Explained: Why Erdogan’s praise of Pakistan and attack on India fits into a pattern

Speaking to MPs at a joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament on Friday (February 14), Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his country’s deep love and affection for Pakistan, strongly backed its position on Kashmir.

Erdogan vowed to support his hosts in the face of pressure by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog for terrorist financing which is currently one step away from blacklisting Pakistan.

“I would like to convey the greeting of 83 million brothers and sisters in Turkey… Here in Pakistan we never see ourselves as strangers. We feel at home. We are here at home, together with you…,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Pakistani daily Dawn.

“Today, Pakistan and Turkey’s relations are admirable for others […] The much-envied Turkey-Pakistan brotherhood today, is a true brotherhood, strengthened by history and reinforced by historical events,” he said.

Traditional good ties
Turkey and Pakistan have historically had good relations, something that Erdogan underlined in his speech. This was the fourth time that Erdogan addressed Pakistan’s Parliament in Islamabad, Dawn reported.

However, while the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, had a secular vision for his country, Erdogan is the leader of an Islamist party and likes to think of himself as a new age Ottoman Caliph speaking for all the Muslims of the world.

Kashmir and terror-financing
India’s relations with Turkey have been deteriorating steadily in recent times. This is linked primarily to Turkey’s support for the Pakistani position on Kashmir, as well as its backing of Pakistan at the FATF.

Significantly, Erdogan’s promise on Friday that “as in the past, we will continue to stand by Pakistan in the future”, and his assertion that “we will give support to Pakistan which is subject to political pressure in the FATF meetings”, came just ahead of the FATF meeting in Paris which will take a call on Pakistan’s request that it should be taken off the grey list of states that do not comply with global terror-financing requirements.

Earlier on September 24, 2019, Erdogan told the United Nations General Assembly that the international community has “failed” to “pay enough attention” to the Kashmir conflict, which “awaits solution” for 72 years.

“In order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbours, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, but not through collision,” he said.

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“Despite the resolutions adopted by the UNSC, Kashmir is still besieged and eight million people are stuck in Kashmir. They cannot get out,” he said.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who himself delivered a long, angry speech attacking India at the UNGA, thanked Erdogan for underlining that “the stability and prosperity of South Asia cannot be separated from the Kashmir issue”.

Earlier on August 6, the day after India removed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Turkish Foreign Ministry had issued a statement expressing “concern” at what it had called “annulment of the Article 370” that “could further increase the existing tension”.

A global diplomatic alliance
Significantly, Erdogan too, despite his rhetoric on the alleged atrocities on Muslims, like Imran, remained silent on the treatment by China of its Uighur Muslim minority.

Apart from Turkey, Pakistan, and China, the other country in this broad coalition of the critics of India is Malaysia, all of whom can be expected to team up at the FATF and other international fora.

In his address to the UNGA, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said: “Now, despite the UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, the country has been invaded and occupied.”

“There may be reasons for this action but it is still wrong. The problem must be solved by peaceful means. India should work with Pakistan to resolve this problem. Ignoring the UN would lead to other forms of disregard for the UN and the Rule of Law,” Mahathir said.

India’s relations with Malaysia have been strained due to Mahathir’s refusal to hand over the televangelist Zakir Naik, who is wanted by law-enforcement agencies in India for hate speech and money laundering, but who has been hiding out in Malaysia since he was given permanent residency rights in that country a few years ago.