Three visits and a diplomatic test

India is attempting a delicate balance this week, scheduling visits by the President of Cyprus to Delhi and a visit to Armenia by Vice-President Hamid Ansari just days before the government prepares to welcome Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While Mr. Ansari is in Armenia and Poland for a visit from April 24 to 28, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades is in India from April 25 to 29 and President Erdogan from May 1 to 3, which is his first visit abroad since he won the referendum in Turkey this month.

Although External Affairs Ministry officials are calling the scheduling of the visits pure “coincidence”, it is being seen as a diplomatically awkward moment for New Delhi given that both Cyprus and Armenia do not have diplomatic ties with Turkey and are both bitterly divided with Ankara over both history and religion.

Call for mediation

To complicate matters further, India has been drawn into the dispute with Mr. Anastasiades calling for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mediate with President Erdogan to support the talks process between the Cyprus government in Nicosia and the Turk-controlled area of North Cyprus, a dispute that dates back to the 1970s and now involves U.N. monitoring.

“We shall ask Prime Minister Modi if he has any kind of possibility to intervene on the Cyprus question. The Indian government supports us on the basis of the U.N. resolution,” President Anastasiades said in an interview to The Hindu last week.

Admitting that New Delhi had not responded to the request yet, Cyprus’s High Commissioner to India Demetrios Theophylactou said he hoped India would agree to play a role given its “leverage” on the international stage. “India has been a consistent supporter on a principled basis of Cyprus’s position. As we try to make further progress, it is essential that countries like India support the process both within the UN, and with all the players,” he told The Hindu ahead of President Anastasiades’s visit to Mumbai.

Mr. Ansari’s visit to Armenia has similarly thrust India into the dispute between Armenia and Turkey, as Turkey sided with Azerbaijan in the war in 1993. His visit to the memorial for the Armenian Genocide dedicated to 1.5 million Armenians killed during the rule of Turkey’s Ottoman Empire there in 1915 this week would strike a sensitive chord, given that Turkey continues to deny the genocide.

On an article about Turkey’s denial, Mr. Ansari told students in Yerevan that it “raised a question certain states would find it hard to reply to.”

Kashmir issue

Relations between the three countries and their relations with India are also tinged with sensitivities over Kashmir, as they are now with India’s desire for a seat at the Nuclear Suppliers Group. While Cyprus strongly supported India’s case at the NSG last year, Turkey was seen as an outlier, insisting on a process that admits Pakistan too


(With V. Sudarshan)

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 12:14:32 AM |

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