World, Asia - Pacific

‘Indian, Turkish partnership can evolve new global order’

India’s evolution from non-alignment to strategic autonomy reflects in decisions, says Indian envoy

Sorvar Alam and Zehra Nur Duz   | 16.01.2020
‘Indian, Turkish partnership can evolve new global order’ Indian Ambassador to Turkey Sanjay Bhattacharyya


Trade between Turkey and India has shown strong growth over recent years, however, both countries need to be more ambitious to increase trade and economic exchanges, Indian Ambassador to Turkey Sanjay Bhattacharyya told Anadolu Agency. 

Bhattacharyya, who came to Ankara in 2018, is departing after completing his term later this week.

Ahead of his farewell, Indian Ambassador in a freewheeling interview spoke about several issues ranging opportunities challenges in relations with Turkey, India’s issues with Pakistan, Kashmir crises, the Afghan peace process and also his country acquiring Russian-made S-400 missile defense system despite strong opposition from the U.S.

Anadolu Agency: Since you are completing your term now in Ankara, what were your highest and lowest points in Turkey.

Sanjay Bhattacharya: Ankara has been exciting, challenging and fulfilling assignment. We had a clear mandate to pursue, given to me by my government. We undertook initiatives on all three pillars – political/security, economic and cultural – to advance mutual understanding and awareness. Despite the brevity of my tenure, we realized tangible progress in our bilateral relations. As a diplomat, it is not unnatural to sense the excitement when we see the initiatives making a difference or bringing a smile. I had come as the ambassador of India to Turkey; with my deep experience here, I shall return also as an ambassador of Turkey.

Q: As India’s envoy in Ankara, how do you evaluate bilateral relations between India and Turkey?

SB: As two large and fast-growing economies and as civilizational entities, we have tremendous potential to be natural partners in the 21st century. This means we can work together towards national development and contribute to regional and global priorities. We saw a new momentum in our relations in recent years which led to greater cooperation, especially in the economic sphere. The political consultations involving both the Presidency and Foreign Office established strong communication between the two sides. Fuller realization of the potential will be achieved through all-round cooperation.

Q: India and Turkey had seen robust trade relations over the past many years. What are the prospects of Turkish companies investing in India and vice-versa?

SB: Trade showed strong growth in recent years, although it declined last year. We need to be more ambitious in expanding trade and economic exchanges. Negotiations on Free Trade Agreement or Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement are a necessity to give it the required impetus and setting a new target of $25-30 billion trade by 2025.

Investment flows have grown significantly in recent years. Indian corporates remain gung-ho about Turkey’s long-term prospects. At the same time, as the fastest-growing major economy, India offers the best environment for Turkish investments. I am happy that several Turkish companies have invested in India, which can become a base for Asian operations. There is scope for more Turkish investments. I believe high technology collaboration, especially in areas such as space, IT, fintech, biotech, and others will spur future growth and economic cooperation.

Purchase of S-400, part of India’s policy of strategic autonomy

Q: Tourism is emerging as a major driver of the economy worldwide. India and Turkey are both rich in history. What is the potential to increase tourist economies in both countries? How can both complement each other?

SB: There has been a dramatic increase in Indian tourists visiting Turkey, rising from 80,000 to 200,000 in the last two years. Indian tourism, especially wedding tourism, provides big revenue to Turkey. More importantly, more Turks need to visit India’s beautiful destinations for sustainable two-way exchanges.

Q: India has been using Russian defense platforms for long and has ordered the Russian S-400 missile defense system. Turkey has also acquired a similar system. How is India evading U.S. threats of sanctions in the wake of this purchase? What has been India telling the U.S. interlocutors?

SB: India has never been part of any defense alliance and has always acquired weapons systems from many different countries. It is part of our policy of strategic autonomy, which others have to understand.

Q: What are convergences between the two countries that need to be build-up to strengthen relations?

SB: Mutual understanding of political-security issues, lies at the root of the development of relations. We can collaborate on high technologies, cooperation in regional and global priorities and become partners in the creation of a new global order.

New citizenship law a humanitarian gesture

Q: Reports of protests against a new citizenship law are coming from India. The law is seen as discriminatory to a large population of Indian Muslims. Is there any rethinking in the government to address issues related to this law?

SB: The Turkish media has unfortunately been biased and misinformed in its reportage of developments in India. It has not fully understood our vibrant democracy, our secular ethos or the tolerant diversity of India.

The Citizen Amendment Act (2019), which came into effect on Jan. 10, 2020, does not, repeat not, apply to Indian citizens. It applies only to foreign nationals who are fleeing religious persecution from certain neighboring countries and provides a fast-track approach to seek Indian citizenship, i.e. they can apply after five years, instead of 11 years of residence. This is a humanitarian gesture, in accordance with our tradition. Atrocities against religious minorities in Pakistan are well known. We have provided shelter to refugees from our neighborhood for millennia.

Q: India revoked autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state in last August. Has there been any assessment of what India has gained both internally and diplomatically?

SB: The initiative of Aug. 5, to withdraw the temporary provisions of Article 370 and bifurcate the State into the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh were internal issues of India in accordance with our constitution. All countries should respect that. Certain historical facts are not well known in Turkey; for instance, the armed aggression by Pakistan against Jammu and Kashmir since 1947, the legal accession of the state of to India, Pakistan’s non-implementation of UN Security Council resolutions which had mandated that Pakistan must withdraw from POK areas where it was in forcible occupation as an aggressor and Pakistan’s continued terrorist activities in the region, which lies at the root of the problem and has cost the lives of over 42,000 innocent Kashmiris.

The initiative of Aug. 5, was aimed at providing better governance and security to Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. It was received well; except by those who supported terrorism in Kashmir. It also generated wide support in the international community, including across Islamic countries, who recognized it as an internal measure of India and condemned Pakistan’s terrorism against India.

The situation in Kashmir is fast returning to normalcy. It is better than that what prevailed before Aug. 5, when cross border terrorism from Pakistan constantly disrupted normal life. The prophecies of Pakistan leaders that there would be a bloodbath in Kashmir and their lies about a lockdown in Kashmir have been proved wrong. However, Pakistan’s terrorists did not stop efforts to kill innocent Kashmiris and foment trouble and continue to support terrorism in the region. Turkey is aware that Pakistan supports terrorism, not only in India but in the region. The entire international community is calling for action against Pakistan’s support for terrorism. India will certainly overcome Pakistan’s terrorism directed against us.

India always open to Pakistan for peaceful dialogue

Q: Why India and Pakistan are unable to find a win-win formula to settle the dispute forever and live in peace?

SB: Pakistan needs to vacate its illegal occupation of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. It also seems to mistakenly believe that its alternative foreign policy of cross-border terrorism will yield positive dividends. The people of Kashmir have rejected terrorism. Peace and development are a priority for India. We are engaged in a process to regain our rightful place in the global community. Meanwhile, the land of Buddha and Gandhi will always be open to Pakistan for peaceful dialogue, but they have to give up terrorism before coming to the table.

Q: Afghanistan has a strategic significance to India. How do you see the next steps in the wake of U.S. negotiation with the Taliban?

SB: Afghanistan is our neighbor. She has suffered from external interference for a long time. We all remember the atrocities of the previous Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had and continues to have close links with Pakistan. Afghanistan is a great civilization, which deserves an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process to shape its future. We are excited about the democratic process in Afghanistan and its recent outcome. India is fully invested in the development and capacity building of the great Afghan nation and people and will continue to provide a supportive hand.

Q: On many crucial international issues, India remains neutral or tries to keep itself away from taking any stand. How can an emerging superpower keep itself away from issues affecting world peace?

SB: India is a civilizational power with a heritage that stretches back to millennia. Our contributions to the global community are inspired by our culture of sharing best practices and being prepared to assimilate those of others. Our responses to global issues, especially those about peace and development, have also been influenced by our belief in Vasudeva Kutumbukam, everyone in the world is our family. As we have grown and integrated into the global community, we have been increasingly engaged in discussions on multilateral and global issues and have participated in measures to address challenges. We believe the world is moving towards multipolarity and we are ready to support capacity building in other countries, to further its realization. Our own evolution from non-alignment to strategic autonomy is reflected in many of our decisions.

India needs the world, and the world needs India

Q: What is the strategic framework that the Indian government has in mind to chart the course forward? On the economic front, it was said that the second generation of reforms is not taking place. All the issues as we discussed are having diplomatic repercussions on India.

SB: As a vibrant democracy, India’s focus is on people-centric policies and institution building. As an ancient civilization and growing power, India promotes peace and development, diversity and plurality, and eternal values and principles with the global community. As I said, the world is moving towards multipolarity. Existing global institutions need reform to reflect the realities of the 21st century. We have to address the challenges of terrorism and climate change and seize the opportunities provided by technology and development. Our approach of strategic autonomy reflects the enhanced ability and willingness to play an active role in global affairs.

Economy and technology will be the main drivers of the global agenda. Thanks to continuous reforms and liberalization we have become the sixth-largest economy and the most vibrant democracy. Further reforms will help increase our current GDP of $2.7 billion to $5 billion by 2025 and to $10 billion by 2030, making us the third-largest economy. Similarly, advances in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship will ensure that India remains ahead of the curve as the world progresses on its new priorities in the 21st century. The growth of India is now a reality, which will have a positive impact on global dynamics. India needs the world and the world needs India.

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