India unprepared for Erdogan’s unsolicited offer to play peacemaker on Kashmir

India’s President Pranab Mukherjee looks on as Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a Rashtrapati Bhavan banquet in New Delhi on May 1, 2017. (Photographer: Subhav Shukla/PTI)


Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy of cultivating Turkey as an important pillar in his ambitious policy for the Islamic world and West Asia generally could materialize, the visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threw a spanner into the works. As a curtain raiser, he surprised the Indian government not only by bringing up the ticklish issue of Kashmir and the need for “a multilateral dialogue” to resolve the long standing dispute, but personally expressed a desire to broker a deal between Modi and his “dear Friend” Nawaz Sharif. Erdogan’s tactless, “in-your-face”, shocker reduced the extended conversation the Indian Prime Minister had planned to have with the visitor, to a strained iteration by the former of the Indian position that Kashmir was a domestic matter not open to outside mediation.

This episode raises the troubling matter about the preparations for Erdogan’s trip. Why was it so badly managed by Foreign Secretary K. Jaishankar and the Ministry of External Affairs that the Indian government had not an inkling of what was in the Turkish leader’s mind regarding Kashmir and how he would publicly express his views? This development was all the more galling because state visits are minutely scripted affairs in which nothing is left to chance and very little said by the principals that is unexpected. If the Foreign Office had no clue about what was in the offing, naturally there was nothing the MEA could have done diplomatically to preempt and divert the Turk from having his say and roiling the situation.

Perhaps, the Turkish Embassy in Delhi failed to alert their President to India’s sensitivities on the Kashmir issue, or Ankara decided to go ahead and be disruptive anyway, and risk the fallout. In the event, it duly turned into a diplomatic disaster. Erdogan’s getting back on script — extolling the similarities in Indian and Turkish cultures and restating Ankara’s support for India’s permanent membership to the UN Security Council — did not, however, retrieve the situation. In his “one on one” with the visitor, an apparently unsettled Modi, confused about whether to push his agenda at all, sputtered on about the enormous potential for Indo-Turkish trade and economic intercourse, after he had, one assumes, desultorily, stated India’s policy of resolving the Kashmir dispute bilaterally with Pakistan.

Had he the presence of mind, and proper briefing by MEA for just such contingency (which should have been anticipated; after all Turkey has regularly voted in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation against India on the Kashmir issue) Modi could have stopped Erdogan in full flow by not so delicately raising the issue of “independent” Kurdistan carved from the Kurdish majority areas across three countries – Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and flummoxed the Turkish President in return. Ankara, after all, has always dealt savagely with the freedom-seeking Kurds, refusing in recent times to fall in with Washington and treat the Kurdish militia, the peshmerga, as the most effective force in the field against the Bashir al-Assad regime in Syria, which Turkey opposes.

Erdogan’s motivation to be peace-maker in the subcontinent was possibly sparked by the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the Indian origin Nikky Haley. In trying to make an international splash as the new chairman of the Security Council, the newly appointed Haley stressed America’s right as global do-gooder to intervene in far-off disputes. “It’s absolutely right that this administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward,” Haley said on April 5. “So I would expect that the administration is going to be in talks and try and find its place to be a part of that and we don’t think we should wait till something happens.” It was a fairly straight forward way of prospectively legitimating any intervention the US President Donald J Trump may undertake.

Hard to see though why Erdogan believed he had a chance at getting into the Kashmir peacemaking business when the US, with much greater leverage and reach in both India and Pakistan, has repeatedly failed. Whatever he thought were his chances, what is certain from the run of events is that Erdogan was determined to bring Kashmir into play. And, to evince at least some positive reaction in the region to his proposal, it is likely Ankara, while keeping the enunciation by Erdogan of a possible Turkish role secret from Indian government interlocuters in the run-up to the visit, had informed Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif about it. It is revealing that Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to Nawaz Sharif, rather than the usual Pakistani spiel, welcomed the Turkish leader’s initiative by picking up on the concern Erdogan voiced for human rights violations and mounting casualties in Kashmir to justify a multilateral approach that Islamabad has always sought even as India’s call for bilateral dialogue was slammed by him as “no longer credible”.

The still larger question that that has loomed over the Kashmir dispute for a long time is why even states friendly to India, rather than taking Delhi’s protestations seriously, assume the dispute is ripe for their beneficial intervention? Because of two reasons: Delhi’s inability by whatever means to contain the unrest in the Srinagar Valley and the spiraling of violence, which makes India vulnerable to international pressure. And, secondly, the fear that ultimately this local turmoil, if unchecked, could in slow stages graduate to cross-border hostilities with Pakistan and – this is the “Flashpoint” thesis that is the favourite of Western thinktanks and governments alike – escalate into nuclear war.

Published in, May 3, 2017, at


About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Culture, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Iran and West Asia, MEA/foreign policy, Pakistan, Pakistan military, SAARC, society, South Asia, UN, United States, US., West Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to India unprepared for Erdogan’s unsolicited offer to play peacemaker on Kashmir

  1. Karthik says:

    Of course, the MEA was expecting Erdogan to make pro-Pakistan comments on Kashmir, which is why it scheduled Cyprus President’s visit to India and Ansari’s visit to Armenia just days before Erdogan was to arrive in India. My guess – the MEA was looking to reach a modus vivendi with Erdogan whereby Turkey would soften its pro-Pak stance, while India would do it on Cyprus (Modi took an openly anti-Turkey position in calling for implementing UNSC resolutions on Cyprus) and Armenia (Ansari’s comment on the Ottoman genocide). Raking up the Kurdish issue was an option, but perhaps it would’ve been a little too much for Erdogan to digest!

    • Aban says:

      . Unfortunately ‘raking up’ armenian genocide or playing the kurdish card won’t deter Erdogan . Maybe he would be red faced , but nothing more. Erdogan is too thick skinned and Turkey is too powerful militarily to get bogged down easily. Far from softening his stand he might become more vocal on so called human-rights ‘violations’ in Cashmere . Best thing for India – avoid diplomatic jumborees and puppy-jhuppy with Erdogan and keep an eye on Turkey’s expansionist tendencies. It’s going to be a hegemonic power in the middle east in coming years.

      • Karthik says:

        Unfortunately ‘raking up’ Kashmir issue won’t deter Modi. Maybe he would be red faced , but nothing more. Modi is too thick skinned and India is too powerful militarily to get bogged down easily. Far from softening his stand [if Erdogan doesn’t play ball] he might become vocal on Kurdistan 🙂

  2. Aban says:

    Why is everyone surprised ? ‘Caliph’ Erdogan’s ideological affiliations and his support for radical sunni islamic ’causes’ are very well known. His views on kashmir would be on predictable lines. Indian diplomats should have anticipated this. But why exactly is Modi embracing Erdogan? what does ISIS supporting islamist, armed with nukes bring to the table? Like most of Modi’s policies this one too defies logic and common sense . Maybe trying hard to be a ‘world leader’ perhaps.

    • Karthik says:

      1. Ergdogan has no nukes
      2. Yup, Modi should get rid of those bear hugs – feel like puking when he does that with Erdogan, of all people
      3. The logic is that the scoreboard now reads 1-1. Erdogan plays Kashmir; Modi plays Cyprus and Armenia.
      4. India and Turkey can beat the crap out of each other politically while still cooperating on trade and investment. If China and Japan could do it, there’s no reason why India and Turkey can’t.

      • Aban says:

        Turkey doesn’t have nukes of it’s own. But certain number of american nukes are in Turkey, which will soon become Erdogan’s possession. And any trade deal will have predictable outcome – one way trade , with India opening up its markets and allowing imports and the Turks putting up non-tariff barriers resulting in trade deficit for India !!! And then the same platitudes by Indian govt – “Turkey MUST open up it’s markets for Indian exports” . Eternal story of Indian trade.

      • Aban says:

        As of now India has huge 5 billion $ trade surplus with Turkey. But going by India’s reputation , it may soon become trade deficit in a decade.

  3. anonymous says:

    Dear Sir,
    China must be enjoying for stirring problems for India with use of Pakistan.
    We have lot many polluted elements for Kashmir like Separatist, Political parties in J/K, peace sneaking pseudo secular, radicalized Wahhabi elements, external forces like Pakistan, china or even western countries.
    What is your solution for solving Kashmir problem? We all understand that it would be in India’s interest to be in good relation with Pakistan and use them for India’s vested interest the way USA used them against Soviet Union or china is using them against us. But Pakistan philosophy from time of formation was to Balkanize India with 1000 cuts (Qurban Ali Doctrine since 1952). So if we solve Kashmir, they can target Punjab.
    So sir please suggest what should India do as strategic response and tactical response to solve Kashmir problem at once in given circumstances?

  4. Looky says:

    Turkey is Pakistan of Europe, many European know that.
    Let talk about Kurdish homeland, India can help with that.

  5. Apna says:

    Secretary K. Jaishankar and the Ministry of External Affairs that the Indian government
    Have always been clueless relying on crutches of American vassal state after Modi or previous pm bribes Americans with billion dollar worth of order for American and British military junk.
    No wonder with such ineffective functionaries India has had no friend in last 39 years.they annoyed the only freind Russia.
    In mid 80s India had to rely on tennis star Vijay amritraj to plead Indian case before American Shultz because Indians had no guts or status to talk to Americans at that time when Americans were finding the Taliban and Sikh terrorists in 80s.

    • Aban says:

      A mentally colonized nation , desires to remain a western colony. Doesn’t matter if the nation is led by MMS or ‘nationalist’ NaMo.

      • Apna says:


        Treachery against the only ally that India had in the middle east _that was Iraq.

        IYes, it was Iraq. When Advani was in a meeting in The White House with Condi Rice to discuss the possibility of Indian troops for Iraq war, George Bush “dropped in” to the meeting hoping that Indians have weakness for such symbolic gestures and hence would fall for it. And it seems to have worked. Advani did give some kind of assurance to the Americans regarding Indian troops. Oh did I mention that Bush told Advani he would do some “blunt talking” to Pakistan about cross border terrorism? 


      • Apna says:

        Modi as an uncle Tom.

        One of the most remarkable difference between leader of 3rd world countries and that of so called first world is this _ when the first world leader gets a good majority then she or he used that mandate of people to dominate other nations in talk and negotiation in foreign matters.
        In fact most of the foreign ministers of 1st world are dire nArrow minded nationalist who basically detest foreigners as shown in their behaviour. So the use the mandate as a rid to open the foreign market for their nationalist agenda.
        Now when the leader of a 3rd world gets a majority or even a high margin win then she or he used that to appoint such foreign and finaive mi ster who is internationalist and on fact has no electorate base because he be st bothered to know or read about his own country.
        He is basically pro_foreigner.
        He would talk harshly to his own countryman but would genu flex before foreigners dignitaries _naturally he is already sold on the idea of using that people’s mandate not to press advantage in negotiation but to pressurise his ownconstituency and countrymen to accept foreigners demand to open his market to foreigners without reciprocal advantage.

        Modi Ji has a stern demeanour inside India he hardly laughs or smiles before IbdiNs.
        But whenever he faces whitemenespeciakly of English speaking variety then look his body language _he is alkgreei g eithakk teethshowingalktge time
        Either as a servant does before a mafter or like an idiot or an uncle Tom.
        Before he leAves India he makes sure that he has go enawY tX payers money to the tune of one or two billion dollars worth of order forjunk military hardware from USA or its satellite state Israel.
        In other words he bribes Anglo Americans to buy friendship.
        In last 3 years the air force has been starved to the extent that it is really a Camel air force now but there is no urgency for Modi he may be even tho king of unthinkable _ ordering obsolete 60s’ design f16 just to please the Americans !

      • Aban says:

        Yes India under MMS lost it’s neighbours Myanmar and Sri Lanka while trying to please the Americans and the ‘West’. US wanted India to sanctimoniously preach democrazy and (in)human rights in Myanmar. India followed orders. Myanmar ended up on China’s lap. And India on the insistence of ‘west’ took anti Lanka stand in various international forums. Lanka today is Chinese outpost. And delayed construction of chabahar port in Iran under Amriki pressure. Modi being a status quoist will continue to be in the good books of the ‘west;’

      • Aban says:

        Modi ji working hard to be in the good books of the ‘west’ . Don’t disturb him.

  6. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Erdogan ke pass nukes nahi hain aur Modi ke pass hain to Modi ji ne kya ukhad liya apne nukes sey? By the way, Erdogan ke pass majority vote bhi hai 🙂 Modi ji sey bhi badi, and yet.

    But more importantly, what do I tell my daughter about Turkey or Armenia and Cyprus? What has Modi ji achieved with these meetings? Must be something that is needed for its own sake.

    I was really fearing that Modi ji would outdo himself in this diplomatic game and surprise the whole country. By proposing a Kedarnath visit to Erdogan. First day first show. Do-do rashtra-rishi Vishwamirth and Vi-ashisth at one place. Whew man! bach gaye.

  7. MS says:

    People should thank you for choosing an independent voice and an insightful and sharp state of mind to express on this issue.

    By the way, now that milk has spilt-most of it out of the tumbler-one could ponder what was there in this visiting leader anyway. Let him be immersed in religion and make friends like himself. The only thing important was can we export something to that country.

    We should cultivate relationships with private large firms of the west directly. I do not fancy these govt to govt contracts which leave us high and dry. Like China, source directly from the biggie firms and tell them to share the technology or go bungee jumping.

    What a remarkable example we have next door. China has directly lured the biggies with contracts in iieu of tech transfer and thrived despite being perceived as a threat by the govts in the west. How swiftly did China move and kindled the relationship with the family of the great leader when things appeared far from rosy. We would have sent a secy(with daily allowance dollars in his pocket) instead, unlike China.

    We have a great leader in PM. Our machinery of affairs, as you say, should be nimble and efective even if we are not as swift as the Chinese.


  8. Maximus says:

    Hamid Ansari, vice president of India, visited Armenia at the same time when Erdogan was in India. The vice president apparently visited the genocide museum and wrote in the guest book… Gross violence happened to the Armenian people during the Ottoman empire. Now, it may be a fact, that there was a genocide, but Turkey does not acknowledge that there was a genocide, and reacts stridently if someone brings up the g word. Now the intelligent Indian reader can judge for herself, if it was a genius masterstroke from the government to send the vice president on the 102 years anniversary of the Armenian genocide to Armenia. The sultan from Bosporus and member of G20, certainly didn’t think so and paid back in kind with the K word.

  9. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    A bit of correction. Erdogan had been gathering frequent flyer miles back and froth, Pakistan. 7 visits in 2016. So if Modi ji did send out Ansari ji firing across the Erdogan’s bow then it can only be read as a preemptive show of strength. To that extent, I personally thinks Modi ji and Ansari ji should be thanked for the Ram-Rahim act.

    Gulenists began their surreptitious campaign against Erdogan when he was on one such visit to Pakistan. In turn Pakis began throwing out Gulenist affiliated ‘teachers’ from ‘schools’ these gulenists had established inside Pakistan. Yes Gulenists are that near to our borders. Yes Gulenists like ISIS and Mujahideen and Pakislamists and other assortment of high foreign politicking are or have strong links to the Americans. Americans sport that – its called a keeda. /news/2016/11/pakistan-expels-turkish-school-staff-gulen-links-161116084837457.html

    As I things developing the Turks are going to get out of the American camp. Now they will either become ‘independent’ or go over to the Russian camp (slim chances). And who can understand the mechanics better than the people who have thrown themselves out of ‘independence’ and into American camp. So this whole preemption business is like two keeps pulling each other’s hair seeking competitive attention of the village seth. Deserve each other.

    Anyhow, the real story is that during the time the Chinese have successfully to shifted the attention of the whole world from the Tiananmen and Straits to the empty expanse of Pacific playing little more than holi-pichkari wars with the Japs. In like duration our establishment has dug us deeper into this K thingie. Misery does love company and Americans.

  10. andy says:

    Playing bad boy does have its rewards,an effect of playing the potent Dalai Lama card perhaps.The Chinese who tend to brush aside any and every Indian concern seem a bit worried now,India should play the prodigal son more often and reap the benefits, rather than being happy with pats on the back from sundry countries for good behaviour.

    • Apna says:

      This is the advice that Americans and British parasites will give to India because for them China be better countered by another parsu _India this timeitimeindians are supposed to forget that it is the same anglosaxon media and govt. Which used to harass Indian 80s to make peace with China to counter Russia.
      India is supposed to sacrifice her interest for sake of her real enemies the anglosaxon parasites.

Leave a Reply to Aban Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.