PM holds unannounced meeting with Erdogan: Looked at ways to deepen ties

India News

Ties between their countries adversely impacted in recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held an unannounced meeting Friday in Samarkand on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.

After the meeting, Modi underlined that the focus was on economic ties between the two countries.

“Met President @RTErdogan and reviewed the full range of bilateral relations between India and Turkey including ways to deepen economic linkages for the benefit of our people,” Modi said in a Twitter post.

The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, said, “Both leaders reviewed India-Turkey relations. While noting the increase in recent years in economic relations, particularly bilateral trade, they acknowledged the potential for further enhancement of economic and commercial linkages.”

Erdogan last visited India in 2017 when he met Modi.

While India-Turkey economic and commercial cooperation constitutes an important dimension of the bilateral relationship, diplomatic ties have been adversely impacted over Turkey’s public criticism of the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the February 2020 riots in north-east Delhi.

In his speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2019, Erdogan said Kashmir “is still besieged” and “eight million people are stuck in Kashmir”, and “cannot get out”.  He called for a solution through dialogue between Pakistan and India.

In February 2020, in an address to a joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament, Erdogan brought up what he called the “struggle” of the Kashmiri people and compared it with that of the fight by the Turkish people against foreign domination during World War I.

As he threw his weight behind Islamabad on the issue of Kashmir, the Ministry of External Affairs summoned Turkey’s then ambassador, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, and issued a strong demarche.

The Prime Minister’s meeting with Erdogan Friday appears to have been  driven by the economic relationship between the two countries.

India’s economic engagement with Turkey has seen new momentum in recent years. Bilateral trade increased significantly in the preceding decade and a half to reach USD 7.84 billion in 2018-19 and USD 7.086 billion in 2019-20. Trade between the two countries was USD 5.42 billion in 2020-21 despite the pandemic.

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