‘Immense potential of trade and tourism potential  between India and Turkey’

In an interview, H.E. Mr Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, the Ambassador of Turkey to India said that India and Turkey share a long history of close relations. Both countries have many things in common. He sees immense trade and tourism potential between the two countries.

Turkey and India share many commonalities based on cultures, values, histories, progressive ideas,  citizen welfare, etc. We have solidarity with each other. Relations at the leadership level between the two countries are very close. Indian PM Narendra Modi and Turkish President met a couple of times in the last three years and they share very close and cordial relations. I think it is not easy to develop such exemplary relations in such a short period of time. India and Turkey are on the same page on almost all the regional and international issues. Both countries work closely to strengthen regional security and stability in the world.  Our foreign policy is similar to India’s.

Fight against Terrorism

We are on the same page in the fight against terrorism. I think it is necessary to address the root causes of terrorism. Fight against terrorism cannot be won unless the root causes of terrorism are addressed. It is also important that while fighting terrorism, one should refrain from hyphenating it with religion.  Certain media organizations in the west, because of their vested interest,  hyphenate terrorism with Islam, that is unacceptable. You would never hear terrorism being clubbed with any religion in India, China or in any Muslim country.  It happens only in the western world.

No country can benefit from cooperating with one terrorist organization to fight another one, but a few countries are doing so. I agree with the Indian position that terrorists cannot be divided between good and bad, as all terrorists are bad. Turkey has been suffering from the scourge of terrorism from a decade.

Tourism

Government of Turkey offers e-Visa to Indian tourists that is very easy to avail. In 2017, about 75% of total  Indian tourist arrivals to Turkey visited the country on e-visa.   As of now, Turkey does not come under the e-visa scheme of Government of India, which is a hindrance in Turkish nationals visiting India.   On the other hand, India is yet to reciprocate Turkey by offering e-visa to its citizens. India currently offers e-visa to 161 countries, but Turkey is among the remaining countries whose nationals are eligible for Indian e-visa. Turkish people love India, especially Turkish ladies even without visiting the country. Turkish ladies love Indian costumes, necklace, stones, jewellery, etc.

But if any Turk wants to visit India, he or she will have to visit Indian consulate to apply for a visa, and wait for 15-20 days. This discourages Turks to visit  India and act as a barrier to tourism from Turkey to India. I request the Government of India to allow Turkish citizens to avail Indian e-visa so that they can see this beautiful country, enjoy Indian hospitality and experience Indian couture and heritage.  India has immense tourism capacity such as archaeology, nature, shopping food, culinary.

ON INDIA-TURKEY RELATIONS

Relations between India and Turkey go back to the early part of the 20th century when the Khilafat movement supported by Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi protested against the British rule for abolishing the Caliphate in Turkey. Gandhi was a great son of India.

Government of Turkey has given shelters to a large number of Syrian refugees who fled  Syria to escape the continued violence. The ambassador strongly feels that there is a need to improve commercial and economic ties between the two countries.

The political and diplomatic relations between India and Turkey are very cordial. The relationship at the top leadership level is excellent. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan share very close relation. They developed a very warm and cordial relation in a very short span of time. They have met each other on many occasions. Turkey is on the same page with India on a wide range of regional and international issues. We are on the same page as India on the matter of countering terrorism. Turkey has also been a victim of terrorism for a decade.

Like India, Turkey is also a member of G20. Both countries have similar views on many regional and international issues and they work together on many international forums. We completely agree with India’s position that there is no good terrorist or bad terrorist; all forms of terrorist are bad and one cannot differentiate between terrorists on the basis of political expediency. However, it is necessary to address the root causes of terrorism. Terrorism cannot be eliminated completely unless its root causes are addressed. It is also important that terrorism should not hyphenated with any religion. It is not hyphenated with any religion in Turkey, India or China. But certain media houses in Europe hyphenate terrorism with Islam, which is wrong.

Trade relations

We are a free market economy. Doors are open for Indian businessmen and investors to come to Turkey and invest.  We are working to deepen our strategic ties. We are working together to enhance our trade network and energy security. We cooperate with each other in regional and international institutions. Both countries are members of G20. Turkey is a  member of NATO and intends to join the European Union. The current Turkish government is strengthening the country’s ties not only with its neighbours but with all geographies of the world. We are partnering with ASEAN and  Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). India and Turkey together form a 3 trillion dollar economy and have a huge potential of bilateral trade. Unfortunate, in the past,  we have neglected our economic and commercial relations.

The current size of bilateral trade is less than 7 billion (as in 2017). It does not reflect the true potential of our bilateral trade. Our potential is quite high.  First of all, we must expand the size of our cake, then we talk about the trade balance. Our economic potential is quite enormous. Now we looking beyond our neighbourhood. We are realizing that we need to expand our trade with countries and regions like Iran, America, Africa, China, India, Japan and so on.

Turkey and India are in talks to sign a comprehensive economic partnership agreement. We have held five rounds of talks so far. The agreement is expected to be signed in the next two-three years. This would be an important instrument to promote bilateral trade and the size of the trade will increase exponentially.

Another area of cooperation is that both countries can trade with each other in their national currencies. Today we trade only in USD. But we can do some part of our trade in Indian currencies and Turkish Lira. I think it will be a win-win situation for both countries. We need to develop and establish a mechanism to exchange Rupees and Lira to trade in our currencies.

The total bilateral trade volume between India and Turkey was 6,975 billion USD. In the first eight months of 2018, the total bilateral trade between the two countries has been 5,893 billion USD as compared to 4,182 billion USD in the same period of 2017, registering a 40% increase.  Honourable Prime Minister of India and the President of Turkey have set a target of 10 billion USD bilateral trade between the two countries by 2020.

The economic and commercial ties between the two countries are improving. The two countries have had very good political and economic relations, but our economic and commercial ties have not been very strong. We are quite behind in realizing the full potential of our economic and commercial ties. Turkey remained focused on its neighbouring countries and ignored commercial ties with countries like India. In fact, both countries ignored the commercial aspect of their bilateral ties in the past. Now we are discovering the potential of our commercial ties.

Humanitarian Assistance

Considering the ratio of Turkish official humanitarian assistance to its GDP, Turkey is the most generous country in the world in offering humanitarian assistance to countries in crisis. It is the second biggest donor country in the world after the USA. Turkey’s contribution to global humanitarian assistance is 3,2 billion US Dollars. Turkey has been very generous in providing humanitarian assistance in crisis-ridden Syria and to Syrian nationals. Turkey has been providing asylum to a large number of Syrian nationals who were forced to flee Syria due to its ongoing crisis.  I have been in India for the last 20 months. I love India very much and feel at home here.  India is a great civilization.


 

QUOTE:

“We are on the same page in the fight against terrorism. I think it is necessary to address the root causes of terrorism. Fight against terrorism cannot be won unless the root causes of terrorism are addressed. It is also important that while fighting terrorism, one should refrain from hyphenating it with religion.”

 

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