It has as­sid­u­ously avoided tak­ing sides in the re­gion’s ri­val­ries and backed ef­forts to de­feat the Is­lamic State

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

DIPLO­MATIC dis­course in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions de­mands dif­fi­cult choices and moves. In­dia did that dur­ing Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s visit amid ques­tions why the visit was tak­ing place at all.

Aware of Turkey’s sup­port to Pak­istan and stand on Kash­mir, it de­flected the vis­i­tor’s eve-ofthe-visit of­fer made on an In­dian TV chan­nel of “be­ing in­volved” in the dis­pute, by em­pha­sis­ing that this had bet­ter re­main a bi­lat­eral is­sue. Turkey, too, has its Kur­dish is­sue.

Be­fore Er­do­gan ar­rived, In­dian Vice-Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Hamid An­sari was in Ar­me­nia and Cyprus Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anast­si­as­des was in Delhi, both hav­ing ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with Turkey. The Cypriot, in­deed, asked Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to “speak” to Er­do­gan. Modi ev­i­dently did not. Al­though noth­ing dra­matic hap­pened dur­ing the Er­do­gan visit, some­what low­ered ex­pec­ta­tions were met. In­dia was un­ruf­fled when Er­do­gan re­ferred to Maoist vi­o­lence in In­dia, but omit­ted Kash­mir, yet en­dorsed In­dia’s fight against ter­ror­ism.

The four-way di­plo­macy suc­ceeded as not ter­ri­to­rial or ide­o­log­i­cal dis­putes and rhetoric, but eco­nomic ties grabbed the up­per hand. This is push­ing an es­tab­lished trend that places na­tional in­ter­ests and na­tional se­cu­rity above all else.

If Turkey’s Su­fism melted with In­dia’s Bhakti move­ment in olden times, no­body is talk­ing about it now. Er­do­gan was con­ferred an hon­orary doc­tor­ate at Delhi’s Jamia Mil­lia Is­lamia, sym­bol­i­cally in the hall named af­ter M.R. An­sari, who had led a med­i­cal mission to Turkey in the last cen­tury.

Like sym­bol­isms, per­sonal equa­tions mat­ter. A low-key Man­mo­han Singh and a self­i­etak­ing Modi have both worked on build­ing equa­tions.

Hav­ing the world’s third­largest Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion, a Hindu-ma­jor­ity

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