Turkish-Indian relations and the Israeli angle

ALVITE NINGTHOUJAM
Published 28.04.2017 21:14
Updated 28.04.2017 21:19

In what could be considered a major foreign policy priority following the recent referendum, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will pay a two-day visit to India starting from April 30. While the announcement of this visit was made prior to the referendum, this is a significant move made by the president on dealing with one of the world's fastest growing economies. This, in other words, can be considered a pivot toward Asia, as he is also visiting another economic giant, China, to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May.

This particular visit has come at an opportune moment, as Indo-Turkish relations, for the last several years, have remained lackluster. After visiting India in 2008 as the prime minister of Turkey, this is going to be his first visit as president for Erdoğan. For India as well, this has come with the present regime's outreach to Middle Eastern countries, which is a quite visible policy after Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in May 2014.

Currently, India's engagements with some of the major Middle Eastern countries not only revolve around oil and energy cooperation but also extend to security, counterterrorism, investments and technological transfers. In the light of this, the issue of India's membership bid in the Nuclear Supplier Group is likely to be one of the major highlights of Erdoğan's visit. By agreeing to scale up political ties through this landmark visit, India would definitely seek Turkey's support for membership, as the latter is not averse to the idea of New Delhi joining this group. That said, it is yet to be seen how the relations will take shape in the near future.

Simultaneously, it should be noted that Turkey's move toward India has come at a juncture when its ties with Israel are improving following the reconciliation deal they signed on June 27 last year. The deal came in the wake of the changing geopolitics the Middle East, particularly the increasing threats from non-state actors. Furthermore, Turkey and Israel wanted to lessen their diplomatic isolation in the region by working together on issues of mutual national interest. Israel is apparently looking for a client for offshore gas, which it discovered in December 2010. It is of the belief that the sale of such gas to Turkey, which can also serve as a gateway to Europe, will help in boosting its economy. Despite this development, an immediate resumption of military trade is unlikely. With this rapprochement in the backdrop, it will be in India's favor to get closer to Turkey, politically, economically and in the military and security areas.

Currently there is also a clear visibility of openness and comfort between India and Israel in discussing all facets of their bilateral relations, unlike a few years ago. Apart from defense cooperation, political ties are on an upward trajectory, and engagements in other civilian sectors are rapidly advancing. Although it would be foolhardy to predict a development of robust trilateral ties between these three countries, some sort of cooperation in the realms of information and intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cannot be put to rest completely. This is given the rising forces of terror groups such as Daesh and its influence that is being felt in the respective countries and regions. Considering the phenomenon of online-based radicalization, cyberspace is another potential area of cooperation. While India will look to Turkey to boost economic and investments, cooperation in security spheres looks inevitable at the moment. Therefore, as Turkey-Israel relations warm up, India should take advantage of this development and enhance cooperation with both its Middle Eastern partners.

*Senior research associate at Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi

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