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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

View From The Neighbourhood: Praising Erdogan

A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent.

Published: February 17, 2020 2:15:03 am
Turkish Recep Erdogan Pakistan visit, Erdogan on Kashmir, Kashmir human rights violations, Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, indian express news Erdogan, who addressed a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament, chided India for the clampdown in Kashmir and the alleged human rights violations in the now union territory. (Reuters/File)

Islamabad is, understandably, pleased with Turkish Recep Erdogan’s visit to Pakistan, which concluded on Friday. Erdogan, who addressed a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament, chided India for the clampdown in Kashmir and the alleged human rights violations in the now union territory. Dawn, in its editorial on February 16, seems to echo the government and states pleasure. Noting that Erdogan has “raised his voice for the oppressed people” of Kashmir and that the ruling AKP in Ankara “consistently supported “strong ties” with Pakistan. In addition, the editorial welcomes Erdogan’s praise for Pakistan’s role in “bringing peace to Afghanistan”.

All three points mentioned in the editorial — Kashmir, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s overall role as a responsible nation-state — are arenas where New Delhi has consistently sought to undermine Islamabad in the international arena. That a regional power like Turkey has reiterated its support for Pakistan’s view is certainly noteworthy. Yet, the editorial raises a deeper question: Is the role of a critical media merely to celebrate when the powers-that-be do? Two caveats: One, Dawn does note, however fleetingly, the authoritarian tendencies displayed by Erdogan. Two, it also cautions against coming down too strongly on Turkey’s side in its dispute with Syria as PM Imran Khan has done.

The editorial does, however, seem to endorse the role of religion in international relations: “Both Pakistan and Turkey should work to enrich their relationship bilaterally as well as at multilateral forums. Mr Erdogan raised valid concerns about the plight of Palestinians during his speech, and Pakistan’s other Muslim friends should not feel threatened by the efforts of Ankara, Islamabad and others to strengthen the ummah.”

This celebratory note may well be an over-compensation for the fact that countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have deepened ties with India and the changed status in Kashmir has not irked these countries as many imagined it would.

Think regionally

Chaitanya Mishra, writing in The Kathmandu Post, puts forward an interesting idea on how to read the dynamic between India, China and Nepal. The Yam (Nepal), appears to be in a dire situation, caught as it is between the Elephant (India) and the Dragon (China). Mishra then takes a long view of history and argues that the two other periods in the last millennium when the region was in such close engagement could offer lessons for the present.

First, during the Maurya and Gupta empires in India and the Han and Ching dynasties in China, both powers saw growth, high agricultural production and trade. This was the period when the Silk Route was established, and a win-win situation developed. “The second dense meeting of the trio took place during CE 1100-1600, just prior to the dominance of Britain and Europe across the globe. The gross domestic products of China and India have been shown to account for as much as 55 percent of the world gross domestic product (GDP) at the close of this period. The Malla period in the Kathmandu Valley, adjacent areas and along the border trade points were well developed. The three cities of the Kathmandu Valley had developed excellent infrastructure and excelled in Buddhist, Hindu and other learning as well as artisanship, crafts and engineering,” writes Mishra.

For landlocked Nepal, as well as for both India and China, the growth of all will benefit all. For Nepal, of course, conflict and economic deceleration within and between the Elephant and the Dragon can have dire consequences. But equally, “if Nepal becomes a regional or global centre for money laundering, trade in drugs or arms, or a haven for global security agencies, terrorists or even infectious diseases, it would be directly harmful to peace and growth in China and India.”

Rohingya Tragedy

On February 11, a fishing trawler capsised in the Bay of Bengal, killing 135 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children. The February 13 editorial in The Daily Star takes note of the tragedy, and pulls up Bangladesh authorities.

It writes: “The tragedy that unfolded on Tuesday is as disturbing as it was preventable. The local authorities, as well as UN agencies and other international organisations, are perfectly aware of a transnational human trafficking network that runs from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand and Malaysia, preying on vulnerable refugees and often trapping them into a life of bonded labour and slavery.”

Despite there being laws to prevent human trafficking, the editorial contends that much more needs to be done on the ground. It also asks the UN and other international agencies to help make the refugee camps humane enough so that people do not seek such dangerous journeys.

Curated by Aakash Joshi

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