A five-member ‘Contact Group’ of the 57-member ‘Organisation of Islamic Alliance’—comprising Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Ivory Coast and Niger—met earlier this month in New York. It issued yet another statement on Jammu and Kashmir. The statement echoed Pakistani propaganda, referring to UN Resolutions of no contemporary relevance, while proposing to send a “fact finding” mission to the state. New Delhi rejected the statement as “factually incorrect and misleading”, while asserting the group had no locus standi, on India’s internal affairs.
Most people across the world would not know where Azerbaijan, Ivory Coast and Niger are located. While Saudi Arabia pays lip service to such moves, it has become more forthcoming in relations with India, even on issues like terrorism. Turkey, led by Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, remains implacably hostile. Erdogan’s pretensions lead him to poke his nose into the internal affairs of countries ranging from the Philippines and Myanmar to Syria and Iraq. He conveniently forgets that Turkey was responsible for the first genocide of the 20th century—the killing of 1.5 million of its Armenian citizens—in the early 1920s.
Just before Erdogan’s recent visit to India, New Delhi drew attention to Turkey’s illegal occupation of one third of Cyprus since 1974. Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s unwavering and consistent support for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus, while meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, in New Delhi. The Turkish occupation of Cyprus in European Union territory is viewed as illegal in International Law, Oddly, even while Erdogan pontificates on human rights, he has arrested 7,028 members of the Turkish armed forces, including 164 Generals and Admirals; 2,385 judges, including two from the Supreme Court; and 95 Governors and Deputy Governors, apart from thousands of teachers, lawyers and others. These arrests took place even as ruthless attacks by Turkey’s Army and Air Force on the country’s Kurdish population continued. President Erdogan would be well advised to remember that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
It is also ironical that the Resolution of the OIC Contact Group came at a time of internal rivalries, bloodletting and turmoil, across the Islamic world. India has wisely kept away from these sectarian, civilisational and leadership rivalries, as it is primarily concerned with peace, stability and economic progress in the region, extending from Iran to Turkey. In Yemen alone, the civil war, with rival factions backed by Saudi Arabia and Iran, has led to three million people being displaced, 8,000 killed and over a million children malnourished and near starvation. The Syrian conflict, with Iran and Hezbollah backing the Asad Government, and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arabs backing various armed opposition groups, has resulted in an estimated 500,000 people killed and 6.1 million displaced, with 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad.
While Turkey has continuously been at war with its Kurdish population, tensions between the Kurds and Arabs is mounting in Iraq, with the Kurds who enjoy considerable autonomy seeking independence. Of greater concern to India has been the discord between Qatar, backed by Turkey on the one hand, and its fellow Gulf Arab neighbours Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, on the other. Kuwait has endeavoured to act as a mediator in this dispute, with American backing, with little success thus far. Given these rivalries, India can ignore the Turkish-backed Pakistan effort to activate the OIC, aiming to fulfil Pakistan’s territorial ambitions.Fifteen thousand Baloch freedom fighters and civilians have lost their lives in Balochistan. The Pakistan Army and Air Force have displaced eight lakh Pashtuns from their homes and killed 3,000, in the country’s tribal areas. These are actions the Baloch and Pashtuns will neither forget, nor forgive.