Will untended Turkey ties be given useful shape?

An Indian external affairs minister will be in Turkey after a gap of 10 years when Salman Khurshid visits the country later this month. It is to be seen if long untended ties can be given a meaningful shape. With improved trade figures, the economy is a good starting point. In politics too, it appears greater convergence is possible as regards Kashmir and Afghanistan, key India concerns.
Babur Gergin, a senior Turkey foreign ministry official, told a small group of visiting Indian journalists that the desire to forge a qualitatively new level of ties with India was not linked to a “broader regional vision” but with the idea of building relations with “an internationally rising country”.
In this connection he also mentioned the upcoming visit here of President Pranab Mukherjee in October 2013, the first by an Indian head of state in 15 years. Ankara has taken note of India’s vibrant democracy, the rapid changes in its economy over two decades, and New Delhi’s growing political profile internationally, according to Ufuk Gezer, another top foreign ministry official associated with policy planning.
But Turkey is no laggard. In the past decade, its national income has jumped three-fold. In the political and social field, the “Turkish model” – multi-party parliamentary democracy supported by a moderate Islamic party in a secular social space — is a subject of attention in Islamic countries across West Asia and North Africa that were in the Ottoman empire until its dissolution a century ago. These include “Arab Spring” countries such as Egypt, now in the eye of the storm, and war-torn Syria.
With Turkey in Nato, Ankara and New Delhi were not on the same page during the Cold War. Besides, the close political bond between Ankara and Islamabad served to cast a shadow on ties.
But now Turkey is keen to build “people to people” relations and desires to open a cultural centre in India. Through expanding the reach of Turkish Airlines in India, it says it can boost tourist arrivals in the country, where foreign tourist levels are a fraction of Turkey’s.
Turkey is in the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) contact group on Kashmir and India was “cross” about this, but lately New Delhi sees Ankara as being a “moderating influence”.
In respect of Afghanistan, Ankara believes that a peaceful solution can be found by the Afghan people themselves and “cannot be imposed from outside”. This brings it near the Indian position.

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