As Turkey finds itself in a corner due to Erdogan’s misadventures, Saudi Arabia has done justice to the saying of rubbing salt on the wounds. The Cumhuriyet daily on Sunday said that Riyadh has decided to officially ban Turkish products starting this week. This official ban comes into force after an unofficial embargo on Turkish goods for a couple of years, starting with Ankara’s economic-military support to Doha after the Saudi-led bloc cut ties with Qatar for its support to Muslim Brotherhood. Since then Saudi authorities have been putting a lot of pressure on the local businesses, at times even ordering them specifically not to trade with Ankara as reported by Dunya (a Turkish newspaper).
As things have worsened, Saudi Arabia has also declared Turkey as an unsafe location due to petty crimes against Saudi citizens increasing, thus, discouraging its people from choosing Turkey as a travel destination. The Saudi tourists coming to Turkey had dropped 17% last year, and it has most certainly cascaded, given the halt in tourism in Turkey. This makes a larger geopolitical sense when seen in context with the recent high-profile visit of Indian MEA, NSA Ajit Doval and Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to the Saudi Embassy in India for Saudi Arabia’s National Day sending a message of friendship and goodwill which has unsettled many including Erdogan.
Addressing Wednesday’s reception, Saudi envoy Saud Al-Sati said the kingdom valued India as a “close friend and an important strategic partner”, and “Through the mechanism of the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC), we are working on further strengthening our partnership and deepening our friendship … At the beginning of 2020, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia had awarded 41 new foreign investment projects to Indian investors,” he added.
And while all this is happening, a larger tug-of-war is in play between Ankara and Riyadh, i.e. the fight for the position of the leader of Ummah/Muslim world with Turkey trying all tricks in its arsenal to displace Saudis from the position of the leader. Be it the failed attempt to form a triad of Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia to provide an alternative to Saudi Arabia, criticizing the UAE, Bahrain’s effort for peace with Israel through the Abraham Accord or just upfront challenging Saudi Arabia with support to Iran’s efforts in the region.
As reported by Zee News, “Erdogan is now optimistically looking towards South Asian countries, housing a large number of the Muslim population. Erdogan has positioned the South Asian countries, including India, in his map of Islamic Caliphate and plans to dominate these countries by promoting violence and extremism. Erdogan’s Diyanet has begun to subvert Indian Muslims through the promotion of extremist Islamic ideology. It is also believed that Erdogan is supporting Pakistan in its proxy war through terrorists against India.” A senior Indian government official told HT, “There is an effort to radicalise Indian Muslims and recruit fundamentalists coordinated from Turkey.”
Thus, India should also take note of it and realign itself accordingly, which it seems to be done very cautiously. As India has unilaterally taken a stand against Turkey, stopped the import of certain goods at different times, it should support more aggressively Saudi efforts against Erdogan’s Turkey.
The economy has become Ankara’s kryptonite, as it has opened more theatres of conflict than the United States, be it, Libya, Syria, Eastern Mediterranean (Greece), Azerbaijan-Armenia among others and jokingly small capital to fund these adventures. Attacking where it hurts the most is the Realpolitik solution to any crisis and for Turkey, it is their economy. The head of state, hellbent on turning Secular & Democratic Turkey into a theocracy coupled with all the wars, conflicts, inflation, mismanaged domestic economy, investors in retreat, diplomatically isolated and in a situation when Pakistan seems a major ally.
India should align with Saudi Arabia more aggressively and teach Erdogan a lesson for his extravagant adventurism, by stopping any and every trade relations with Turkey as this is the opportunity Ankara is cornered and any mercy may have a further imbalanced and unstable middle East and increasingly radicalized South Asia.