With India-Turkey relations souring, Ankara has turned to Bangladesh, India’s eastern neighbor and all-weather ally, to gain a foothold in South Asia. Turkey and Bangladesh have also been discussing ways to enhance defense cooperation.
During his two-day visit to Dhaka, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu inaugurated the newly built Turkish embassy compound and discussed bilateral and regional issues. “Bangladesh is one of Turkey’s key partners in the ‘Asia Anew’ initiative, with its vibrant economy and young population,” Cavusoglu said.
He met his Bangladeshi counterpart AK Abdul Momen and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Turkish minister expressed Ankara’s interest in establishing strong ties with Bangladesh and said that Turkey will do “whatever is needed to strengthen bilateral trade.”
Momen told The Daily Star, a leading English daily in Bangladesh, that the two sides also held talks on defense cooperation. “This was not on the agenda. But the Turkish minister shared the idea of defense cooperation,” he said.
The daily also reported that the Turkish minister emphasized that his country is “producing world-class military equipment and it does not impose many conditions on sales.” Momen said that while no immediate decision has been taken but “Bangladesh wants to diversify its sources of defense purchase.”
In 2013, Dhaka received Otokar Cobra light armored vehicles from Turkey and also placed an order for 680 light armored vehicles in 2017 worth $ 1 billion. In 2019, a Turkish company, Roketsan secured an order for medium-range guided multiple rocket launchers.
Turkey and Bangladesh have shared amicable relations since Ankara recognized Bangladesh in 1974. However, the relations strained after 2012 after Ankara’s condemnation of the International Crimes Tribunal (Bangladesh) that convicted and executed Jamaat-e-Islami leaders for committing war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation war.
However, Ankara has consistently supported Dhaka on the Rohingya issue on all international platforms including the United Nations (UN) and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
After India, Bangladesh is the second-largest trade partner with Turkey. However, relations between India and Turkey have soured in recent years. On India’s first anniversary of the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Turkey criticized New Delhi, saying the move did not bring peace to the Valley. The country has openly taken sides with Pakistan and has also raised the Kashmir issue in the United Nations drawing a sharp response from India.
Pakistan, a traditional ally of Turkey, is increasingly feeling the heat. While Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have drastically soured, it has held tightly to Turkey. However, with Arab nations gradually normalizing relations with Isreal and even Turkey vowing to enhance its ties with the Jewish nations, Pakistan finds itself increasingly isolated in the region.
For a long time, Turkey has been inclined towards the West as a foreign partner. Days before Joe Biden takes over as US President, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over the latter’s acquisition of the S-400 missile system from Russia.
According to Dr. Yatharth Kachiar, a Research Associate, Vivekananda International Foundation, the increasing rift in Turkey’s relations with the West and the ongoing fight for primacy within the Muslim world has estranged Turkey from its traditional ally, the West and the neighboring Islamic countries. She added that in this scenario, Turkey is bidding to extend influence to regions with less historical baggage such as Asia.