While all eyes have been on India and China after the recent scuffle in Ladakh, experts have warned that Indian must be prepared to counter China-Turkey-Pakistan alliance.
Over the years China and Turkey have been cementing their ties which have often been constrained by Turkey’s NATO membership. However, the bilateral ties got a fillip ever since China launched its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seized the opportunity as he struggles to consolidate his AKP Party and reclaim the glory of Turkey’s Ottoman past. Another reason was that Erdogan’s ambitions to anoint himself as the leader of the Muslim world saw Turkey embroil itself in wars in foreign lands, thus putting Ankara in financial difficulties.
Straddling two continents, Turkey is strategically important for China’s BRI, as a trade and transport hub, significantly cutting down freight transportation time from China to Europe and Africa. Turkey had also launched its own connectivity project to access the Caucasus and Central Asia through the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway, known as the Middle Corridor.
Turkey is also a priority country with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The bank is helping in the construction of the Salt Lake underground gas storage facility project, said to be the world’s largest storage project. Turkey is also an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
So eager is Turkey for its partnership with China, that Erdogan who is positioning himself as the modern-day Caliph of the Muslims, has turned a blind eye to China’s oppression of its Uighur Muslim community.
While Erdogan has turned a blind to the plight of Uighur Muslims, he has voiced support for Indian Muslims living in Kashmir. In fact, Turkey was one of the three countries, besides China and Pakistan, to condemn India’s decision to revoke J&K’s special status.
Erdogan raised the issue in the UN General Assembly. During his February visit to Pakistan, he compared the struggle of Kashmiris with the Ottoman Empire’s fight during World War I.
Turkey provides Pakistan with emotional, ideological, and political support, while China is providing both material and political support. With China’s support, the Kashmir issue has thrice been discussed in the UN Security Council since August 5, 2019.
Pakistan’s insistence and Turkey’s focus has also seen the Organization of Islamic Cooperation raising the Kashmir issue more than it normally would have.
Considering Erdogan and his party’s Islamist orientation and well-documented support to radical and terror groups, together with Pakistan’s support and sponsor of cross-border terror, and China’s expansionist tendencies, the China-Pakistan-Turkey nexus is one India needs to watch out for.