Turkey’s growing influence in Kashmir flagged by Indian security agencies

Indian security agencies are concerned about Turkey’s growing political and cultural influence in Kashmir, according to Indian media outlet The Print.

The outlet cited “multiple sources in the defence and security establishment and the civil society” saying that the Indian government is keeping a close watch on money and political ties flowing between Turkey and Kashmir.

“A number of journalists, including two relatives of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, are now working for Turkish media organisations or pursuing courses in Turkish universities. Suddenly one finds more and more people getting tied up with Turkey,” a source told The Print.

The trend towards greater Turkish influence apparently began with the success of popular Turkish television series “Resurrection:Ertuğrul”, which tells the story of the founding of the Ottoman Empire. The series appeals to audiences in many Muslim countries who are looking for heroic narratives about historical figures they can identify with.

“Many of the youth are now attracted to this series and see religion as part of the creation of the Ottoman Empire. Even though the series was released years ago, the popularity increased over the last one year,” one source told the outlet.

The growing Turkish influence in Kashmir began with the visit of Pakistan Army generals to Turkey last year, and “funds have also started to slowly trickle into Kashmir from Turkey through some NGOs and businessmen”, according to the website.

“We Kashmiris gave up our identity to the Arab world in the 1980s and now Erdoğan is emerging as the new role model,” Bashir Assad, head of the Indian NGO Lehar Foundation, told The Print

This shift from Arab to Turkish influence is seen by many commentators as part of a cultural battle for moral leadership over the Islamic world between Turkey and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Turkey’s influence in Pakistan has also grown noticeably in the past few years, and Turkey has made a point of raising the Kashmiri liberation struggle in international forums.

According to EurAsian Times, both China and Pakistan want Turkey to replace Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Islamic world. 

One aspect of Turkey’s growing relationship with China, however, is that the country has been accused of staying silent about China’s mistreatment of its Turkic Uyghur Muslim minority.

Writing for The Diplomat, Aykan Erdemir and Philip Kowalski noted that “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who sees himself as a champion of Muslims around the world, has been uncharacteristically demure when it comes to the Uyghur issue.”