Erdogan must mind his business on matters relating to India and Pakistan.

01-05-2017
HT

Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not find India falling short of its traditions of “atithi satkaar” and “mehmaan nawaazi” during his visit to New Delhi, but Turkey’s president would be well advised to keep his end of the bargain by playing the gracious guest. This would require him to curb his rhetoric about the West, which has turned bilious in recent years, in tandem with Mr Erdogan’s declining popularity, at home and abroad.

When Mr Erdogan last visited India, in 2008, he was welcomed as a leader of growing global stature, an example for all those who aspire to democracy. The president who arrived on Sunday is a pale shadow of that man, a leader so frightened of his shadow that he has imprisoned tens of thousands of his own countrymen, including more journalists than any totalitarian dictatorship.

In recent months, he has been on a tear about what he claims is the West’s open enmity towards all Muslims. This is not paranoia so much as politics: having lost his previous status as a beacon of democracy in the Muslim world, and blown Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union, Mr Erdogan is apparently trying to reinvent himself as a champion of Islamism. He seems determined to undo the proud secular traditions of his own country, and last month’s controversial referendum — whose results were uncomfortably close and tainted by credible complaints of tampering — has given him to power to do so. Mr Erdogan’s bluster towards imagined enemies may win him some admiration among fellow-paranoiacs in the Arab world, but they would not be welcome in India, which greatly values its relations with Europe and the United States. It is to be hoped that the president knows better than to stir up anti-Western feelings here.

Another challenge for Mr Erdogan will be to mind his manners — and his business — on matters relating to India and Pakistan. A friend of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s, Mr Erdogan has repeatedly expressed support for Islamabad’s positions over Delhi’s, and this has come in the way of deeper ties between India and Turkey. He also backed the position of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (another outfit in which he hopes to have a bigger say) on the subject of Kashmir. In an interview ahead of his visit, he pointedly suggested India and Pakistan had equal right to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a false equivalence if ever there was one.

Given Turkey’s longstanding closeness with Pakistan, it may be too much to expect relations with India to be more than formal and principally economic in nature. Mr Erdogan could even deepen such ties as exist, but only if he keeps his grievances to himself.

 

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