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New Delhi gets ready to welcome Turkish President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan   | Photo Credit: AP

Close on the heels of a series of big visitors, New Delhi is preparing to welcome Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the first week of May for a visit that will be significant both for its timing and impact on bilateral ties, MEA and Turkish officials confirmed to The Hindu.

The Turkish President is expected to travel to Delhi with a large entourage of ministers, officials said, for his first visit to India since 2008. In 2015, Mr. Erdogan put off his plans to travel to India after a series of protests in his country.

‘Long overdue’

“This visit was long overdue, and we have been preparing for it for sometime, ever since it had to be put off in August 2015,” a Turkish diplomat said, adding that President Erdogan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi share a “good relationship”, having met twice already, including once in Turkey for the G-20 summit.

Officials also confirmed that the new Turkish Ambassador to India Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, who was earlier handling the India desk in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, will present his credentials to President Pranab Mukherjee on March 29 to facilitate protocol ahead of the visit.

Officials on both sides didn’t wish to speak about the expected outcomes of the Erdogan visit, as discussions are ongoing, but said they would broadly follow the “road map for cooperation” in various fields, including tourism and trade, which was signed by visiting Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Delhi last August.

NSG session

Mr. Erdogan’s visit will also come a month ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group plenary session where India will once again push its bid for membership. In June 2016, Turkey had backed a “process-based” approach for inducting members, and was understood to have wanted both Pakistan and India to be considered together. Turkey’s close ties with Pakistan, including a strategic partnership between them, have led to the two countries aligning themselves on several issues. During a visit to Islamabad in November 2016, President Erdogan had said that events in Kashmir “continue to hurt our conscience,” in a reference to violence in the Valley as he addressed a joint session of the Pakistan Parliament, while Foreign Minister Mr. Cavusoglu said “Turkey fully supports Pakistan’s position on Jammu and Kashmir.”

Turkey is also a member of the Uniting for Consensus group of countries that oppose U.N. Security Council Memberships to be increased, another source of friction between the two countries, where India would like to see some flexibility.

No response from MEA

On its part, Turkey will hope for an endorsement for recent government moves and a crackdown on dissidents that have drawn international criticism, especially after the failed coup in July 2016. Former Turkish Ambassador Burak Akcapar had publicly called on the Indian government to take action against India-based supporters of the man they allege was behind the coup, Fethullah Gulen. India will be among the first countries, if not the first to also welcome the Turkish President after what is being seen as a controversial referendum on April 16th which will turn Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency, abolish the Prime Minister’s post, give the president several new powers, and allow him two five-year terms after the next elections in 2019.

The MEA did not respond to requests for any comments on the visit or the planned referendum. As The Hindu has reported earlier, Mr. Erdogan’s visit in May will follow visits by Malaysian PM Najib Razak, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull in April.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 7:30:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-delhi-gets-ready-to-welcome-turkish-president/article17566251.ece

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