fattah Sisi, President of Egypt, who has clamped down on Islamic radicalisation. There is plenty of discussion on social media whether Erdogan should have been invited to India or his visit should have been permitted. Diplomatically, there is no reason why his visit should not have gone through. His statements before and after the visit to India actually expose his line of thinking. There is no reason that we should not have business ties with Turkey either because we need to enhance the pace of our economy capitalising on all global avenues. Besides, we have not withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status from Pakistan despite all the terrorism and barbarianisms. At the same time, we should be clear that our ties with Turkey, radicalised under Erdogan, are not allowed to affect our societal fabric by quietly promoting radicalization and terrorism. To this end, continuous monitoring and putting requisite measures in place are warranted.

The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

Updated Date: Jul 10, 2017 09:38 AM

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