NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office appears to have taken a strong stand on the matter of Turkey joining hands with Pakistan in condemning India for what is a wholly internal matter unrelated to any international agreement, past or present. “Prime Minister (Modi) is very particular that those who adversely affect India’s core interests should understand the depth of feeling on the issue,” a senior official said. “This is in contrast to Dr Manmohan Singh, whose response even to 26/11 was mild,” the official added. India’s relationship with Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysia under a 94-year-old Mahathir Mohammad may be affected in the wake of the two countries joining hands with Imran Khan Niazi in raising the issue of Kashmir at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York recently.
Though India’s official response (through the MEA) on the issue of Turkey and Malaysia toeing the Pakistan line has been cautious, top sources said the recent move may derail some aspects of its engagement with the two countries. During a media interaction in New York, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said: “Obviously, they have been given an understanding (about the situation in Kashmir) which clearly is very different from the facts on the ground.”
Sources said that while there will be efforts at the diplomatic level to register India’s objections, people of India came out in the open on Twitter slamming the two countries for their stand on Kashmir, using hash-tags such as #BoycottMalaysia and #BoycottTurkey. In fact, #BoycottMalaysia was trending for a long time on Monday.
A Twitterati wrote: “Simply #BoycottMalaysia. If it’s is not urgent, don’t travel there. Avoid trade. With this bigoted man heading it, it has a hostile government.” One Raj Kohli tweeted: “I work for a tour company and have branches in 12 other countries. This year, we have sent 120,000+ tourists to various Turkish resorts as a preferred destination. Going forward, we have removed them from preferred status and will convince customers to go elsewhere.” In contrast to Mahathir Mohammad fawning over Imran Khan Niazi, the population of Malaysia has the best of relations with India, and his backing for a Wahhabi state has not gone unnoticed. Earlier, the Prime Minister (who has walked away from an agreement to hand over power to the popular Anwar Ibrahim within two years) had protected Zakir Naik, but had to surrender when the preacher went after the Chinese after spitting fury at the Indians.
Another Twitterati wrote: “As per the Turkish Tourism Board in India, between January and July this year, 130,000 Indian tourists visited Turkey. They were expecting to host around 250,000 Indian tourists by the end of 2019. Hence, humble request to India tourists to #BoycottTurkey.”
Soon after Turkish President Erdogan raised the Kashmir issue in UNGA, India started cementing its ties with three of Turkey’s close neighbours and strong rivals—Cyprus, Armenia and Greece. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan. This, according to high level sources, was aimed at countering Ankara’s moves to side with Islamabad against India.
India’s economic engagement with Turkey has seen new momentum in recent years. India ranked six in Turkey’s overall imports in 2018, while bilateral trade grew 22% to cross $8.6 billion in 2018. On the other hand, India is Malaysia’s 10th largest trading partners, where the total bilateral trade target of $15 billion set for 2020 was achieved in 2018-19. Malaysia ranks as the 24th largest investor in India, with FDI inflow of $932.19 million, which constitutes 0.22% of total FDI inflows of $421 billion into India during the period April 2000 to March 2019.
The major Indian exports to Turkey include petroleum products, auto components/parts, man-made yarn, fabrics, made ups, aircraft and spacecraft parts, plastic raw materials, organic chemicals, dyes, industrial machinery, etc. Imports from Turkey include industrial machinery, broken/unbroken poppy seeds, machinery and mechanical appliances, iron and steel articles, inorganic chemicals, pearls and precious/semi precious stones and metals. Several Indian companies are registered in Turkey, including Mahindra, Sonalika, Tata, Jindal, Punj Lloyd, Wipro, Jain Irrigation, etc. They have invested $125 million in Turkey, while Turkish investment in India stands at $223 million, according to Turkish data.
Malaysia ranks as the 24th largest investor in India, with FDI inflow of $932.19 million, which constitutes 0.22% of the total FDI inflow of $421 billion into India during the period April 2000 to March 2019. The largest presence of Malaysian construction companies outside Malaysia is in India. The prime interest for Malaysian companies to invest in India is infrastructure and construction sector with a particular focus on roads and highways, railways and upgrade of airport and ports.
According to government figures, Indian companies have invested in 242 manufacturing projects over $2.62 billion in Malaysia, which includes investment of $1.37 billion by around 135 Indian companies in the manufacturing sector, creating 15,000 jobs. Should Mahathir meekly follow in the trail of Pakistan’s PM in seeking to condemn India for rejecting the Two Nation Theory (the adoption of which in Malaysia would lead to chaos), such linkages may be affected. However, tensions are building up over Mahathir’s hanging on to a job he had promised to leave by now, and moves against him in the Malaysian Parliament (where Anwar has several followers) seem imminent.
Asked to comment, an MEA official said: “India and Turkey are friendly countries. We, therefore, deeply regret that since 6 August, there have been repeated statements by the Turkish government on a matter completely internal to India. These statements are factually incorrect, biased and unwarranted. We call upon the Turkish government to get a proper understanding of the situation before making any further comments.”
On the Malaysian PM’s remarks, the official said: “We have traditionally good and friendly ties with Malaysia. This relationship has been enhanced in recent years. We deeply regret these comments since it is not based on facts. The facts are: Jammu and Kashmir signed the same Instrument of Accession as was done by other princely states; Pakistan invaded and illegally occupied parts of Jammu and Kashmir, a fact which has been recognised by the international community; and that the current development in J&K and Ladakh is a purely internal matter of India and does not involve any third country. The Government of Malaysia should bear in mind the friendly relations between the two countries and desist from making such comments.”