Explained: Erdogan’s increasing interest in Asia

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been showing a lot of interest in Asia and its political rivalries, for the past few years. If observed closely one can detect common patterns in Erdogan’s way of expanding influence over Asian nations, similar to his discourse in Libya and Syria. Erdogan would go for the most conflict-riddled region and pick the side which falls closest to its long-supported Islamic extremist agenda.  By no means Erdogan can be associated with secularism, hence religion would always come into the picture. But religious sentiments are used as mere baits to gather support in this geopolitical maze.

Last year, during the 11th Ambassadors Conference on August 5 Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced a new foreign policy initiative called the Asia Anew. This out-of-the-blue development of ties with Asian nations spanned across a diverse set of areas ranging from trade and defense industry to technology and culture. It was the time Turkey started making deliberate efforts to diversify its foreign relations and partnership. It was imperative for Turkey, especially with strained relations with western powers including the United States and the European Union, and the even Middle East isolated Ankara for its continuous support for extremists and militant groups conducting terror activities in the region. Erdogan would always prefer a nation on whom he could easily exert influence rather than another way around, hence Ankara’s increasing dependence on Moscow made Turkish leader only more uncomfortable. Thus, Asia emerged as a perfect place to set his claws on.

Asia already had a long-running conflict over Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Turkey’s new age Ottoman Caliph, Erdogan was quick to capture identify it and benefit out of it. On the Kashmir issue, Turkey strategically sided with Pakistan and spoke against India’s control over the contested land. On September 24, 2019, Erdogan told the United Nations General Assembly that the international organization “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 neighbors, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, but not through collision,” he said.

“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.

Erdogan spoke against atrocities on Muslims in India but remained silent on the treatment of china towards its Uighur Muslim minority. Camp Turkey in Asia includes Pakistan, China, and Malaysia. China is an exception among the other two Muslim allies. Turkey needed the world’s second-largest economy to be on its side, hence China. Erdogan has been playing the same old trick again, supporting extremist groups in conflict-riddled regions like India, Indonesia, and the Philippines to gain influence over them.

Meanwhile, it interesting to note that last month Turkey sold four Ada-class corvettes to Pakistan to help it strengthen its naval capabilities. which are being deployed with helicopters, have increased antisubmarine warfare opportunities and capabilities. These high-speed combat vessels have a close-in weapon system (CIWS) and effective surface warfare capabilities and are integrated with guns and guided missiles. Doesn’t it sound somewhat similar to Erdogan’s military agreement with Libya’s Government of National Accord, if not exactly the same but definitely similar in intent? Would Erdogan’s strategical expansion in Asia make it war-torn too?

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