Ankara, Turkey – The Indian ambassador to Turkey Sanjay Kumar Panda has made remarkable statements by addressing a virtual meetup hosted by South Asia Strategic Research Center (GASAM):

“Course correction” in India-Turkey bilateral relations is needed for “larger goals” of the two G20-member countries. Any bilateral relationship has to be “seen in its totality.” “The perception [about India-Turkey relations] is shaped by a false narrative… you cannot have that narrative blocking this relationship.” “Turkish media has also fallen victim to this false narrative.”

“We cannot be on the same page on every issue but that doesn’t mean we cannot move forward.” Indian investors are waiting to “come and invest in Turkey,” given the “right environment.” Praising a Turkish company for constructing a tunnel in India’s state of Himachal Pradesh, described as “a remarkable job that makes us proud.”

“Two countries of the stature of India and Turkey, somehow, have missed the larger picture, [and are] caught in certain issues, not looking at this bilateral relation as standalone relation, which should stand on its own merit.”

“We are missing the track… sky is the limit… what we have attained is just tip of the iceberg,” referring to over $8 billion annual bilateral trade. “Turkey and India have a deep historical, civilizational and cultural connect.” India has always considered Turkey a friendly nation with which it shares the attributes of democracy, secularism and rule of law. “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s name and his legacy hold a particular appeal for every Indian.”

Turkey’s geopolitical importance

India “recognizes the strategic significance of Turkey.” “Located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, it is geopolitically an important player in a volatile region, and economically, as a hub for third country exports, particularly as a stepping stone into the EU market”. The two sides have to “optimize this potential for multifaceted cooperation across a wide spectrum, ranging from trade and investment to defense and high technology.”

Referring to bilateral cooperation at multilateral forums, “There is convergence of views on global issues, and have generally supported each other on issues of mutual interest.”

“Turkey joining an Indian initiative, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, last week exemplifies our collaboration for a common cause.”

On the challenges against multilateralism, called for cooperation between Turkey and India for “bringing about necessary reforms at the UN, especially the Security Council, to make them relevant to contemporary realities.”

‘Victims of terrorism’

The two countries are “victims of terrorism, including cross-border terrorism.”

Urging non-interference in the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, “India-Turkey relations have been hostage to some misconception about history based on a wrong narrative crafted and propagated by vested interests. Such narrative also included giving color of religion to a matter, namely Jammu and Kashmir which is wholly internal to India.”

“That should be respected.” “How can one gloss over the armed aggression against Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 which is the root cause of the problem,” alleging: “Continued cross-border terrorist activities cost the lives of over 42,000 innocent Kashmiris.” “No stones are left unturned to reinforce this false narrative through diverse means, such as raising the matter at every conceivable multilateral forum, dragging the subject to seminars and conferences irrespective of the subject under discussion, instigating public, organizing public demonstrations even in third countries causing law and order problems, and even by the sponsorship of terrorism.”

‘Way forward and course correction’

“Ties can certainly be put back on track – if not overnight, incrementally.” “India is ready to work towards this end. However, such progress can be achieved only on purely independent bilateral considerations not influenced by either country’s relationship with any third country.” “Any interference [in internal affairs] is totally unwelcomed.”

Turkey and India need to achieve “mutual understanding of political-security issues, especially sensitivity on issues of core concern to either side [which] lies at the root of the development of relations.”

“Once we have the right political environment, we could make the most of the post-COVID-19 pandemic opportunities by reimagining and reconfiguring our partnership.”

“Let us recognize this big picture in our bilateral ties and embark on an urgent course correction. It is only then India and Turkey can realize their full potential as natural partners in the 21st century.”

Turkey – India relations can be developed in the framework of national and international interests, and it will be profitable for both. An independent policy within the framework of democratic rule of law is needed to strengthen the current bilateral relations.

Turkey – India Political Relations

Turkey recognized India right after its declaration of independence on 15 August 1947 and diplomatic relations were established between the two countries.

Turkey is represented in India by its Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates General in Mumbai and Hyderabad.

Turkey considers India as a friendly country taking firm steps forward to be a global power with its growing economy, huge market, military power, outstanding knowledge in space technology and informatics, rich human resources and deep-rooted historical and cultural heritage.

Bilateral relations between Turkey and India are developing through high level visits in recent years.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to India on 30 April-1 May 2017. In November 2008, President Erdogan, the then Prime Minister of Turkey and in February 2010 former President Abdullah Gul paid official visits to India. Former President Gul’s visit to India was the first visit at presidential level from Turkey to India after 15 years.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu, paid an official visit to India on 18-19 August 2016. On the occasion of the visit, the “Road Map between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey and Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India” was adopted.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee visited Turkey on 5-7 October 2013 upon the invitation extended by the then President Abdullah Gul. This has been the first visit at the Presidential level from India to Turkey after an interval of 15 years. Furthermore, then Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj paid a working visit to Turkey on 15-16 January 2015. The most recent high level visit from India to Turkey was the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to participate in the G20 Summit held in Antalya on 15-16 November 2015.

President Erdogan and Prime Minister Modi met regularly in the margins of BRICS and G20 Summits between 2015-2019.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September 2019.

Two countries held the political consultations on 8 May 2019 in New Delhi between the delegations headed by Foreign Deputy Minister Ambassador Sedat Önal and Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (West) Ambassador Gitesh Sharma.

India-Turkey Relations

There are historical connections between India and Turkey. Diplomatic relations were established and Ambassadors exchanged in 1948. High level visits were exchanged regularly. The visit by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1960 was the first Prime Ministerial visit to Turkey. In 1965, Vice-President Dr. Zakir Hussein visited Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal visited India in 1986. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi paid a return visit to Turkey in 1988.

This was followed by the visit of Turkish President General Kenan Evren in 1989; visit by President Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1993; Turkish President Suleyman Demirel in 1995; the State visit by President K. R. Narayanan in September 1998; and the visit by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in April 2000.

Vice President Krishan Kant visited Turkey in October 1998 representing India on the occasion of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Turkish Republic. The visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee in September 2003 was extremely successful. The visit created wider public awareness of a new and progressive image of India.

Bilateral relations have been strengthened by the exchange of visits of leaders of both countries in recent times. These include visits by the then Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to India in 2008 and the then Turkish President Abdullah Gul to India in 2010. Vice President Shri Mohammad Hamid Ansari visited Turkey from October 10-15, 2011. Rashtrapatiji Shri Pranab Mukherjee visited Turkey during October 5-7, 2013.

External Affairs Minister (EAM) Smt. Sushma Swaraj paid a working visit to Turkey during 15-16 January, 2015 and held discussions with her counterpart, Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu made a brief transit halt in New Delhi on 19th March, 2015 during which he held talks with External Affairs Minister. Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. (Retd) Vijay Kumar Singh, led a delegation to Turkey on 24-26 April, 2015, to participate in the 100th anniversary ceremonies of the Canakkale Land and Sea battles of 1915.

Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs paid an official visit to India on 18-19 August 2016. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu held talks with Minister of External Affairs. A Road Map between the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was finalized during the visit.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi attended the G20 Summit held in Antalya on 15-16 November, 2015 on the margins of the Summit, Prime Minister had bilateral talks with President Erdogan. PM Modi and President Erdogan held talks in Hangzhou on 5 September 2016 on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. The two leaders interacted with each other on the sidelines of BRICs Plus meeting in Johannesburg on 25-27 July 2018 and met on the sidelines of G-20 in Osaka on 29 July 2019.

EAM Sushma Swaraj made a transit halt at Erzurum on 19 February 2019. Turkish Trade Minister Rushar Pekcan visited India in December 2018 during which a meeting of the Joint Business Council was also held. Dr. Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Advisor and Spokesperson of the President of Turkey and Deputy Chairman of the Foreign and Security Council visited India on 25 April 2019.

President Erdogan paid a state visit to India on 30 April -1 May, 2017. He was accompanied by a high level delegation and a 150-strong business delegation. President Erdogan had a meeting with Rashtrapatiji. Prime Minister held a one to one meeting with President Erdogan followed by delegation level talks. Vice-President and External Affairs Minister separately called on President Erdogan. President Erdogan was conferred an honorary degree by Jamia Milia Islamia University. Five bilateral agreements were signed during the visit.

Parliamentary delegations were exchanged on 8 occasions, with the last visit being from our speaker of Parliament in June 2005. Members of Parliament have been regularly participating in multilateral conferences held in Turkey.

Foreign Office Consultations (FOCs) at Secretary-level were institutionalized through a Protocol signed in April, 2000. The last round of consultations was held on 8 May 2019 in New Delhi. Mid-sessional Foreign Office Consultations at the level of Joint Secretary/Director General were held in Ankara on 28 November, 2014. The 4th meeting of the Joint Working Group on Counter-terrorism was held in Ankara on 4 July 2019.

The Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) has MoUs with the Centre for Strategic Research (SAM) of the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the Turkish Asian Centre for Strategic Studies (TASAM). An ICWA delegation visited Turkey in March 2018 and held discussions with SAM and TASAM.

Economic and Commercial Relations

India-Turkey economic and commercial cooperation constitutes an important dimension of the bilateral relationship. The Bilateral Trade Agreement between India and Turkey was signed in 1973. Institutional arrangements in terms of Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation (JCETC) signed in 1983 and a Joint Business Council (JBC) between Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK) was set up in 1996.

On 6 April 2015, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) signed an MoU with the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) to promote bilateral trade and economic cooperation. CII also signed a MOU with DEIK in March 2018. A cooperating agreement between FICCI and TOBB was also signed for establishing India-Turkey Working Committee and Investment Forums.

On 6 August 2015, State Bank of India and Turkey’s Akbank entered into a cooperation agreement to support bilateral trade and investments. An India Business Forum (IBF) was launched in Istanbul by the Ambassador in December 2018 which holds quarterly meetings.

India’s economic engagement with Turkey saw new momentum in recent years. Bilateral trade grew 22% to cross US$ 8.6 billion in 2018. India ranked 6 in Turkey’s overall imports in 2018. The major Indian exports to Turkey include: petroleum products, auto components/parts, man-made yarn, fabrics, made ups, aircraft & spacecraft parts, plastic raw materials, organic chemicals, dyes, industrial machinery, etc.

Imports from Turkey include: industrial machinery, broken/unbroken poppy seeds; machinery and mechanical appliances, iron and steel articles thereof, inorganic chemicals, pearls and precious/semi precious stones and metals (including imitation jewellery),granite and marble, etc.

Several Indian companies are registered in Turkey. Indian companies such as TAFE, Mahindra, Sonalika, Tata, Jindal,Indo-Rama, Birla Cellulose, Polyplex Merrill Lynch, Punj Lloyd, Thermax, Wipro, Jain Irrigation, etc. have invested in Turkey to the tune of USD 125 million while Turkish investments in India stands at USD 223 million, according to Turkish data. Turkish companies Koc Holding, Arcelik A.S, Dogus Holding Dogus Construction, Celebi Holding, Orhan Holding, etc. operate in Turkey.

An ‘Invest in India’ Seminar was held in the Embassy on 10 May 2019 where a presentation on investment opportunities in India was made by Ms. Srividya of Invest India to major Turkish companies. Indıa participated as Focus Country for the second time with 80 companies in the 88th Izmir International Fair 2019 held at Izmir from 6-11 September 2019.

Cultural Relations

India and Turkey share a historical cultural overlap. Cultural exchanges have grown in recent years, especially after the revival of CEP in 2017. Cultural performances, film shows, exhibitions, seminars, outreach to universities are being organized regularly.

A Festival of India in Turkey, India by the Bosphorus, was held in March-april 2019 showcasing Indian dance, music, food and fashion in major cities in Turkey. The second edition of the India by the Bosphorus is planned to be held in March-April 2020.

Several events were organized for the celebration of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Mission organized ‘Glimpses of India Tagore Painting Competition’ for school children of Turkey in four cities in April 2019.

As part of Tagore Festival, a dance drama by the Kalamandalam dance group and a lecture sponsored by the ICCR was organized in Ankara and Istanbul, along with a photo exhibition and screening of a film on Tagore. The Indology Department in Ankara University has been in operation since 1930s.

Indian Studies have been started at several universities in Turkey including METU, Giresun, Kayseri, Malatya, Istanbul and Koc Universities. Since 1995, and Indian Professor in Hindi language has been attached on deputation by the ICCR with the Indology Department in Ankara University.

Turkey has been sending Turkish language professors to JNU and Jamia Milia University. Turkish students are regularly nominated to study Hindi in Central Institute of Hindi (Kendriya Hindi Sansthan), Agra. Slots have been allotted to Turkey under ITEC. In 2018-19, 16 ITEC scholarship slots have been utilized. A Teacher for Indian Culture has also joined the Mission in December 2018.

Indian Community

Turkey has a small Indian community, mostly in Istanbul and working in commercial organizations, banks and computer firms. A number of Indians work in the faculty of several Turkish universities. There are over 60 Indian students in Turkey. Turkish Airlines (in a code sharing arrangement with Air India) operates daily flights from Istanbul to Mumbai and Delhi. Indigo has started daily flights from New Delhi and Mumbai to Istanbul since March 2019.

In the meantime, India -Turkey bilateral relations should be enriched with digital and physical meetups. After Covid-19, India, Turkey multidimensional relations will achieve much higher strategic goals.