Should India be concerned as Turkey has proposed raising an international military force to protect Palestine amid the latter’s tensions with Israel?
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tossed the proposal of an International Force during a virtual meeting with all 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Sunday.
The move comes in the wake of the latest round of violent confrontations between Israel and Hamas. The emergency meeting is the first major step toward resolving the crisis by countries in the Middle East.
The countries recognized that OIC is seen playing an active role in resisting Israel’s activities against Palestine. Cavusoglu further said that physical protection for Palestinian citizens should be provided by forming an ‘International Protection Force’ with military and financial support from willing countries.
Is the call for such an army may become a source of concern for India in the future if the Islamic countries do form an Islamic Army and take a firm stance on the Kashmir issue.
Just like Palestine, the issue of Kashmir is as vital to Turkey as it is to Pakistan and both nations have been aggressively bashing the Indian government over alleged atrocities and human rights violations in Kashmir at every possible level.
OIC Stand On Kashmir
OIC, the world’s second-largest intergovernmental body after the United Nations, has not really been supportive of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.
It, however, has released statements, occasionally, condemning alleged Indian “atrocities” in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, following India’s abrogation of Article 370 that stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status in August 2019, the most powerful nations of the OIC – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, refrained from making comments, infuriating Pakistan.
Although Pakistan has attempted to stoke anti-India sentiments among Islamic countries, only Turkey and Malaysia (under hardliner PM Mahathir Mohamad) have publicly condemned India. The new Malaysian government is unlikely to support Pakistan further, as it has traditionally been neutral on the Kashmir issue.
India maintains strong bilateral relations with most of the OIC members. In recent years, relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in particular, have improved significantly. This has hindered Riyadh from taking any effective step against India on the issue, which resulted in growing tensions between Riyadh and Islamabad.
This prompted Pakistan to threaten to hold a parallel meeting outside of the OIC, seen as a challenge to Saudi Arabia’s leadership role in the Muslim world.
Saudi Arabia retaliated by withdrawing $1 billion from a $3 billion interest-free loan it had granted to Islamabad in 2018 when the country was in serious financial straits. The disagreement caused a number of breaches in the relationships between the two countries.
What Does Turkey Gain In Kashmir?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been unequivocal on the Kashmir issue. He went on to say that Kashmir is as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan. Erdogan is the leader of an Islamist political party who claims to speak for all Muslims worldwide.
Many experts also say that Erdogan wants to bring the glorious ‘Ottoman Days’ back and aspires to lead the Islamic world, going ahead of both traditional powerhouses Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey and Pakistan have a long history of cordial relations, and the former is currently one of Pakistan’s most vociferous supporters and critics of India whenever the opportunity arises.
Turkey has repeatedly supported Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and has backed Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is also the reason for deteriorating ties between India and Turkey.
Both nations have been the most vocal critics of Israeli actions in Gaza and Pakistan has even expressed its desire to be part of ‘any grouping’ led by OIC to protect the Palestinians from the bloodshed.
In such circumstances, calling for military action to protect Palestine can also motivate Turkey and Pakistan to do the same for the Kashmir issue.
Should India Be Worried?
Serious action on the Kashmir issue will not be possible until Saudi Arabia and the powerful Islamic nations agree. Some of the most powerful Islamic countries like Iran, Indonesia, UAE, Qatar, Egypt, etc share strong ties with India may simply reject the proposal.
India has even been a firm supporter of the Palestine cause (despite sharing excellent ties with Israel) and experts believe that even Palestine itself would reject any proposal on Kashmir.
Another powerful OIC member is Egypt. From 1955, when Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser and India under PM Nehru co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement, to 2018, ties between both the nations have come a long way. Egypt is keen to boost its economic ties with India despite its proximity to Pakistan.
India’s ties with most of the Islamic nations especially the powerful Arab bloc have been outstanding. India also shares exceptional economic, historical, and defense ties with most OIC members including Iran.
Indian PM Narendra Modi had been honored with the ‘Order of Zayed’, the UAE’s highest civilian award, as a mark of appreciation for his efforts to boost bilateral relations between the two nations.
PM Modi was also honored with “The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance” in Bahrain while Saudi Arabia conferred its highest civilian honor — the King Abdulaziz Sash — on PM Narendra Modi, much to the dismay of Pakistan.
Experts believe that India has completely encroached on Pakistan’s space in the powerful and wealthy Arab world.
Even internal bickering between Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia to lead the Islamic World can never get any concurrence on major issues including Kashmir.
To put it simply, Pakistan and Turkey have not even been able to get full support from OIC nations on the Kashmir issue, and assembling an ‘Islamic Army’ against a powerful and influential India is a wild imagination, according to the experts.
Jayanta Kalita, Nitin J Ticku & Younis Dar contributed to the story