India slams Erdoğan for Kashmir remarks at UN

(Updates with Republic World comments)

India lambasted remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Kashmir during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Erdoğan's comments "constitute gross interference in India’s internal affairs and are completely unacceptable,” T S Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the U.N., said in a tweet on Wednesday.

"Turkey should learn to respect sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its own policies more deeply,” he said.

During a general debate at the U.N., Erdoğan said the topic of Jammu and Kashmir remained a “burning issue”, and that a resolution was important to stability and peace in the region. 

“Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of Jammu-Kashmir further complicated the problem,” the Turkish president said in a pre-recorded video message. He also called for the matter to be resolved through negotiation. 

The Indian-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir has led to several conflicts since the countries’ partition in 1947. The Indian government withdrew the autonomy of Kashmir in August last year, shutting down internet access in the region and detaining activists and politicians.

Erdoğan, an outspoken critic of Indian policy toward Kashmir, said during a speech at the Pakistani parliament in February that resolving the future of the occupied region was of similar importance to Turkey’s own war of independence early last century.

The strategic relationship between Turkey and Pakistan has strengthened in the last few years, and Erdoğan has been bringing up the Kashmir issue at international gatherings. 

Turkey and Pakistan have close defence links, with the countries participating in joint naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is embroiled in energy disputes. The two countries inked a dual citizenship deal last year.

Islamabad has also signed up to buy 30 Turkish ATAK helicopters by next year, the two countries are jbuilding a 17,000-tonne tanker in pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, and Turkey is supplying the Pakistani navy with four corvettes in a multi-billion dollar deal hailed as the biggest ever for the Turkish defence industry.

One of the reasons behind Erdoğan's support for Islamabad is Ankara's interest in launching its own nuclear arms programme, Indian news website Republic World said on Wednesday.

Erdoğan increasingly sees Pakistan, one of the nine countries in the world that owns nuclear weapons, as a potential partner for Turkey’s possible attempts to acquire a nuclear capability, it said. 

Erdoğan signalled his interest in acquiring nuclear weapons in a speech to the UNGA last year, wheh he said weapons of mass destruction should be forbidden or allowed for all countries.