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A matter of side

A matter of side

The government of India's August 5 decision to bifurcate the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir and spilt in into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir did indeed take the nation by surprise, but besides this widely acknowledged and respected internal move, what got the international community's attention was the ensuing clampdown and communication blackout in the Kashmir valley, the effects of which have not been obliterated to this day. Pakistan has been particularly flustered at this decision of the India government and quite understandably so given that this move has created an effect of radically changing the dynamics pertaining to Kashmir—the "disputed" territory that has been the peg of the Pakistani state's policies against India. While Pakistan has managed to some extent to mobilise and consolidate international support against India for its Kashmir move, Turkey stands out for calling out against India for its dramatic decision. Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan had paid a visit to India in 2017 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was supposedly due to visit the Turkish capital in late October but called it off after Turkey went very vocal in its support to Pakistan on Kashmir and criticised India on the same at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). For India's part, it has done the formality of conveying that Turkey should understand the issue of Kashmir before making further comments. Cancelling the proposed visit to Ankara comes as part of several measures that give away the Indian government's displeasure over the Turkish President's UNGA speech last month where he criticised India's move to abrogate the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. In support of Pakistan, President Erdogan had said that it is imperative to solve the problem through "dialogue on the basis of justice, equity, and not through collision", adding that stability and prosperity of South Asia cannot be separated from the Kashmir issue. In a prompt response, Ministry of External Affairs volleyed that India does not regret the Turkish President's statements on a subject that is internal to India—while also calling upon Turkey to get a briefing of the facts on the Kashmir issue.

In the context of Erdoğan's Kashmir remark, not only did the Indian leadership retract from diplomatic gesture, India's sharp reaction to the much worse doings of Turkey in Syria with respect to military operations earlier in October has been an apt criticism. Bringing to light a new low in India-Turkey relations, New Delhi's straightforward response to Turkey assumes importance on the global stage particularly given that Turkey, whose relations have never been very warm with India, is gradually inching further away after the Turkish President's open condemnation on India at the UNGA and his country backing Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meet earlier in Paris. Pakistan-Turkey proximity is certainly a concern for India, but given this diplomatic retracting, the Ministry of External Affairs expressed that "The visit was never finalised, so there is no question of cancellation". The two-day state visit by Narendra Modi to Ankara was in the talks and it would have been the Prime Minister's first stand-alone visit to Turkey after he had last visited the country during the G-20 summit in Antalya in 2015. This visit is said to have had been scheduled following Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi's visit to Saudi Arabia, where he will be visiting to attend a mega-investment summit on October 27-28. Trade and defence cooperation were some of the issues to be discussed during Prime Minister Modi's Ankara visit which had been agreed to only "in-principle". India-Turkey bilateral relations were never quite stable have long been marked by sporadic tensions due to the West Asian country's support for Pakistan, historically differing on issues such as the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire, and several policies in South Asia. Besides the West Asian nations' temperament in general, there also happen to be a very pronounced inclination towards power play whereby Turkey seeks to establish itself as powerful and domination nation in contrasting rivalry with the Middle East. As Turkey pursues its agenda of establishing itself as a regional power, India had done the due diligence and cemented its ties with Cyprus, Armenia, and Greece, three of Turkey's neighbours. With that, criticising Turkey's military operations in Syria is not a remark that might be viewed in isolation but one that comes with the potential support of significant countries. The country to obviously extent support to India at this point of time is Syria as it welcomes India's statement on Turkey and slams countries supporting terror. A Syrian envoy went on record saying that "Turkey supports terror and all countries who support Turkey, support terror", in response to a question on Pakistan extending support to Turkey's military offensive in Syria. What follows from the complexities of regional dynamics is that terror is a prominent element in the regional statecraft and also that a stand on matters pertaining to military (or militirised) actions of one country in a region is a line that will result in divided opinion of countries. Neutrality has little room here before matters develop further.

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