Turkey, as a modern Islamic nation, has more reasons and commonalities to patch up with its recent and historical adversaries, than to retain the lash of Erdogan’s stubborn whims. Both Turkey and Russia are fighting the same terrorists in the Levant, then why should they live in suspicion of each other?
Both Turkey and India are fighting separatist forces in a part of their countries, then why is Ankara taking an equivocal stand on the Kashmir issue and the NSG issue, ostensibly leaning towards Pakistan’s unilateral claims. Turkey must decide whether it will be an OIC follower or an OIC reformer. In President Erdogan’s recent visit to India, he partially blanded the hopes of India by revealing a pro-Pakistani inclination . He reinstated his committment to fight terrorism.
Erdogan revelead a pro-Pakistani inclination
But if he backs up the sponsor of terrorism in India, namely the Pakistani establishment, on certain sensitive issues, and if he desperately exhorts India to close down Gulen institutions without giving concrete evidence against the motives of Hizmet and its involvement in last year’s July 15th coup d’état, he simply appears counter-convincing. Gulenists can be accused, but not without satisfactory proofs and points. Erdogan is already doing this hunting and purging of Gulenists in his own country which has sparked great controversy in and out of the Anatolia.
The Gulen and YPG Factors
In Erdogan’s meeting with Trump, he raised the question of extradition of Gulen and most likely Trump has let the cup float inconclusively because it is unlikely that Erdogan will be able to provide evidence that Fetullah Gulen was ‘personally’ involved in the Turkish coup.
There is a more potent point of present contention between Ankara and Washington. Erdogan had already said in an interview that he will ask Trump to explain about US flags waving alongwith the insignia of YPG, the Syrian Kurdish rebels, whom Erdogan views as the Syrian branch of PKK. Perhaps Trump is more favoured to consider YPG as being independent from PKK, so that he can balance between Erdogan on one hand and his Kurdish loyalists in northern Iraq and Syria on the other, without annoying either.
Ankara, which is however annoyed, reflects its reaction by refusing to acknowledge the Raqqa operation of the US against ISIS for which Trump depends on YPG. The April 25 bombings were another expression of Turkey’s unilateral inclination to fight its threats. But it can’t go
harder on US as it is the only country which can provide Turkey with critical weapons systems to fight PKK on the Turkish soil. This shows the US power getting the better of Erdogan’s justified argument. Thus the Turko-American bond remains loose, whilst on the issue of supporting the legitimacy of Assad as the Syrian President, Turkey alienates Russia.
On another front Turkey has recently angered Netherlands and Germany by insisting on carrying political rallies for the Turkish Referendum on their soil in the face of their dissent. It probably angered the whole of EU thereafter when Erdogan spoke of a clash between the crescent and the cross to have started following the ruling of Hijab ban at workplace by the European Court of Justice.
Armenia has sour relations with Turkey due to the rememberance of a century old genocide while Cyprus and Greece have their own reasons for dismay. It sometimes occurs to a pondering mind as to what are the political leverages that Erdogan is eyeing by pooling up so many diverse enemies and ensuring that the enmity is not short-lived. However one must accept that a large part of such moves by Turkey are its efforts to safeguard its strategic interests, just as any other country would.
It is a geopolitical fact that Turkey is strategically located bridging Europe with Asia, Black Sea with the Mediterranean, the Christian Europe with the Islamic Middle-East, and fortifies the modern silk route at multiple locations including the Marmaray and the Eurasia tunnnel, among others. Erdogan has extended full confidence in the OBOR project of PRC in the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing immediately preceding his meeting with Trump.
It was this geostrategic location which had made Constantinople as the focus of historical empires and wars. It is this that makes Turkey a vital NATO member. USA needed the support of such a NATO member when it launched Tomahawk missiles on Syria’s Shayrat airbase from US Navy destroyers deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and Turkey was more than willing to second USA on this move partly to effect its foreign policy against Assad and partly to re-please the displeased White House. Turkey has also reined in Western Europe by acting as an indispensable buffer and stock of nearly three million Syrian refugees, and demands for more funds to meet this challenge. It also uses its this role to advocate more pressingly for accession to the EU, despite growing differences.
The Turkish Referendum and the MISA
As far as the internal politics of Turkey is concerned, the recent Turkish Referendum bears a debatable resemblance with the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) of India of 1971, passed by the Indira Gandhi government in India. Both these measures seem to arm the democratically elected leader of a country with dictatorial powers under the garb of maintaining security and stability within the country. It enables the leader to crush opposition and control press and media, get full powers of preventive detention and many other excesses. To reiterate, such an analogy is indeed arguable; but what followed the MISA era is not unknown but one hopes that Turkey will be able to avert such a situation.
Notwithstanding the political side, Turkey seems to be playing quite well economically. Its policies and well budgeted capital expenditure are helping it urbanise its cities and reduce its Gini index. Erdogan is also keen on enhancing trade and FTAs with various countries, and trying hard to keep it delinked from any political differences. All nations seem to be following the policy of cooperation with caution and prevent any disputes from escalating excessively. Now the scrolls of time shall best unclose the aftermaths of the geostrategic moves of Turkey.
BY RAMAN BUTTA