The diplomatic relationship of a country with another country is in many ways like the relationship of an individual with another one. Sometimes, I wonder thinking that philosopher Aristotle whom we term as the father of science perceived a state as an animal. He gave states a biological entity. I learnt from one of my teachers that Aristotle used to travel by ship along with his father. He saw scores of sea animals. Maybe it is from that time a desire flashed in his mind to compare a state with an animal. Now, I think the relationship of an individual with another one does not always remain at the same stage. It changes in various ways.
State-to-state relationship too undergoes many ups and downs. Likewise, Bangladesh’s relationship with Turkey is similar in many ways. In recent times, we came to know that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would come to Dhaka to join the festivities of the Golden Jubilee of the Liberation War of Bangladesh and the Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He is coming in the month of March. At the same time, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is supposed to stay in Dhaka. So, on one side, talks would be held between Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina and Turkish President Erdogan; on the other side, there is a bright prospect of meetings between the Indian PM and the Turkish President. So, the relationship of Bangladesh, India and Turkey is another triangle of diplomatic ties. Let us try to understand the ins and outs of this relationship.In somewhere, the history of relationship between Turkey and the Bangalee nation is still alive. Bangladesh is now a state of South Asia. Before emergence of Bangladesh, the entire population of this part of sub-continent was greatly inspired by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk of Turkey. The First World War started in 1914 and lasted for a few years. In this war, there is a history of Indo-Turkish relationship. The Turkish movement took place in 1919. In the movement that was waged for establishing an independent Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerged as a leader. Just then, the poet of Bengal, Kazi Nazrul Islam, wrote a poem--‘Kamal Tu Ne Kamal Kia Bhai.’ And the poem was recited in every house of Bangalee population. It was also an inspiration in the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. It can be easily said that the Bangalee population living in South Asia extended their whole-hearted support to Turkey. When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerged as the founder of the Turkish Republic, a large chunk of Bangalee population supported Turkey. It is a strange that Turkey supported Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The new state named Bangladesh took birth following a people’s war against Pakistan. But, Turkey was not beside Bangladesh. Afterwards, lots of waters flowed through the Euphrates and the Padma River. Many changes took place. Turkey which did not lend support towards the Liberation War of Bangladesh is now keen to move forward for strengthening the diplomatic and trade ties with this South Asian nation.
Although Turkey supported Pakistan, but since inception of Bangladesh in 1971, the new state lent a support to Turkey on Cyprus issue and that support continued till 1980. When independent Bangladesh gradually moved forward, Turkey opened its embassy in Dhaka to normalise bilateral relationship. The President of Bangladesh visited Turkey. Sheikh Hasina too paid a visit to that country. Turkish representatives rushed to Dhaka following opening of their embassies.
Recently, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs prepared a schedule of the state visit. A home work is now underway for holding talks between the Turkish President and the Bangladesh Premier as well as the meetings of the foreign ministers of both the countries. The two-day visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is very significant in many ways. Not only issues like trade, industry and economic assistance would get prominence. Turkey is also trying to take a positive stand on the Rohingya issue. Turkey even provided Bangladesh with financial assistance for solving the Rohingya problem. Lady Erdogan visited Bangladesh in 2017. That tour also played a vital role in advancement of Dhaka-Ankara ties.
Now there is a problem between Turkey and Bangladesh. Turkey urged Bangladesh to pardon war criminal Nizami from hanging. But Bangladesh did not accede to the Turkish request. At last, Turkey conceded to the Bangladesh stand. Despite the fact, a trade relationship of one billion dollar was established between the two countries in 2019.
In such a situation, how does India view it? India thinks it a positive development. In the Muslim world, there are lots of divisions. Saudi Arabia and Iran differ in many ways. Shia community dominates Iran while Sunnis are majority in Pakistan. Likewise, Turkey is inhabited by Sunni Muslims. Now, there is a Shia-Sunni conflict in the entire world. But, Bangladesh is a difference where Shia-Sunni conflict did not surface at any time. There, Bangalee nationalism historically neutralised the crisis in many ways. It is a plus point for Bangladesh. No internal conflict between various sects of Muslim community exists there. Not to speak of Hindu community, sectoral conflict exists in every religious society. But, Bangladesh did not indulge in religious meanness. This results in improved ties with Turkey. Bangladesh also gained financially. In the defence sector too, Turkey gave war planes to Bangladesh.
The culture that emanated from the period of the Ottoman Empire is the ancient civilisation of Turkey - the culture of Istanbul. That culture got mingled with Bangalee culture. This moved forward further among the young and educated generation. India thinks that it would be a gainer diplomatically from the Bangladesh-Turkey ties. It is being contemplated that Dhaka would be the venue of the Indo-Turkish bilateral talks. Although, we are yet to get any information of such dialogue between Indian PM Modi and Turkish President Erdogan, Dhaka-Ankara ties won’t weaken the Indo-Bangladesh amity. Today, Indian diplomatic quarters think that it would rather strengthen that amity.
The writer is a senior journalist of India
Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman