Pakistan values its ties with Turkey more than many other Muslim countries and perhaps next only to China, now that sharp differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran have raised complications in the ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that during his visit to Islamabad, Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President echoed Pakistan’s line on Kashmir and even gratuitously offered to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the issue. The Turkish offer can only be laughed at since in no way does it qualify to act as a mediator between a deeply radicalised, army controlled Pakistan and democratic and secular India.
If Turkey echoes the Pakistani canard on Indian ‘brutalities’ in Kashmir, it needs to first look inwards at the plight of the Kurd minority. For decades, Turkey said there are no Kurds, so no problem existed. Condemned by the international community, Erdogan now addresses the Kurds as ‘brothers’ but refuses to treat them as such.
Kurds suffer from state-sponsored terrorism, massacre, extra judicial killing, enforced disappearance, unlawful arrest and torture. This is similar to the fate of most minorities in Pakistan, including Muslims who are not Sunnis.
A parliamentary commission in Turkey had recorded some years ago that about 3500 Kurd villages had been burnt down and destroyed, displacing nearly three million Kurds from their homes. This is not different from what the people of Balochistan are facing. Many Pakistanis have been killed and displaced after the selective attack on terrorists which carefully spared anti-India and anti-Afghan militants.
Turkey and Pakistan could well call themselves conjoined twins with so many similarities between them. There is, however, one glaring difference though. In Turkey the military no longer enjoys absolute power; in Pakistan it continues to do so. But that difference does not matter when both countries have been overtaken by religious extremism. According to Turkish dissidents, Turkish troops have been found to be chatting with ISIS members. Pakistan denies the presence of ISIS but it cannot deny the large presence of religious bigots who glorify jihad against India.
The 20 million Kurds in Turkey have no rights and face real ‘brutalities’ at the hands of their Turk oppressors for demanding autonomy since the Turkish authorities do not treat them as equal citizens.
It is almost certain that Erdogan spoke on Kashmir on the prompting of the host countries which is getting desperate by the day to grab Kashmir from India while knowing fully well that it will remain a dream. Turkey and Pakistan, however, share a lot of negative traits that may be their reason to eulogize each other.
For Pakistan any price is good enough to win support over its Kashmir policy. Just when Erdogan was arriving in Islamabad, Pakistan asked schools and colleges allegedly run by a Turkish dissident living in self-exile in the US, Fatehullah Gullen, to close down within three days. The Turkish dissident was allegedly running 28 schools and colleges in about 10 Pakistani cities. The Turkish teaching and other staff were asked to leave the country in 72 hours. Protest by the affected teachers and students meant nothing to the Pakistani authorities after the Turks had delivered them the Kashmir elixir.
The Turks were pleased by this Pakistani expression of ‘solidarity’ with them when the US continues to turn down request for their extradition of Gullen. Joining Pakistan’s Kashmir chorus was the least that the Turks could do to show their appreciation to Pakistan.
Both countries have become anti-American while still begging for all manner of help from Uncle Sam. The hate for the US is generated by the State in both countries because the US has started to question their motives.
Turkey, a NATO member, has made a U-turn to move towards Russia barely a year after Kremlin had imposed trade sanctions on Ankara after a Russian jet fighter was shot down near the Syrian border. It led to an 87 per cent drop in Russian tourism flow into Turkey, putting a strain on its economy.
The Turks are angry that the US has allowed dissenter, Fatehullah Gullen, to live on its soil since 1999. The Americans say they cannot extradite Gullen without the Turks offering some evidence to justify that. The Turks have not been able to do so.
Pakistan has turned virulently anti-US because the latter is no longer willing to suffer from its duplicitous policy on terror and nuclear brinkmanship. An equal compelling reason for the Pakistanis to hate the US is the perceived US ‘tilt’ towards India after six decades of mollycoddling the Rawalpindi Shura run rogue state
Both Turkey and Pakistan claim that they have found a strong alternative patron. Turkey has decided to embrace Russia, forgetting past differences and Pakistan boasts of its all-weather friendship with China. But neither country is in a position to snap ties with the US.
Turkey’s decision to befriend Russian may have come too hastily. The two countries differ diametrically on Syria. Russia supports President Bashar al-Assad; Turkey can’t stand him. Vladimir Putin extends arms support to the Syrian president. Turkey sides with Assad’s opponents.
Russia is also suspicious of Turkish help to Islamists in its Muslim dominated areas. A Turkish regime close to Islamist fundamentalists cannot cut itself off from anti-Russian forces inside Russia.
Pakistan’s desperation made it to bank upon a country like Turkey to ease differences with India over Kashmir. Turkey has, at best, only a correct working relationship with India, nothing more. There is no need for India to heed to what Turkey says on Kashmir. If Turkey is more interested in expanding ties with Islamic Pakistan than secular India, then so be it.
Turkey cannot do well without improving its relations with the West. For years it has been begging the European nations to let it become a full-fledged member of the European Union. Countries like Austria and Denmark are blunt in opposing it while others in EU have shown no particular enthusiasm for the Turkey being built by Erdogan.
The party to which Erdogan belongs, the AKP, has been busy demolishing secularism and stifling dissent altogether. Opponents of Erdogan are being jailed and harassed on mass scale. The failed coup last July was blamed on dissidents and a section of the army. The independence of judiciary is being attacked. The crackdown on civilians and military personnel after July has raised eyebrows in the West where suspicion of Erdogan has increased further after his moves to get closer to Russia.
No, Turkey should first find a respectful place for itself in the world before becoming a Pakistani point’s man meddling in internal affairs of India.