It must have been music to China ears, battling with Coronavirus rising number of deaths in its Wuhan province , when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced from Pakistan alongside Pakistan PM Imran Khan that Turkey is ready to join CPEC (https://www.dawn.com/news/1534435/turkey-ready-to-work-on-cpec-projects-says-president-erdogan-alongside-pm-imran), China’s most ambitious project slated to change the ‘business of  world’  for the next century. If China is head of CPEC then Pakistan is its neck as that would enable China to reach-out to the world, through CPEC, under BRI, where already 68 countries have joined.

Erdogan two-day visit (February 14& 15) to Pakistan was very naturally to invite fissures on Indian part of Kashmir, where since August 5, 2019, its Special Status under Article 370 stands scrapped, but Erdogan has been quite consistent into putting up with the cause of Kashmiris, as that is what he had already echoed, even before he visited New Delhi on May 1, 2017, that for a ‘multilateral- dialogue’, towards a solution to Kashmir problem unlike what India has always stood for- ‘bilateralism’. India and Turkey potential bilateral trade on the eve of Erdogan visit in 2017, stood to be around $6.4 billion in 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0wy1AcCzNE).

India, it may be mentioned, had then, easily assuaged the ‘coming’ stand of Erdogan,  who had then offered to  ‘mediate’ on Kashmir with India which India had well comprehended and in anticipation had sent Vice President Hamid Ansari to Armenia (on April 25, 2017) which is embroiled in a dispute with Turkey. India, just before Erdogan visit , had then also received Cyprus President on April 27, 2017 engaged in a dispute with Ankara,  in order the circumvent Erdogan, in a hardball diplomacy, (carnegieindia.org/2017/05/02/raja-mandala-warming-up-cold-turkey-pub-69833) yet Erdogan , unfazed by India’s posturing, expressed to be a ‘peace-maker’ on Kashmir.  It is another matter that Narendra Modi later disgraced Hamid Ansari on his retirement when he taunted Ansari to have been the one contained in a Muslim cocoon until when he was made to feel the chatpatahat  (uneasiness)  of conducting a House like Rajya Sabha.

It can now easily be made out that Turkey is the only other country apart from China which has consistent with Pakistan over Kashmir over the years.  In his address to Pakistan joint parliament session (on Feb 14)  Erdogan referred to ‘Kashmir’ perhaps about half a dozen times in his 25 minutes long speech. He said that Kashmir is as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan and likened the struggle in Kashmir to the battle of Turkey’s independence. “It was Çanakkale yesterday, and it is Kashmir today. There is no difference,”  in reference to the battle for Gallipoli in North Western Turkey between Turkey and Allied Powers in 1915 and 1916. Something which India has called ‘interference’ in its internal matters. (ahvalnews.com/kashmir-dispute/erdogan-likens-kashmir-battle-turkeys-independence) by issuing a demarche to Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, Turkish ambassador in New Delhi. Turkey and Malaysia have supported Pakistan on Kashmir issue and India as its quid pro quo has effectively stopped importing palm oil from Malaysia and also oil and steel products from Turkey (https://www.indiatoday.in/business/story/india-plans-cuts-to-imports-from-malaysia-turkey-in-kashmir-row-report-1637181-2020-01-15).

In something which assumes significance for India is Erdogan striking for ‘empires’ established by Turkish race in the name of Zaheeruddin Babar’s Mughal empire which ruled over this part of the world including Pakistan and which has left an indelible mark on “our” joint history, he also said that the cultural roots of Turkey shine in the form of around 16 nation-states like those established by Babur and Ghaznawis. He referred to Asad-ul-Lah Khan ‘Ghalib’, Jauhar brothers of Khilafat campaign and Abdul Rehman Peshawari to be a part of the joint heritage of Turkey and Pakistan (which was then a part of India) which may be written in golden letters. Peshawari was a student at AMU but had left his studies and volunteered to go to Turkey as a male-nurse in a 24-doctor delegation sent from India by Dr MA Ansari. Peshawari remained in Turkey and joined its forces to become a lieutenant and after the war Ataturk made him Turkish ambassador to Afghanistan. Erdogan, throughout was extempore during his speech and vowed to support Pakistan sail through FATF. He also offered Namaz-e-Juma with Pakistan President Arif Alvi.

Ironically, it is not Pakistan which has touched as many decibels on Kashmir than Turkey, where there is a continuous discussion on Kashmir through seminars and conferences. Almost the next day to August 5, 2019, The Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies (BAAM) hosted a panel, in Ankara, ‘South Asia in 21st Century International Politics: Pakistan and India’s Role in Middle East, Afghanistan and Kashmir’ and cautioned the Indian move to have dire results (aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/india-s-kashmir-move-may-produce-dire-results-experts/1550434 ). Later, Turkey held an international conference on Kashmir on November 21, 2019 in which Pakistan Senator Sherry Rehman also participated. Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Erkan Akcay named six conflict-flashpoint of the world i.e. Jerusalem, Cyprus, Kashmir, Crimea and Kashgar (Xinjiang).He had also pointed Kashmir to have become a frontier of US-China hegemony, whereas, Israel sells weapons to India  and US backs India to counter China. (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/turkey-hosts-international-conference-on-kashmir/1651498 ).

Closely on the heels came the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres four-day visit to Pakistan, where he said to India to ensure that people in Kashmir are given their fundamental rights and he informed that ‘he offered his good offices in relation to the situation’ and added that good-offices only work when accepted by both sides, something which was rebutted by India ‘ there bring no scope for third party mediation’(https://www.livemint.com/news/india/india-rejects-scope-for-third-party-mediation-to-resolve-kashmir-issue-11581872155646.html). Guterres also expressed his grave concern towards ‘the risk of statelessness’ of Muslims in India after the CAA passed by government(https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/un-chief-antonio-guterres-expresses-concern-over-caa-says-risk-of-statelessness-for-two-million-muslims).

This all has been going on in the midst of India making EU parliamentarian (right-wingers)  have a siesta by visits to Kashmir and other EU delegations too but ‘with-holding’ British Parliamentarian Debbie Abraham by not allowing her to visit Kashmir. India had done its homework well as Debbie comes from Oldham which falls under Manchester where there is a European Islamic Center and a considerable part of her constituency comes from Pakistanis, Sikhs and Kashmiris. She thereafter took to a sojourn along with eight British MPs to the Kashmir of the Pakistan side.

As expected India, did not care much for these noises as Modi, by then was already besotted by the visit of Donald Trump ( Feb 24-25), even if that was to be at a cost of a ‘raw-deal’ by US, yet India seem far too complacent by the purchase of Integrated Air Defense Weapon System from US,  which has been ‘disturbing’ for Pakistan (https://www.news18.com/news/india/sale-of-integrated-air-defence-system-to-india-by-us-disturbing-says-pakistan-2500323.html). India later almost warned China to avoid raising Kashmir issue further in UN (https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20200116/news/301169952) .

It is another matter that Trump trip was marred by a full-blown pogrom against Muslims in nations capital where thick black fumes billowed, while deaths increased, of both Hindus and Muslims, the conflict had started after BJP sent its Pro-CAA mobs to attack anti-CAA Muslim protestors. Trump refused to comment on India’s internal matter something which was slammed by Bernie Sanders, the next Democratic Presidential nominee in US (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/news/us-bernie-sanders-slams-trump-over-response-to-anti-caa-clashes-in-india/videoshow/74328599.cms). Echoes of concern have come from Pakistan, Turkey where Erdogan has called it as a massacre of Muslims (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200228-india-commiting-massacres-against-muslims-erdogan-says/) and from Indonesia too where our envoy was summoned as Jakarta expressed its concern (https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-indonesia-delhi-violence-caa-6293363/).

Modi, however is unfazed, and boasted of scrapping of Article 370 apart from clearing Ram Temple Construction and CAA as ‘done’ and branded them all as ‘samples’ , at Times Now Summit (https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/just-a-sample-actual-action-begins-now-pm-narendra-modi-on-article-370-caa-at-times-now-summit/552698), however, has to take certain concrete steps to help normalise the situation in Kashmir as violence in Kashmir in 2019 saw killings of at least 366 in different incidents of violence apart from extrajudicial executions of at least 80 civilians besides killings of 159 militants and 129 armed forces (http://jkccs.net/annual-human-rights-review-2019-2/).

There seem to be a new world order into a making as US-India-Japan joining a block and China-Pakistan-Russia becoming another. Pakistan has already started to transact its imports. Exports and bilateral trade investments with China in Chinese Yuan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-6Cz4dhtQQ) .  The big question is will India and US be able to contain China’s economic miracle, which however, seem to be too distant as Jiangsu, a Province of 80 million in China, has just 17 people living under the poverty line! (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51058339).

Meanwhile, Erdogan is being called as the most popular Muslim leader in the world according to Gallup International (geo.tv/latest/272227-erdogan-emerges-most-popular-muslim-leader-in-gallup-international-survey), despite loosing its army in the Syrian conflict and its sliding Lira (Turkish lira slides further on Idlib worries), yet Erdogan seem determined to usher into a caliphate, something which Muslims had been longing for about a century.

The writer is a lawyer and former UP State Information Commissioner.   


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