By Haider Abbas
There has been a ‘constant’ in the approach of Turkey’s President Taiyyip Erdogan on Kashmir in all these recent years, and on the lines of last year at the UN general assembly, when he had sought, that the question of Kashmir be settled on the lines of UN resolutions, the same happened this year too, on September 20 in New York, when he addressed the UN general assembly, exhorting for the same. He said that 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. 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,”
There is a marked difference in the world polity, as since February Russia and Ukraine are at war and India has played ‘meticulously to the gallery’ as it did not condemn Russia and also did not antagonize US, while it bought Russian oil at a much subsidized rate, despite pressures from US on it. India, in the past one year has straddled to quite a centre-stage, as it manages to assuage to US sensitiveness on Taiwan vis a vis China and also engages with US on its engagement with China in the Himalayas. There are all reasons for India to be ‘buoyed’ by its stance in world geo-politics, which otherwise was a dithering-point a few years back when India faced a two-front war from China and Pakistan, more specifically after India had abrogated the special-status given to Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh under Article 370 of Constitution of India, which prompted China and Pakistan to raise the Kashmir issue at UN General Assembly for ‘thrice’ in one year, reported The Wire on August 6, 2020.
When India had withstood China’s earlier ‘infructuous attempts’ there was no room left for India to be ruffled by Turkish President, and instead, India now ‘confident and also belligerent’ decided to remind Turkey in the same coin, by raising the question of Cyprus! Indian External Affairs Minister, in fact took it directly to his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, only hours after the Turkish President had taken a jibe on Kashmir. However, India did not evoke the ‘UN resolution’ on Cyprus to solve-it. What needs a mention is that after the first-world-war Cyprus, which was a part of the Turkish Ottoman empire, fell to the British, which left it divided between Greece (Christian) dominated South Cyprus and Turkish (Muslim) Cyprus in 1960, and in 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus after a coup supported by Greece had happened, and since then, the issue has remained deadlocked in UN. India has made it ‘loud-and-clear’ on many times that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and annulment of Article 370 was an internal matter of India.
The Indian position on Cyprus has evolved owing to Pakistan proximity with Turkey which makes Turkey to often toe the Pakistan line on Kashmir, and the same stated Indian position, also did echo when EAM had visited Cyprus in January 2021 as India called for ‘respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity’ for Greece. India surely has thrown its weight alongside US, EU and NATO to not to let the division of Cyprus, and instead for the unification of Cyprus. Turkey celebrates in July every year its victory in Northern Cyprus and becomes quite uneasy on such a question. It is also understandable that India’s position on Kashmir is much powerful in comparison to Turkey’s on Cyprus as US and EU are clearly not on the side of Turkey.
The Indian outburst at UN has also to do with a news reportedly emerging from inside Turkey, on September 6, barely a fortnight back, that Turkey would not go-ahead with selling its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Bayraktar TB2 drones, to India and instead would sell it to Pakistan. The Turkish Bayraktar has given a tough fight to Chinese and US drones by its ‘cost-effectives and precious targeting’, which gave a considerable edge to Azerbaijan over the war with Armenia and are right now adding to the Ukraine arsenal against Russia. The role of Turkish drones has galvanized Ukrainian people to an extent that there are songs eulogizing Bayraktar, and therefore, it just did not come as a surprise that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the Turkish drone company owner and presented Baykar CEO, Haluk Bayraktar with the ‘Order of Merit’, first degree, during their meeting in Kyiv on September 9. He has also agreed to start a factory in Ukraine to start manufacture of drones.
What surely has not gone well with the defense establishment inside India is the reservation posed by Haluk Bayraktar to be unable to supply TB2 drones to India. In his interview when asked if Baykar would consider selling drones to Pakistan’s rival India, Bayraktar responded in the negative. “As a company principle, we are against ‘war profiteering,’ or selling arms to both sides in conflict,” he said. “Our priority is to share our capabilities with brotherly countries that we have strategic relations [with], friends, allies, NATO members. Countries like Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Ukraine are our priority.” India, perhaps, may not need to buy Turkish drones as India already has gone ahead to manufacture its own indigenous Tapas-BH-201 drones by HAL, in Bengaluru, and its first flight took place in 2016. For India Turkish TB2 are certainly not the proverbial sine non qua.
The stance from Turkish drone company against India, can easily be construed to be an extension of the official policy of Erdogan, which obviously will make India to rethink of its interests with Turkey, as very recently India did gave contracts to a Turkish company in its prestigious Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh. Turkey is embroiled in a conflict with Greece and the situation might escalate too, and this time around, India may be found standing with Greece over Turkey.
The writer is a former UP state Information Commissioner and writes on international issues.