Turkey aims to gain credibility in its bid for a global caliphate by defending the Muslim cause in Kashmir, a region divided between India and Pakistan.
Behind Turkey’s recent Islamist foreign policy is a story that takes place between the First World War, which saw the rise of a secular and Westernized Turkey, and the rise of various political parties over the next five or six decades, including There’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party), said Abhinav Pandya, who advised the last governor of the former Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pandya, who is currently CEO of the Usanas Foundation, an India-based security and geopolitical think tank, told The Epoch Times that with Erdogan’s three subsequent electoral victories and his presidency since 2014, Turkey’s foreign policy has started to change.
“And as it progressed, these secular elements were being marginalized from Turkish politics and religion became a stronger force,” Pandya said. In this context, a geopolitical game began to emerge. “It was basically the revival of the Ottoman caliphate or the Ottoman glory in which he can project himself as the caliph of the Muslim world.”
By then, Turkey’s dream of joining the European Union had disappeared, he said. “So now why not bring back the true glory of the Ottoman power instead of begging in front of the European Union. That Ottoman glory can only be recovered if Turkey returns to its Islamic religious roots, ”Pandya said. As a democratically elected leader, Erdogan would have more acceptance as a caliph than any Islamic extremist at the head of a global terrorist organization, he said.
“He knows that he is a democratically elected leader of a country like Turkey, that it is a great military power or a growing superpower, a country with a fairly decent middle-income group. [población], good infrastructure and the glorious history of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, he will have a good chance of being accepted as a caliph by Muslims around the world, ”Pandya said.
Adding to this possibility is the narrative of Islamophobia existing in the West and also in India, which injects a feeling of fear among Muslims that they and their faith are in crisis, he said.
“So they are already looking for an alternative leadership model that is compelling, that is powerful, that is present. So no one else can satisfy that case: he’s a democratically elected sovereign leader of a sovereign nation. “
“And then he has credibility, so he will have every chance of being accepted as the leader of the Ummah (community in Arabic) around the world. Imagine if he did, how much power he would have around the world, ”Pandya said. In this context, the world must understand Turkey’s interest in South Asia and, in particular, in Kashmir, he said.
Turkey’s interest in Kashmir
Turkey’s agenda to consolidate the Muslim ummah under his leadership would be directly challenged by the Arab world seeking the same leadership. For this reason, Erdogan does not enjoy many leadership opportunities among Muslims there, Pandya said.
“The original struggle for the Islamic leadership of the Islamic world was not between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Today we are wrong when we see that it is Iran and Saudi Arabia. It was originally between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, ”Pandya said. He mentioned the many battles fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Saudi Arabian dynasties, which eventually dislodged the Ottoman dynasty with the help of the British and became the custodians of Mecca and Medina, the holy places of the Muslim world.
Unlike Muslims in the Arab world, Muslims in South Asia would be more willing to accept Erdogan’s leadership because Turkey has strong historical, cultural and religious ties to South Asia. According to Pandya, many Mughal nobles fled to Turkey at the time the Mughals ruled the subcontinent before the British took power in 1857.
“Then in the 1920s, when the Ottoman Turkish caliphate was uprooted by the British, Gandhi started a movement called the khilafat (civil disobedience movement) in 1920,” Pandya said, adding that it was the khilafat movement that began looking for the restoration of the Ottoman caliphate.
Mahatma Gandhi wanted to unify Muslims and Hindus against British colonial rule and for that he needed a Muslim cause, Pandya said. But after a violent incident Gandhi withdrew the Khilafat movement, and at the same time the British uprooted the Ottoman Empire in India. These events seeded the two-nation theory, which ultimately led to the bloody partition of colonial India into India and Pakistan, Pandya said.
The partition also sowed the seeds of the long and protracted conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, and it is necessary to understand this background to understand Turkey’s current agenda within Kashmir.
“If you want to enlist the support of the Muslims in South Asia, what is the best way to do so? Try to cultivate relationships with Islamic organizations in India. And secondly, trying to raise the most important issues for Muslims in South Asia, ”Pandya said, adding that Erdogan has a strategy for this.
The Kashmir cause within South Asia is a religious cause and since it affects Muslims, Erdogan picked it up, he said.
“[Busca] credibility in the Muslim world, to internalize the Kashmir issue and win the hearts and minds of Muslims throughout South Asia, because Muslims in South Asia may not be as well connected to the cause palestine as they are with the Kashmir cause, ”Pandya said.
Turkish Activities in Kashmir
Turkey’s voice on Kashmir and its activities within Kashmir have expanded in the last four to five years and its modus operandi is multiple, including taking advantage of international platforms and developing and supporting the information war against India in Kashmir. through its social media and the main communication channels, according to Pandya.
More recently, India Today reported that SADAT Turkey, a shadow military organization, is preparing to act in Kashmir, which Turkish Ambassador Sakir Özkan Torunlar has said is unfounded and untrue. Pandya said that he believes that after all the buzz in the Indian media about this, the Indian establishment is keeping watch.
In an interview with The Wire last year, AS Dulat, former head of the R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing: India’s foreign intelligence agency), stated in a “worrying” way that 50 foreign mercenaries, including Turks, have crossed from Pakistan to Kashmir.
A Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, was assassinated by Indian security forces in 2016. Before his death, he had released a video in which he openly said that he wanted Kashmir to be an Islamic caliphate, he said.
After that, Pakistan orchestrated violent civil unrest [dentro de Cachemira] for which Pakistan’s ISI (Interservice Intelligence) provided 800 crores (more than $ 100 million), ”said Pandya referring to an India Today sting operation that recorded a separatist leader confessing to receiving money from Pakistan. This is also reflected in the book “K File: Conspiracy of Silence” by Bashir Assad, and in the investigation of the National Investigation Agency of India, Pandya said. Police shooting at violent protesters killed 46 people during these riots, he said.
Turkey was dedicated to spreading the news about the riots and loss of life globally, but never delved into the background of the event, Pandya said. He stressed that Turkey has turned out to be a staunch supporter of Pakistan.
The United States had included Kashmir-based Hizbul Mujahideen on the blacklist of terrorist organizations in 2017. However, the Turkish state media TRT World included Wani in the list of “20 people who shook the world in 2016”.
“A hero to the people of Kashmir, but a ‘terrorist’ in the eyes of the Indian state, Burhan Wani was a 21-year-old insurgent in Indian-administered Kashmir,” TRT World said in a list that included Boris Johnson, Bernie Sanders and Ivanka Trump.
“He amplified his voice using social media, uploading videos and photos with messages calling for Kashmir to separate from Indian rule. Although his presence with weapons was symbolic, a war of images against India’s continuing aggression in Kashmir, where nearly half a million of its troops are stationed to quell dissent, his call for freedom inspired tens of thousands of young Kashmiris. “Said TRT World.
In August 2019, after India revoked Article 370, a constitutional provision that grants limited autonomy to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, this state was dissolved and two federally governed territories were created from it. Pandya alleges that Turkey’s voice over Kashmir then grew louder.
Just a month after this political shakeup, Erdogan raised the Kashmir issue in the UN General Assembly and criticized the international community for not taking up his cause.
Despite India’s official objection, Erdogan raised the issue again during his speech at the joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament in February 2020.
“Our Kashmiri brothers and sisters have suffered hardships for decades and these sufferings have been exacerbated by unilateral measures taken in recent times,” he said, adding that he would support Pakistan’s exit from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). “Today, the Kashmir issue is as close to us as it is to you (Pakistanis),” Erdogan said.
Although Pakistan remains on the recently released FATF gray list, which designates countries involved in supporting terrorism, Pandya said Turkey has always become a major obstacle to Pakistan’s “black list” on the FATF, which it would lead to direct economic sanctions.
Pandya also points to reports in the Indian and global media last year that Pakistan was seeking drones from Turkey to use for border surveillance and to launch weapons inside Kashmir.
“I have heard that the drones that Pakistan is using to launch in Kashmir are very high quality drones. They drop the gun and disappear in a matter of seconds; you are not even able to locate them. They are more like unidentified flying objects, ”said Pandya, whose next book deals with terrorist financing in Kashmir. He claimed that Pakistan is not capable of manufacturing such sophisticated drones, and that they come from China, Russia or Turkey.
Turkey is also attracting Kashmiri students with many scholarships to study in Turkish institutions. “And these students are being trained in human rights studies, in various international relations studies, and even in technological studies such as making good drones, war, etc.,” Pandya said, adding that Turkey is training them in their own narratives.
This is the second (after The CCP’s Kashmir Agenda) in the series on Global Kashmir Agendas based on an exclusive interview with Abhinav Pandya, a field researcher in Kashmir who also advised the former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik , on radicalization and security issues during the critical phase of the repeal of Article 370 that led to the constitutional reorganization of the State.