Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Antalya for the G20 summit (November 15-16) will focus on multilateral diplomacy, but the visit will also mark the beginning of his personal diplomacy with Turkey.
Following the G20 summit where he will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr. Modi will visit Ankara early next year for a bilateral meeting, Turkish Ambassador Burak Akcapar told
. In fact, Turkey is also hopeful of hosting Mr. Modi in Istanbul for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. The Prime Minister’s “engage Turkey” process will be based on schemes such as ‘Make in India,’ ‘Skill India’ and ‘Smart City’ projects and Turkey does not want to miss any opportunity in the present Indian economic scenario.
Mr. Akcapar said his country’s immediate focus is on increasing aviation connectivity with India. “We want Turkey to be connected to cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. We are hopeful the aviation agreement for allowing flights to these cities will be signed during the visit of the Indian Prime Minister,” he said. However, Mr. Modi’s visits to Turkey are unlikely to remove the political differences between the two sides. Defence ties with Turkey are a major source of support for Pakistan and will cast a shadow on Turkey’s engagement with India.
Prof. Ashwini Mahapatra, an expert on Turkish affairs at the JNU, believes that it is impossible to change Turkey’s fundamental desire to be the leader of the Islamic world. “Turkey’s position on the Kashmir issue is ambiguous, though thankfully they have not highlighted the issue in recent years,” he said.
The other major area of concern is Turkey’s presence in Afghanistan. Mr. Akcapar said Turkey-Afghanistan ties are independent of the other international peacekeeping strategies in Afghanistan. “Our forces are protecting the international airport in Kabul, which is a major lifeline for Afghanistan and our forces will be on Afghan soil as long as they are needed to be there,” Mr. Akcapar said.
Experts have been pointing out that inherent political differences have forced India to keep Turkey from opening its long expected cultural centre in New Delhi. The G-20 summit will provide a platform to Mr. Modi to probe Turkey. But Turkey’s interest is clearly in the Indian market and not India’s foreign concerns, Prof. Mahapatra said.