Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey and wannabe Khalifa, has started scripting his own downfall with his Islamist political approach to international relations. Much like the ousted Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, Erdogan too has started antagonising India by toeing Pakistan’s line on Kashmir. While Mahathir had found himself in trouble for his anti-India remarks as New Delhi imposed palm oil import curbs, Erdogan could now be going down the same path.
In a virtual address to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) interfered with India’s internal matters and called the Kashmir “conflict” a “burning issue”. Erdogan said, “Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of Jammu-Kashmir further complicated the problem.”
The Turkish President added, “We are in favour of solving this issue through dialogue, within the framework of the United Nations resolutions and especially in line with the expectations of the people of Kashmir.”
Erdogan’s remarks have already antagonised New Delhi. India has dismissed Turkish President’s diplomatic offensive. T S Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said, “We have seen remarks by the President of Turkey on Indian UT of Jammu & Kashmir.”
Tirumurti added, “They constitute gross interference in India’s internal affairs and are completely unacceptable. Turkey should learn to respect the sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its own policies more deeply.”
Kashmir has been an issue on Erdogan’s agenda primarily because of his Caliphate ambitions and an aspiration to emerge as the protectors of Muslims around the world. Even in his 2019 UNGA speech, Erdogan had raised the Kashmir issue in support of Pakistan’s attempts to internationalise the issue.
In 2019, the Turkish President Erdogan had said, “Despite the resolutions adopted, Kashmir is still besieged and eight million people are stuck in Kashmir.” He had added, “In order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbours, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, but not through collision.”
What Erdogan doesn’t realise is that he is digging his own political grave by antagonising India. As we already stated, Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, had made the same mistake. During the UNGA session last year, Mahathir had accused India of having “invaded and occupied” a free Kashmir.
Despite being the Prime Minister of a Secular and Democratic country, Mahathir had tried to ratchet Islamism against India. Now, Erdogan is making the same mistake. Even though Turkey has long been a secular republic, he is raking up Islamist sentiment against India and that too with attempts to impinge upon India’s territorial integrity.
With Mahathir, India had a simple option- imposing Palm oil curbs that led to a massive 94 per cent reduction in Malaysian exports to India. New Delhi thus used its economic heft to punish Mahathir. The economic consequences proved too hot to handle for Mahathir and therefore he got thrown out of power earlier this year. Till date, Mahathir regrets going against India.
With Turkey, India might not be able to weaponise any direct trading relations. As such New Delhi might not have the option of imposing tough costs on Ankara directly, but India has significant diplomatic clout that can inflict significant damage upon Turkey.
With his heightened Islamism, Erdogan has found foes across different parts of the world from Russia to the US and Europe to the Gulf, and the Eastern Mediterranean. India, on the other hand, enjoys close ties in all these parts of the world. As such India has the option of getting its friends like Russia, Israel, the US and the UAE, which are some of Turkey’s biggest trading partners.
Erdogan shouldn’t take New Delhi’s diplomatic clout lightly. If India can isolate Pakistan, there is every possibility of New Delhi getting its allies decoupled from Turkey as well. Mahathir’s downfall had begun with his anti-India UNGA speech, and it seems Erdoğan is also going the Mahathir way now.