India lodges protest with Turkey over president Erdogan’s Kashmir remark

India on Monday lodged a strong protest with Turkey over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent remarks on Kashmir, with people familiar with developments saying New Delhi is eyeing other measures to register its displeasure.

Ties between New Delhi and Ankara hit an all-time low after Erdogan raised the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly last September, saying the region was “virtually under blockade”. Turkish leaders have also continued to criticise the Indian government’s decision to revoke Jammu & Kashmir’s special status.

The latest provocation was Erdogan’s remarks on Kashmir during an address to a joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament on Thursday, when he said latest developments in the region highlighted the urgency of finding a solution. He added that Turkey was ready to assist efforts by India and Pakistan to find a solution.

On Monday, Turkish ambassador Şakir Özkan Torunlar,was summoned to the external affairs ministry and served a demarche, or formal diplomatic representation, by secretary (West) Vikas Swarup.

“India has made a strong demarche with the Turkish government on the remarks made by President Erdogan on the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir during his recent visit to Islamabad,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. “These developments have strong implications for our bilateral relationship,” Kumar added.

People familiar with developments said New Delhi is contemplating other measures, including the possible denial of a $2.3-billion deal to TAIS, a Turkish conglomerate, to help Hindustan Shipyard Limited build five fleet support vessels for the Indian Navy. TAIS was to provide the ship design and technical assistance and supply key equipment for the project.

TAIS emerged as the lowest bidder and India had first considered denying the deal last year, but no final decision was made.

The people cited above said that Turkey’s top leaders apparently ignored India’s repeated protests about non-interference in the Kashmir issue because they were intent on going ahead with efforts to project their country as a leader of Muslims around the world.

“Repeatedly raising issues such as Kashmir fits in with their plans to project Turkey as an alternative to other countries that are seen as leaders of the Muslim world. It’s almost as if they’re trying to show they are being victimised for raising these issues,” said a person who declined to be named.

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