A day after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan advocated a “multilateral dialogue” to settle the Jammu and Kashmir question, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that both sides have agreed to work together to strengthen cooperation “bilaterally” and “multilaterally” to effectively counter terrorism. While Kashmir was not mentioned in the prepared statements by either Modi or Erdogan, India drew the red line that Kashmir is a “bilateral” issue between India and Pakistan and that it sees the dispute through the prism of “cross-border and state-sponsored terrorism” being perpetrated by Pakistan in the Valley.
Asked if Erdogan mentioned mediation on J&K during his meeting with Modi, MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay said: “Our position is very clear and it was mentioned to them that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Terrorism was discussed in detail and they were told that in Kashmir, we have been victims of cross-border and state-sponsored terrorism. We have been ready to talk to Pakistan bilaterally on not just Kashmir but also terrorism and other outstanding issues. And we are ready to hold talks on Kashmir bilaterally, as stipulated in Shimla Agreement and Lahore declaration.”
Asked what the Turkish president’s response, he said, “They listened very carefully with care and attention”. After the bilateral talks, which lasted over two hours, Erdogan condemned the Naxal attack on CRPF personnel on April 24 in Sukma and “terrorism”, but did not mention Kashmir or the attacks in J&K. “I wholeheartedly condemn the attack in Sukma. We can relate to your pain and suffering,” he said.
The only veiled reference to Kashmir and Pakistan was when Modi said, “We also shared perspectives on developments in our region.” Erdogan said India would always have Turkey’s full solidarity in the fight against terrorism. He said terrorist organisations want to launch their propaganda over the suffering of people and are willing to create a future for themselves out of their victims’ pain — a reference to Fethullah Gulen’s organisations.
“We live in times where our societies face new threats and challenges every day. The context and contours of some of the existing and emerging security challenges globally is our common concern,” said Modi. “In particular, the constantly evolving threat from terrorism is our shared worry. I held an extensive conversation with the President on this subject. We agreed that no intent or goal, no reason or rationale can validate terrorism.”
“The nations of the world, therefore, need to work as one to disrupt the terrorist networks and their financing and put a stop to cross-border movement of terrorists. They also need to stand and act against those that conceive and create, support and sustain, shelter and spread these instruments and ideologies of violence. The President and I agreed to work together to strengthen our cooperation, both bilaterally and multi-laterally, to effectively counter this menace,” said Modi, trying to make a point about the role of Pakistan, Turkey’s close ally, in cross-border terrorism in India.
According to the joint statement issued on Monday, “The two leaders reiterated their strong condemnation of and resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere. Both sides urged all countries and entities to work sincerely to disrupt terrorist networks and their financing, and stop cross-border movement of terrorists.”
The statement also said that both leaders “strongly condemned the use of double standards in addressing the menace of terrorism and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system. In this regard, they called for early conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.”
The contentious issue of Turkey’s support to both India and Pakistan for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was also not mentioned by either of the leaders. While Turkey has insisted on a criteria-based approach — much like China — it is one of the few countries to draw an equivalence between India and Pakistan’s NSG applications.
In this regard, there was no signal of support to India on NSG in the joint statement. Modi thanked Erdogan for Turkey’s support for India’s membership of the MTCR and “applications to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group” and Wassenaar Arrangement. Erdogan also raised the issue of alleged Gulenist presence in India. “I know India will take necessary measures to expel FETO from her territory once and for all,” he said, with Modi listening in. While the Turkish side has been raising the issue since last July, Indian officials have said they have “noted” their concerns but have not acted on it so far.
“As far as Turkish concerns of FETO… they were mentioned to us. Any organisation in India, whether Indian or foreign, has to work within the parameters of our law and norms and regulation,” said Baglay. The two sides also discussed economic ties. The two leaders have set a target of US $10 billion, up from the existing US $6 billion, by 2020.
“President (Erdogan) and I are clear that the strength of our economies presents an enormous opportunity to expand and deepen commercial linkages between our countries. I also feel that at the level of the two governments, we need to approach the entire landscape of business opportunities in a strategic and long-term manner. Our bilateral trade turnover of around $6 billion does not do full justice to convergences in our economies. Clearly, the business and industry on both sides can do much more,” said Modi.
Modi said they discussed the need for comprehensive UN reforms, including expansion of the Security Council to make the body more representative, accountable and effective. “Both of us recognise the need for the UN Security Council to reflect the world of the 21st century and not of the century gone by,” he said.
The two sides signed three pacts on culture, training and information technology. Erdogan also met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Vice President Hamid Ansari and was hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee for a banquet.