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India, Turkey to set up JWG on terrorism

M Shakeel Ahmed in Ankara | September 17, 2003 17:45 IST
Last Updated: September 17, 2003 21:54 IST

India and Turkey on Wednesday decided to set up a Joint Working Group to fight the menace of terrorism.

In a significant departure from its earlier position, Turkey also refrained from discussing Indo-Pak relationship or the Kashmir dispute.

Complete coverage of Vajpayee's visit | More news reports

"Our relations with Pakistan or the Kashmir issue was not mentioned by the Turkish side which is in sharp contrast," Ministry of External Affairs Secretary R M Abhyankar told newsmen.

Last year, the Turkish Parliament had passed a resolution that favoured the involvement of Ankara in resolving the Kashmir problem. Turkey is an influential member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and had made pro-Pakistan statements in the past.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first leader of the Indian government to visit Turkey in 15 years, held extensive talks with his host Recep Tayyip Erdogan for over two hours in which terrorism and the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan figured prominently.

The two sides signed accords including the one on terrorism and on enhancing cooperation in science and technology and Information Technology.

The two countries who have been wooed by the US for sending their troops to Iraq, held similar views that there was no clarity on UN role in the war-torn country.

The Turkish prime minister said the issue of terrorism was discussed at length during his talks with Vajpayee. Terrorism, he said, could not be linked to any religion, race or nationality. "It is a phenomenon. There has to be a common platform to fight it," he said.

On terrorism being defined in different ways, Erdogan said "It is not that terror is terror when it comes to our country and not so when it is in some other country... we should not be creating artificial terror, terrorists and terrorism."

Abhyankar said on Afghanistan both countries had identical views. They expressed concern over the regrouping of Taliban.

Vajpayee underlined the need to consolidate bilateral relations in economic fields. "We have decided to set a target of bilateral trade to one billion dollars by 2005," he said.

The working group of economic ministries will meet and recommend areas of cooperation and report to the government in six months, he said.

Vajpayee said India and Turkey shared the common values of secularism and democracy and were growing industrial societies with a similar level of excellence in many fields,

"But we still need to unlock many doors of economic opportunity. Our bilateral trade in 2002 was only about 650 million dollars. We have set ourselves a target of one billion dollars by 2005," he said.

He said the two countries have agreed that a JWG of economic ministers of the two countries should meet and make recommendations on diversification of bilateral economic cooperation.

Emphasising the importance of direct shipping and air links between the two countries, he said direct air links between Istanbul and New Delhi will commence from Thursday.

Turkish Airways will fly directly from Istanbul to Delhi twice a week.

Vajpayee also announced scholarships for 50 Turkish professionals on an annual basis under India's   technical and economic cooperation programme.

He said a Turkish delegation had been invited to discuss cooperation in civilian space technologies.

Vajpayee described his wide-ranging talks with Erdogan as fruitful and invited the Turkish leader to visit India. The invitation has been accepted.

Briefing Indian media persons later on the 35-minute one-to-one talks between the two prime ministers and later for nearly two-hour at the delegation level, Abhayankar said the issue of terrorism, developments in Iraq and situation in Afghanistan figured prominently.

Vajpayee informed the Turkish side about India's efforts to promote good relations with its neighbours, he said.

On Iraq, he said both sides were of the view that sovereignty and territorial integrity of the war-ravaged country must be maintained and political process should begin to install a government of the people of Iraq, besides giving sovereignty over the country's natural resources to its people.

India also felt the need to intensify defence cooperation with Turkey, which has been 'at lower level than what we would have liked'.

Both the prime ministers agreed on the need for increasing frequency of high-level meetings between the two countries and decided that foreign ministers would meet at least once a year, either in one of the two capitals or a third country.

"Our commerce and tourism ministers also need to establish and maintain contacts. Of course, the heads of government should also maintain contacts," Vajpayee said.

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