Friday, December 18, 2009

A former Indian diplomat talks about the lessons that Turkey can teach India in multilateralism...

Is Turkey under Mr. Erdogan moving away from the West? He recently quoted the 13th century Sufi mystic and poet Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi: “In my religion one end of the compass needle is fixed, but with the other end of the needle, I roam the 72 nations.” He elaborated: “Turkey is exactly in this position. Our doors are wide open. Turkey cannot lose the West while looking towards the East; cannot lose the East while looking towards the West; cannot lose the South while looking towards the North; cannot lose the North while looking towards the South. Turkey has the power to take a 360-degree look at the entire world.” Mr. Erodgan’s “Nehruvism” comes alive with startling freshness.
... Turkey heavily invested its diplomatic energies in strengthening ties with “troublesome” neighbours (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, etc.) to recapture its Middle Eastern identity, and to explore its Islamic heritage. It shows how a good foreign policy needs to be an extension of national policies. Turkey’s “zero-problem policies” towards the neighbours constitute an extraordinary success story worth emulation by India. The vexed issue of Cyprus, like the Kashmir problem, continues to elude solution. Yet Turkey pushed ahead with the normalisation process with Greece. The Kurdish insurgency has been a festering wound. Yet Mr. Erdogan showed extraordinary statesmanship to break stereotyped thinking and embark on a political solution. Meanwhile, Turkey built up strong economic and political ties with northern Iraq, which used to provide sanctuaries to the Kurdish guerrillas. In effect, the policymakers in Ankara were determined to make friends of Turkey’s troublesome neighbours through an admixture of political and economic initiatives aimed at making them “stakeholders” in regional stability.
Clearly, where there is a political will, there is always a way. In comparison, India lost its way in regenerating Soviet ties. India’s neighbourhood policy cries for greater attention. Unlike New Delhi, Ankara saw through the New American Century project as a pipe dream. Like India, Turkey also has its share of Western-philes. Yet Mr. Erdogan insisted that Turkey rapidly diversify its external relations. To quote him, “There is nothing such as a shift of orientation, etc. It’s a process of normalization.”

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