Turkish Prez Erdogan raises Kashmir at UN meet again. There is a difference

Published on Sep 21, 2022 11:06 PM IST

India strongly conveyed its position during external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu that the Kashmir issue was entirely bilateral in nature and raised the issue of Cyprus with whom Turkey shares a tense historic relationship

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan’s statement is being seen as a product of Turkey’s close ties with Pakistan, but it does represent a shift when seen in the context of Erdogan’s previous statements (REUTERS File Photo)
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan’s statement is being seen as a product of Turkey’s close ties with Pakistan, but it does represent a shift when seen in the context of Erdogan’s previous statements (REUTERS File Photo)

NEW YORK: In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it is “unfortunate” that India and Pakistan haven’t been able to establish peace 75 years after independence and hoped for “fair and permanent peace” in Kashmir.

Later in the day, Erodgan’s reference to Kashmir — which was far more diluted than his past statements that had adopted a critical tone on India and referred to UN Security Council resolutions — came up during external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s wide-ranging and constructive meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

While Turkey alluded to the neutral nature and tone of their President’s statement, India strongly conveyed its position that the Kashmir issue was entirely bilateral in nature and raised the issue of Cyprus with whom Turkey shares a tense historic relationship. But while making its point, India did not refer to the UNSC resolutions on Cyprus.

At the same time, the sense in official circles is that Erdogan’s statement did represent a shift, this followed “very constructive discussions” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Erdogan in Samarkand (during the SCO summit), and it was more productive to keep the focus on the big picture in India’s overall ties with Turkey, and also get a sense from Ankara on the situation in Ukraine, as Turkey positions itself as a possible peacemaker on the international stage.

In a tweet after the meeting, Jaishankar said, “Wide ranging conversation that covered the Ukraine conflict, food security, G20 processes, global order, NAM and Cyprus.”

In his speech, Erodgan had said, “India and Pakistan, after having established their sovereignty and independence 75 years ago, they still haven’t established peace and solidarity between one another. This is much unfortunate. We hope and pray that a fair and permanent peace and prosperity will be established in Kashmir.”

While the statement is being seen as a product of Turkey’s close ties with Pakistan, it does represent a shift when seen in the context of Erdogan’s recent statements.

In 2021, at the UNGA, Erdogan had said, “We maintain our stance in favour of solving the ongoing problem in Kashmir for 74 years, through dialogue between the parties and within the framework of relevant United Nations resolutions.”

In 2020, the Turkish president had said, “The Kashmir conflict, which is also key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue…We are in favour of solving this issue through dialogue within the framework of the United Nations resolutions, especially in line with the expectations of the people of Kashmir.”

In 2019, Erdogan had said, “In order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbors, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, not through clashes.” He had also alleged that residents of the region are “virtually under blockade with 8 million people, unfortunately, unable to step outside of Kashmir”.

While any reference to Kashmir by third parties is unacceptable to Delhi, the absence of the reference to UNSC resolutions and the fact that Erdogan made a more generic appeal for peace and did not place the onus on the Indian side alone for the situation has been noted.

PM Modi had met Erdogan last week in Samarkand, with the ministry of external affairs then stating, “Both leaders reviewed India-Turkey relations. While noting the increase in recent years in economic relations, particularly bilateral trade, they acknowledged the potential for further enhancement of economic and commercial linkages.”

Turkey-India trade ties are now close to $10 billion, with a substantial surplus in India’s favour. Infrastructure project companies in India have increasingly turned to Turkish subcontractors. Turkey is also making a big push to attract more Indian tourists and the economic stakes of the relationship are only growing.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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