President Pranab Mukherjee and Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul (left) review troops during a welcoming ceremony at the start of Mukherjee’s official visit to Turkey yesterday.
Ankara: Turkey and India are finally — nearly 20 years after it was first proposed — moving towards aligning their strategic outlooks by “moving forward” on finalising a defence cooperation agreement.
As Indian President Pranab Mukherjee wound up a three-day visit to Turkey, a good 15 years after the visit of the last president here, authorities said Turkey appeared to be moving away from some of its old thinking especially on issues like Pakistan and Kashmir — and warming up to India’s importance and potential as a rising power.
In delegation-level talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, and subsequently in a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the issue came up as part of an overall sweep of bilateral ties, from political to economic and from strategic to cultural, as the two countries decided to strengthen historic bonds.
In his interview to the Cihan News Agency before arriving here, Mukherjee had mentioned the defence cooperation agreement and said both countries had “agreed to enhance cooperation between two defence forces through military-to-military contacts and training exchanges”.
Indian officials said the agreement, first proposed as a draft in 1994 and then revived during the visit of Erdogan to India in 2008, was now being pursued actively towards finalisation by both countries, with New Delhi seeing “significant changes” in Ankara’s outlook.
“The fact that the Pakistan factor did not figure in their thinking and Kashmir was not once mentioned is seen by India as a forward movement,” said an Indian official present at the talks who did not wish to be identified.
On Pakistan, with which Turkey has long-standing close ties, there was satisfaction on India’s part that Turkey shared New Delhi’s concern over terrorism and hoped that Islamabad would be able to check cross-nation terrorism originating from its soil.
Turkey is one the principal importers of Indian cotton and polyester yarn and both countries are keen to reduce their trade deficit by widening the basket of trade and commerce.