Türkiye and India are ‘compatible’ nations: Indian ex-official

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MJ Akbar, India's former deputy foreign minister.

ANKARA : Türkiye and India are “compatible nations,” with trade and investment being the most important areas of cooperation, said a former Indian senior official.

“We are compatible nations. But there is also a very distinct, very creative possibility in political understanding,” said MJ Akbar, who served as India’s deputy foreign minister.

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“We are both democracies. We are both secular democracies. Both nations understand the power and necessity of security,” Akbar told Anadolu Agency in the Turkish capital Ankara.

He said, however, that trade and investment would be “the most important cooperation” areas in bilateral relations.

Bilateral trade between Türkiye and India has risen to over $10 billion per year.

On other fronts, Akbar said the two countries “understand the curse of terrorism.”

“We understand that there is no cause that justifies terrorism. And that is a basic principle,” he said.

Calling nationalism “a partner of globalization,” Akbar said that “with so much in common (between Türkiye and India), the future can be, in fact, distinctly better than our very good past.”

On India buying the S-400 air defense system from Russia, Akbar said New Delhi was “very comfortable” as it had made its security concerns clear to its “friends.”

“Americans are our friends. The Americans are your (Türkiye’s) allies in NATO. But for us, they are very good friends. But we have made it very clear and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has been in the forefront that where India’s security and defense are concerned, there can be no compromise,” he said.

The US has sought to deter its allies, including Türkiye, from buying the Russian air defense system through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). India is a major ally of Washington in the Asia-Pacific which, however, has faced little blowback from its purchase of the S-400.

Akbar said the US-led QUAD alliance was an “attempt to remind the world that free movement on the seas is an absolute fundamental necessity for international trade.”

“The laws of the United Nations, which are still in the process of being formulated, will be the basis,” he said on the framework of the loose security grouping, which consists of the US, Japan, Australia, and India.

Noting the lack of clarity in the laws of the seas, he identified space as the next challenge.

Akbar said the more cooperation among UN-member states to expand mutually beneficial regulations, “the better it will be for life, for peace, and for prosperity.”

Border understanding with China ‘not fragile’

On India’s border dispute with China, Akbar said agreement on the issue has so far eluded the two countries, “but what is very significant is that as mature nations, we have decided that we will not allow differences to become conflicts.”

“We shall do our best not to allow the dispute to become a conflict,” he asserted.

“There is an understanding, and it has been held for decades, that not a single bullet is fired across the border. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been tensions,” he added.

Since May 2020, India and China have been locked in a faceoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) — a de facto border between the two countries — in the Ladakh area of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region.

At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in a clash on the border in June 2020.

Tensions eased after several rounds of talks between the two sides.

“There have even been casualties regrettably on both sides. But by and large, the principal has held,” Akbar said, adding that China and India were setting an “example” for border dispute management.

“The understanding between the governments is not fragile, which is why irrespective of who is in power, the agreement has held,” he added.

On calls for UN reform, Akbar said it was “essential if the United Nations is to survive.”

“The United Nations cannot have a Security Council which consists only of the five winners of World War II.

“That world is long gone. There is a new world that exists,” he said, adding that the Security Council “doesn’t represent the real world anymore.”

“Many more nations will have to find a place at the high table of the United Nations, which is the Security Council, for it to become effective,” he added. — AA

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