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Will India's Earthquake Diplomacy Revitalize New Delhi-Ankara Ties?

© Photo : Indian ArmyOperation Dost
Operation Dost - Sputnik India, 1920, 09.02.2023
India became one of the first nations to announce humanitarian assistance to Turkiye following devastating earthquakes, in which more than 16,000 were killed and over 64,000 injured.
Thousands of buildings have flattened due to a powerful quake and its aftershocks in Turkiye, and a lot needs to be done for relief and rescue efforts prompting Turkish ambassador to India Firat Sunel to praise New Delhi for its helpful gesture.

'A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed'

Talking to media persons at the Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad city, near Delhi earlier this week Ambassador Sunel said that "Operation Dost', launched by India to help eliminate the consequences of the disastrous earthquakes in the country, "shows our friendship between India and Turkiye and friends always help each other, and this is [itself] the operation of friendship."

Dost means 'friend' in both Hindi and Turkish.

The sense of gratitude came at a difficult time in Turkiye, where a lot of people are still buried under the rubble and efforts are underway to locate any sign of life.

Continuation of Vasudev Kutumbakam Philosophy

Sputnik tried to explore from some Indian experts if such a bonhomie could uplift or further strengthen India-Turkiye relations vis-a-vis the latter's warmth for India's neighbor Pakistan.
Be it Dr. Ashwini Kumar Mohapatra, a professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies at India's premier Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), or Dr. Md. Muddassir Quamar, an associate fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, both expressed skepticism that relations between New Delhi and Ankara could simply become "perfect", given their differences on the Kashmir issue. However, there is always a way for diplomacy, they noted.
Speaking to Sputnik on Thursday, Quamar said that India's help to Turkiye shouldn't be viewed from the prism of the country's push to have a deep relationship with Ankara, but rather as a "reflection of the Indian philosophy of Vasudev Kutumbakam" (who stated "the world is one family").
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has talked about how he was moved and reminded of the earthquake in Bhuj in 2001, when he heard about the earthquake in Turkiye.

"India's swift offer and delivery of support is a reflection of the Indian philosophy of Vasudev Kutumbakam, the world is one family, an idea stated by PM of India. And, we are seeing this idea in action in Turkiye at this point," Quamar stated in an exclusive chat with Sputnik.

A man reacts as people search for survivors through the rubble in Diyarbakir, on February 6, 2023, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country's south-east. - Sputnik India, 1920, 06.02.2023
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However, he hoped that the Turkish president, who has sided with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir at the UN since 2019, when India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, would acknowledge India's goodwill gesture and change his and Turkiye's view of New Delhi.

He said except for the Turkish tendency to rake up Kashmir and other internal matters of India at international forums, at the behest of Pakistan, and due to grand ideas of representing the global Muslim population, there are not many problems between the two countries.

"There are no reasons why diplomatic and political engagements cannot overcome these issues," Quamar stated. "Hopefully, the goodwill gesture on the part of India and PM Modi will emphasize the same in Ankara and on President Erdogan.

"I must add that the economic possibilities for Turkiye in strengthening ties with India is also an important factor and can help moderate Turkish behavior," he stressed.

Dost, or Still Arkadas?

On the other hand, Professor Mohapatra denied that differences between Delhi and Ankara could be mended by Prime Minister Modi's noble initiative because it (Turkiye) considers India a "friend", while Pakistan is a "brother" for them.
He further noted that given the volatility in their relations in recent years, it is very "unlikely" that India and Turkiye could be "true friends" despite Delhi's massive assistance program in the aftermath of the quake.
"There's Turkish word for 'Dost (friend)' is called 'Arkadas'. They basically consider India as an 'Arkadas' whereas Pakistan as a 'Kardes', which means brother. In other words, Pakistan is seen by the Turkish side as a brother while India has always been considered as a 'Dost'," Dr. Mohapatra told Sputnik.
"The purpose of describing India as a 'dost' was to continue with the economic and trade relations with Delhi whereas maintaining a level of relations with Pakistan is largely religious, cultural," he mentioned.
Mohapatra stressed the fact that President Erdogan has pitched himself as 'the messiah' of the Muslims, and backing a Hindu-majority nation, like India, could hurt his standing in the Islamic world.
"With the rise of Erdogan to power in 2002 onwards, things have changed drastically because the Turkish leader has projected himself as the new 'Khalid', which implies the revival of the geo-cultural space once dominated by Turkiye," the JNU academician elaborated.

Mohapatra explained Turkiye is located in a place called Anatolia, which happens to have once been the heartland of the Ottoman Empire. As part of the new government's narrative to revive that space, to ensure Turkish domination in that area, Erdogan's narrative is to revive that area where Turkiye will be in a position to establish its primacy or the domineering role. So, in that pursuit, Turkiye has deployed both its hard and soft power," he said.

Mohapatra pointed out that Turkiye's extremely close ties with Pakistan were standing in the way of a warmth of relations between Ankara and New Delhi.
"Pakistanis consider themselves as the real inheritor of the Muslims of the sub-continent and that's why Pakistanis have looked towards Turkiye for support - diplomatic, political, and cultural, right from the time of the country's independence."
"Given the situation, I don't think Turkiye is going to change its position as far as India is concerned, from a kind of a 'dost' into a 'brother' as long as they consider Pakistan as a brother country," Mohapatra concluded.