Indians' relations with Turks have deep roots in history, memory, culture, language and society. Their political relations can be traced back to different phases in past centuries, such as the Ottoman Caliphs and Sultans who had direct links with their counterparts. The Topkapı Museum has several items from the country, including a precious gift from a Hindu King in South India. Muslims in India along with the support and cooperation of the Hindus have a history of political and financial support extended to Turkey not less than five times during 1874-1920. The father of the Indian nation - Mahatma Gandhi - is well known for leading the Khilafat Movement in 1919 in which many Muslims and Hindus expressed their massive support to the Caliph-Sultan against western interventionist forces. In fact, I am writing this article in Kandhla, where Mufti Ilahi Baksh Academy's library has rare books on India's relations with the Ottoman Empire.
The founder of the academy - Noorul Hasan Rashid Kandhelvi - displayed the copy of the letter received from the Ottoman Statesman İbrahim Adham, which reached India on July 27, 1877 in response to the monetary contribution made by western Uttar Pradesh. Kandhelvi says that Turks have contributed to the freedom of India because the Khilafat movement became the major source of political mobilization against the colonial masters. His close relatives have the privileges of preserving the gifts including Tasbih personally given by Sultan Abdülhamid. Kandhelvi's close relative Badrul Islam was the librarian in the sultan's private library. His other relatives also served in the Ottoman offices. Ottoman ministers also visited the Aligarh Muslim University and its students sent a fund of about 30,000 rupees to the Ottomans over 1905-1911. In early 1915, the Indian military of British India revolted against the British, resulting in heavy bloodshed, because they did not want to fight against the Ottomans. In 1915-1916, over 2,000 Indian soldiers died in the Gallipoli War. It is apparent then that there are many valuable events which show the depth of India's connections with Turks.
THE TRANSITION PERIODS
The age of the Cold War and indestructible military alliances are over. Turkey has moved from one party rule, military interventions and elitism, to multiparty, civilian rule and republicanism. Similarly, India has experienced over six decades of democratic experiences and the enlargement of its constitution and laws. India is a gateway to South Asia, while Turkey stand at the juncture of three continents attracting both its neighbors and international players. Turkey's growing global role is being recognized by some in the European Union countries. Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said in September 2010 that Turkey has more influence in the world than all EU member states. Turkey is a key country for the future of the EU. One of the most important problems of Europe has to do with energy. A total of 70 percent of all energy needed by Europe sits at Turkey's borders. Another important problem in Europe is the economic crisis. Turkey broke a world record with a growth figure of 11 percent in the first half of 2010. Europe is in an effort to reach new markets. European companies can reach a market of 1.5 billion people with a three-hour flight from Turkey. Europe has a security problem. Turks are the second biggest armed forces in NATO. In early 2017, the World Bank ranked Turkey high above all European countries in the context of economic growth rate.
Turkey is the only Muslim country which is a member of the G20, NATO and of many other Western regional groupings, as well as presently leading the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). It has been leading the Black Sea Economic Cooperation for the last 18 years and has been a founding member of the OECD (1961). Turkish forces have earned credentials in helping Europe during the Cold War era against the menace of Soviet expansionism and other security threats. In addition to its commitment in Afghanistan, it is emerging as a credible bridge between the East and the West. Turkish experiments after 2001 have avoided extremist policies and actions and are heading towards framing a new constitution for building a vibrant Turkey.
Therefore, Turkey has become instrumental in linking the world's richest region of gas to Europe. The government has a very transparent agenda of emerging as a soft power. It is developing into a competing economy by acting upon comprehensive economic reforms. In the sphere of politics, particularly in Aristotelian terms, it is interested in increasing the size of the middle class for moderation and stability in order to discourage extreme rivalries between the soldier and the ruling classes as well as to enhance the standard of life of the lower middle class. The Republic of Turkey is in its dialectical advance towards realizing its democratic goals at both the domestic and international levels in order to strengthen itself and to get it activated at the international politics level.
Since 1923, the Turkish Society and the Devlet experimented with domestic reforms, regional and international initiatives. There are varied speculations about Turkey as a confirmed soft power and assertive one in the Balkans, the Aegean and West Asia. Turkey is both contesting and cooperating with the West over many issues, mainly aimed at ensuring enduring peace, security and stability. It is also exploring windows of interactions in Southeast Asia and the African continent. It can be defined as a rising regional power which is nonbelligerent, nonaggressive and tolerant. It has shown resilience over various issues related to regional and global politics. Despite its advancements in various fields, Turkey seems to be more interested in pursuing developmentalism and restraining militarism.
The trend and pattern of international relations is one in which areas in transition seem to be following a kind of dialectical advance towards unfolding themselves due to inherent conflicts and oppositions. This dialectical process as a natural course shifts, curves, breaks down and resets, and also seems to continue due to shortcomings and imperfections existing therein. This hypothetical reading of international relations is closer to the Hegelian theory of reason and absolute idea rather than Marxian universal substance of motion within the matter. It is in this context that an attempt is being made to look into the factors of building a distinct identity of the Turkish Republic which is setting its own interests and priorities in international relations.
The post-Kemalist Turkey has played a balancing role in maintaining strong ties with the West along with opening its doors eastward, where it has larger opportunities and a respectable image. Turkish experiments with electoral democracy since 1950, a multiparty system, coalition governments, and consolidation of deliberative democracy created space and opportunities for political parties and different sections of society to manage their conflict and interests. There was a time when Turkey maintained a kind of parity with Western European powers before World War II. During the Cold War era, Turkey took the risk of safeguarding Europe from the southern side by sacrificing its relations with the Soviet Union and socialist eastern Europe. At that moment, Turkey provided itself as a shield to Europe against communism and Russian expansionism. When the EEC was moving upward, Turkey was reduced to the role of a competitor with Greece for membership. After Turkey lost the race, it was reduced to being a competitor with the countries of Eastern Europe which were communist and Soviet allies for decades. Finally EU membership was bestowed upon southern Cyprus, which is not recognized by Turkey.
The post-Atatürk phase of politics, governance and reforms are marked with multiple factors, causes, policies and actions. There are cases of military interferences, military take-overs, sponsored reframing of the constitutions and the Feb. 28 process. On the other hand, situations changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and after the tragic incident of terrorism in the United States which began to disturb equations and settings at various levels. In Turkey itself, democracy, the open economy and other forces of globalization brought about remarkable changes in various aspects of the society, hugely affecting the nature of Turkish politics. On its eastern front, the American interventions and aggressions against Iraq since 1991 onwards, the Israeli continuation of the occupation of the Palestinian Territories after 1991, the collapse of the Iraqi socialist state in 2003, the widening network of American military bases in the Gulf, the expansive initiatives of the European Union in the Gulf, the covert action policies particularly in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia and the Turkish involvement in NATO operations in Afghanistan created compelling factors for a change in the foreign policy of Turkey.
With Russia, Turkey has renewed its interests, as the former is both the reservoir of natural resources and supplying routes for oil and gas. On the western front, Turkey is still far from gaining EU membership and alarmed by the growing American dominance over NATO. Islamophobia, terrorism, and anti-Turkish sentiments growing in Europe have also alarmed Turkey. It was difficult for Turkey to remain isolated from the so-called Middle East Spring and military interventions in North Africa. Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic which maintains an ancient cultural heritage and its own identity. It is integrated with the West through membership in organizations such as the Council of Europe, NATO, the OECD, OSCE and the G20 major economies. It is an associate member of the EU since 1963 and full member of the Customs Union since 1996. Turkey has also fostered close cultural, political, economic and industrial relations with the Middle East, the Turkic states of Central Asia and the African countries. Turkey is a founding member of the United Nations (1945), the OECD (1961), the OIC (1969), the OSCE (1973), the ECO (1985), the BSEC (1992) and the G20 major economies (1999). On Oct. 17, 2008, Turkey was elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Turkey had previously been a member of the UNSC in 1951-1952, 1954-1955 and 1961.
THE CYPRUS ISSUE
In 2004, Turkey endorsed the Annan Plan and asked the Turkish Cypriots to show their support for the plan. The 9,000-page plan was presented in November 2002, and sought to respect both "exclusive rights" and an "inclusive character" in governance. It was modified three times, providing for two separate governments under a collegiate presidency, comprising four Greek Cypriots and two Turkish Cypriots. It prohibited partition or secession, domination by one side or union with any other country. The plan had the support of the EU and U.S., and Greece and Turkey. After being disappointed with Greek Cypriots' negation of the plan, Turkey continued to end international isolation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. During Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) in mid-July 2011 he repeatedly said that "it would be out of the question" for Turkey to negotiate its own troubled bid to join the EU if the island's Greek Cypriot government took over the 27-member bloc's six month rotating presidency in July 2012.
With tremendous political experiences in the Republic of Turkey in the capacity of mayor, party leader, prime minister and as the president of Turkey, Erdoğan recently gave a new shift to the country to a presidential form of government to secure the stability, security and development of Turkey. The Turkish people approved amendments to 18 articles of the Constitution in a referendum which had also been passed by 339 votes out of 550 in Parliament on Jan. 21. Therefore, the reform has gone through a dual approval system. Political changes and reforms in Turkey are a natural extension of the will and moral freedom of people. The continuous western criticisms of the Turkish president and his measures against the coup attempt plotters are highly disappointing, but Turkey is neither Greece nor Argentina. Erdoğan has doubled the number of airports in the country along with other developments and facilities benefiting the middle and lower middle class. There is a sharp decline in poverty among Turks and sharp rise in the number of educational institutions, including housing, roads, among others. Turkey's electoral booths exist in 54 countries where Turkish citizens vote for general elections.
The Turkish prime minister's office is also running worldwide scholarship programs named "Türkiye Scholarships" for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in various disciplines. It has been selecting Indians for various courses who will be the young representatives of bilateral relations. The proposed visit of the Turkish President to India on April 30-May 1 will further expand the existing relations between the two countries. He will meet the prime minister, president and vice president, in addition to addressing the Joint Business Council in New Delhi to increase bilateral cooperation in the areas of the markets, security, terrorism, and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership by India. In the month of May, Erdoğan will also visit Russia, China, Belgium and the United States. There is a great expectation that both India and Turkey will take some decisive steps to advance toward a better future in their relations.
* Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, India