How does it really matter what the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan thinks of the Kashmir issue? If you read the headlines in Indian media during the Turkish leader’s visit to the South Asian country, it would appear as if Kashmir is indeed the touchstone of ties between Ankara and New Delhi. But is it?
President Erdogan unsettled quite a few in India when in an interview to to a news channel, he called for a ‘multilateral’ settlement to the Kashmir issue.
“We should not allow more casualties to occur [in Kashmir]. By having a multilateral dialogue, [in which] we can be involved, we can seek ways to settle the issue once and for all,” the Turkish President said in response to a question on the subject, triggering the outrage on Indian media.
So much so, that the Indian government was compelled to clarify its position and said that Modi had put forward New Delhi’s position forward during his talks with Erdogan. India has always advocated for bilateral dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.
I watched Erdogan’s interview, which first went on air a day ahead of Erdogan’s arrival in India. To be fair, the interview indeed covered many other regional and international topics, however, the Indian media predictably chose to play up Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir.
Here’s a sample of headlines from some of the leading names in Indian media:
- NDTV: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Controversial Comment On Kashmir As He Visits India
- Indian Express: What’s behind Erdoğan’s Kashmir sales pitch
- Firstpost: Erdogan raises Kashmir bogey: Turkish president makes controversial comment ahead of bilateral talks
- News 18: Erdogan Meets Modi Today; Wants ‘Multilateral’ Kashmir Talks, Pak in NSG
- India Today: Turkish President Erdogan courts controversy, suggests multilateral dialogue to resolve Kashmir issue
- DNA: Urge India, Pakistan to settle Kashmir issue via dialogue Erdogan
Do the Indian media really need to be so obsessive about Pakistan when discussing international issues with other world leaders? And then we crib when India is ‘hyphenated’ with Pakistan! If you advocate for a bilateral solution in Kashmir, why would you ask a third party about his opinion on the matter?
Remember the BRICS Summit in Goa last year? Even the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought down the agenda of a multilateral body to India-Pakistan-Terrorism agenda. So much for BRICS being seen with the potential to challenge the Western hegemony!
So during Erdogan’s India visit, the narrative could easily have been about the ties between two major global powers and their perspectives on key international issues – both strategic and economic.
About how both nations intend to reconcile their differences on various issues such as the Syrian crisis and other conflicts in the region, the alleged Turkish support to Daesh and other extremist groups; or how India could contribute in bringing about peace in the larger Middle East.
The narrative could also have been about the emergence of aggressive nationalism in both countries and the phenomenal rise of Modi and Erdogan as world leaders; about UN reforms, NSG and Turkey’s views on BRICS as a bulwark against the West. And yes, a bit about Erdogan’s views on Kashmir too but also Modi’s (and India’s) stand on Kurdistan.
Unfortunately, all we heard in the hyperventilating Indian media (and politicians) debate was what the Turkish President had to say about Kashmir and his ‘dear friend’ Nawaz Sharif.
(The author is a Gulf-based Indian journalist. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Janta Ka Reporter)