Monday, 7 October 2013

Turkey, India revive defence cooperation agreement

Turkey and India, both secular and pluralist democracies, are finally – nearly 20 years after it was first proposed -moving towards aligning their strategic outlooks by “moving forward” on finalising a defence cooperation agreement.
As Indian President Pranab Mukherjee wound up a three-day visit to Turkey, a good 15 years after the visit of the last president here, authorities said Turkey appeared to be moving away from some of its old thinking – especially on issues like Pakistan and Kashmir – and warming up to India’s importance and potential as a rising power.
In delegation level talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, and subsequently in a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the issue came up as part of an overall sweep of bilateral ties, from political to economic and from strategic to culture as the two countries decided to strengthen historic bonds.
In his interview to the Cihan News Agency before arriving here, Mukherjee had mentioned about the defence cooperation agreement and said both countries had “agreed to enhance cooperation between two defense forces through military-to-military contacts and training exchanges”.
Indian officials said the agreement, first proposed as a draft in 1994 and then revived during the visit of Erdogan to India in 2008, was now being pursued actively towards finalisation by both countries, with New Delhi seeing “significant changes” in Ankara’s outlook.
“The fact that the Pakistan factor did not figure in their thinking and Kashmir was not once mentioned is seen by India as a forward movement,”said an Indian official present at the talks but who did not wish to be identified.
On Pakistan, with which Turkey has long-standing close ties, there was satisfaction on India’s part that Turkey shared New Delhi’s concern over terrorism and hoped that Islamabad would be able to check on cross-nation terrorism originating from its soil.
The overall takeaway from this visit was that the two countries, who have great cultural overlap – Urdu is said to have come from Turkey and there are a lot of linguistic commonality and philosophical similarity between the two – were going to widen their ambit of cooperation, especially economic and commercial.
Turkey, which claims it has the world’s second largest construction industry after China, has shown lot of interest in investing in Indian
infrastructure. A Turkish company has bid for a hydel power project in Kashmir. This was welcomed by Mukherjee who pointed out that India was going to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure in the next 10 years and would welcome Turkish investment, particularly in areas of roads, ports, airports and energy projects.
Turkey is one India’s principal importers of cotton and polyester yarn and both are keen to reduce their trade deficit by widening the basket of trade and commerce.The importance of Turkey to India principally lies in the fact that New
Delhi sees it as a secular nation in the Islamic world – it is a leading member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries – and a moderate voice in an important region that stands at the crossroads of Europe and the troubled Middle East, having borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq.
The two countries reviewed the region, including Afghanistan and Central Asia, and found a lot of commonality of approach on both, officials said. Mukherjee said: “India and Turkey have a shared interest in the stability and security of Afghanistan and Central Asia. Indian companies are open to collaborating with Turkish partners on joint projects in the region. India intends to participate in energy cooperation projects, and in the development of regional transportation corridors.”
The president – who was accompanied by Shipping Minister G.K. Wasan and five MPs – returns to New Delhi Tuesday morning after a two-nation visit whose first stop was Belgium.

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