Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in New Delhi on Sunday and will hold wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday on key bilateral and regional issues, including India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership bid and ways to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism and trade.
This is Erdogan’s first foreign visit after winning a controversial referendum on April 16 that further consolidated his executive powers.
Apart from his wife Emine Erdogan, the Turkish President is accompanied by senior cabinet ministers and a 150-member business delegation that will take part in a meeting of the India-Turkey Business Forum.
Ahead of his visit, India had played down proximity between Turkey and Pakistan as well as Ankara’s statements on Jammu and Kashmir, saying the government is aware that Turkey has a very close relationship with Pakistan and it is their bilateral matter.
“We have always emphasised that India-Turkey relations stand on their own footing and, we believe, the Turkish side reciprocates our sentiment,” Ruchi Ghanashyam, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, said, adding that India’s position on the state of J&K is very well known that it is an integral part of the country.
However, she did not respond when asked if India will raise the issue.
With Turkey being a member of the NSG, the issue of India’s membership bid for the elite group is likely to figure during the talks between the two leaders.
“We remain engaged with Turkey,” she had said when asked if the Indian side will raise the country’s NSG bid during talks.
Turkey is not directly opposed to India’s NSG membership but has been maintaining that the powerful bloc should come out with a system to consider the entry of the countries which are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as also supporting Pakistan’s case, diplomatic sources said.
The two sides were also expected to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism during the presidential visit.
After a failed coup in July last year to topple Erdogan, Turkey had blamed Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation for it and said the outfit has ‘infiltrated’ India. Turkey had also asked India to take action against the organisation.
Asked about the action taken by India so far, she said Turkey had raised it with the government, which has noted their concern.
Calling the FETO a ‘secretive trans-national criminal network’ with presence around the world, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, during a visit to New Delhi last year, had said, “Unfortunately, the FETO has also infiltrated India through associations and schools.”
Issues relating to regional security, situation in the Middle East, particularly Syria, are likely to figure during talks between Modi and Erdogan.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the G20 Leaders Summit in Antalya. Photograph: MEAphotogallery/Flickr